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Some things are better left undone

It is seldom that one witnesses a state and its institutions so wholesomely and maniacally driven by the task of eliminating the legacy of one individual and repudiating the narrative of his stellar successes and achievements as have been the power wielders and their cohorts in Pakistan with neutralizing Imran Khan and destroying his political party – PTI.

Just about every draconian measure has been employed by the state to have the party decimated and Imran Khan deleted from people’s memory. This includes driving him out of office using the influence of pelf and power, registering over 180 fake and fraudulent cases against him from corruption to jeopardizing national interests, arresting him and convicting him on one count with proceedings moving at an accelerated pace in others, and subjecting him to maltreatment and humiliation.

It also includes exerting pressure on his party people to leave him, incarcerating them for prolonged periods and thwarting their bail by rearresting them in other cases, abducting and torturing others to change political loyalties, denying his party the right to hold political rallies and depriving it of its election symbol, banning him and his senior leaders from appearing on mainstream media, stopping them from submitting their nomination papers and having these rejected by the returning officers, abducting their proposers and seconders, and exerting pressure on courts for denial of justice.

If anything, this has made him even more popular, his image retaining its magnetic pull, calling upon people to throng the hustings on election day.

In a recent statement, the HRCP has expressed deep concern over the deterioration in the state of human rights in the country. Highlighting some such cases, it stated: “Foremost is the blatant manipulation of the electoral landscape in which one political party among others has been singled out for systematic dismemberment.

“While HRCP does not condone violence in any form perpetrated by anyone, the state’s response has been disproportionate and unlawful. This has assumed a familiar pattern, including the arrest of party workers and supporters, lack of transparency concerning the charges involved, crackdowns on party workers’ right to peaceful assembly, enforced disappearances, obvious signs of pressure on party leaders to resign or exit politics altogether and, most recently, the large-scale rejection of candidates’ nomination papers”.

HRCP further observed: “Finally, the state’s clampdown on dissent, whether on freedom of opinion, expression or assembly, has further constricted civic spaces in the country at a time when people must be allowed to express their will freely ahead of the national election”. It also highlighted the plight of the Baloch women protesters demanding an end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Saying that “it was a black mark on the state”, it demanded that such repressive tactics need to end.

The statement concluded by observing that “these concerns must be tackled as a matter of priority by an elected government that comes to power in a transparent manner, functions independently of external pressure, and commits to protecting and upholding the rights of all citizens and residents”.

HRCP and other institutions, nationally and internationally, have been noting with concern the fast-deteriorating human rights situation in the country where one party is being targeted using the entire state operational repertoire, and its members and supporters are subjected to inhuman treatment. But, instead of heeding the warnings by taking a step back to ponder the grave consequences that this can lead the country to, the ferocity of the operation continues to increase in direct proportion to Khan’s image gaining further in its magic and appeal for the people of Pakistan.

Barely four weeks from elections in the country, while other parties are being extended special protocol, the PTI is being denied even its most basic rights. According to reports compiled so far, the nomination papers of virtually the entire top leadership of the party have been rejected. Consequently, they will not be eligible to take part in elections and the party will have to depend on back-up candidates to do the job on election day. Before that, some legal remedies remain including lodging appeals with the election tribunals and, if rejected, approaching the courts of law but, going by recent-past experience, no major reprieve appears likely.

The way things are going, it is almost certain that the path is being paved for the induction of a convict and absconder at the helm of power, supported by a coalition of parties that have been responsible for ravaging the country through their previous stints in power.

If the motive had been solely to remove Imran Khan from power for no mystery-riddled reason anymore, one would have expected that the perpetrators would seek people with character and expertise and give them a chance to bring some improvement in guiding the country out of the pit it is currently entrenched in. If I had been approached, I certainly would have pinpointed a team of calibre to steer the country out of turbulent waters and push it to the shore. But that was never the objective.

Almost two years after the removal of the Khan government, with the welfare of the state or its people never having been the objective of the operation, conditions in virtually all spheres of life have continued to deteriorate rapidly. The country has taken a massive pounding in a host of ways reflected, most notably, in the plight of the poor who have been pushed to the fringes of life with survival becoming a massive daily challenge. Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy with foreign debt increasing at a monumental pace and state capital continuing to decline as well as its stature in the international arena, Pakistan faces an existential challenge of a magnitude it never did before.

What has been the worth of this ill-conceived and maliciously executed operation? Have we been able to turn the fate of the country around and make life easier for its people? Have we been able to generate any hope for the younger generation so that their mass exodus from the country stops? Has Pakistan’s image improved in the world and have its geo-strategic issues been addressed? Is our increased dependence on the US the panacea for the multiple crises that the country is riddled with at this juncture?

And if none of that is true, which indeed is the case, what was the operation all about, and why was it launched in the first place? The answer to this question may contain a huge stock of material for writing illuminating papers about there being things that should better be left undone.

Raoof Hasan, "Some things are better left undone," The News. 2024-01-05.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political party , Transparency , Extrajudicial , Imran Khan , Pakistan , PTI , HRCP