Finish it, Mr Powerful

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Hafeez Khan

There are many versions regarding the final words of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto before he was led to the gallows. There is one, favoured by his supporters. It narrates that as the noose was tightened, Bhutto was in a defiant mood and told the highly nervous executioner, “Finish it”. Then there are other narratives, some claiming to be eyewitness accounts. They state when Bhutto was brought out of his cell for the final time he lashed out at Brigadier Saghir, the highest-ranking officer present. Threatening Generals and their families. Brig Saghir hit him with his cane and Bhutto collapsed. He was taken on a stretcher. A third version is that when Bhutto was told it is time, he fainted and had to be carried.
Whatever the truth, the term “finish it” fits Bhutto’s persona; ever the no-nonsense aristocrat, who did not give up despite the inevitability of his fate. This phrase comes to mind when we see the present political circus being enacted in our country. Pakistan’s economy is in a total mess. Citizens are losing their lives in pursuit of 10 kg of atta. Inflation has skyrocketed. The economy is in a nosedive. Defenceless masses have been put through a grinder and suffocated from all sides. Yet, the villains in power have only one agenda: how to prevent elections, as they are petrified of people’s verdict.
My earliest recollection is Ayub Khan’s era. I have suffered physical brutality by Bhutto attempting to crush his opponents. I have witnessed Zia’s callous enforcement of his martial law. However, what is happening now surpasses all previous fascist regimes. The present Government is a wolf adorning a sheep’s skin. Democratic norms have been blown to smithereens. Parliament is no more than a puppet show passing obnoxious laws aimed at defaming and de-fanging the highest judicial institutions in the country. Kidnappings, torture and false cases have become the order of the day.
Political parties draw their strength from the electorate. Not this rag-tag PDM lot. Their support base has been wiped out, barring the interior Sind held by PPP. That too will be threatened once IK is unchained to conduct his election campaign. All the muck in our nation has come together under the umbrella of this imported regime. So where are they drawing their oxygen from? It is the perpetrators of undeclared martial law providing muscle from behind the curtain.
These pretensions have to stop. Mr Powerful and your junta have to emerge from behind the tattered curtain and own up to realities driving our country to the edge of the precipice. Cruel atrocities in the last 12 months on journalists like Arshad Sharif, on IK and political workers continue unabated; be it Ali Amin Gandapur, Ali Zaidi or Akash of BOL News and scores of others. This madness needs to come to an end.
There are only three options available. First, if you have the guts, come out and declare martial law. Impose a technocratic team till you can demolish IK’s support base. It was attempted by Gen Zia to wipe out PPP. After nearly a decade, this experiment failed miserably; Benazir won. Musharraf tried it again to finish PPP and PML(N). It was an exercise in futility. Any further attempts are destined to fail in the 21st century. It will drive an irreparable schism between the public and the armed forces.
Second, continue backing the existing gang of rogues till the economy defaults and collapses. Let the debtors step in and dictate their terms. We become subservient to the Indian/US nexus. Surrender our nuclear deterrent and continue as a vassal state of India. You may increase trade only after surrendering your sovereignty. Masses will rebel and State will be ungovernable. Is Bilawal’s May visit to India a beginning?
Third, permit the democratic dispensation to prosper and remove the hurdles in the path of a free and fair election. The people can express their will and bring in a reformist government. This can only happen when the civilian-garbed uniforms return to their barracks. The cruel persecution ends. Provide a level playing field with neutral umpires. There is no magic wand to give immediate relief however it will start the recovery process from debilitating sickness brought on by PDM.
Where do we stand now? In my previous article, I referred to the 3 members of the Supreme Court Bench as “knights in shining armour.” Their arduous journey continues facing threats. Maulana Fazal, not even a Member of Parliament, is threatening and insulting the Honorable Judges. PM Sharif’s behaviour is reckless; his Cabinet is on a collision course. It is indicative of a showdown between Judiciary and Parliament. Will the uniforms egg them on surreptitiously or realize their severe limitations?
Unless the Judges can navigate this minefield without a blow-up and coerce these delinquents to follow the Constitution, we are headed to a debilitating confrontation. IK needs to secure himself and keep his powder dry to prepare for elections in May in Punjab or the whole country by the end of July; failing which the battle will move to the streets. There will be horrible and bloody consequences.
The country has zero credibility in the international arena and it is worsening by the day. Only these brave Judges stand between Constitutional dispensation or total chaos and mayhem. Nawaz Sharif, a wimp with a 10-foot-tall ego, wants the cake and eats it too with Maryam. The rest of the jokers are all cannon fodder being fattened for the kill.