Memories Don’t Wipe Like Blackboards

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Hafeez Khan

Miss Minto was our math teacher in Burn Hall, Abbottabad. She had a severe, no-nonsense, demeanor that kept the boys in check. She had a penchant to use the blackboard to write formulae, enunciate the problem, and write the solution in detail. It was a great way to understand complex algebraic equations. At the end of each lesson, she would designate one of us to clear the board in her presence. The apparent purpose was to encourage note-taking. In reality, this was to discourage memorization and boost comprehension. What a great teacher!
On a few occasions, I was designated as the cleaner. Wiping the board gave a sense of power; now it was all there, and within a few strokes it would be gone. This example occurred to me while watching the glaring, at times comic, attempts by rulers to wipe human memories clean. It may be possible in a classroom setting. However, are they so naïve to believe that banning Imran Khan’s name on television would magically erase his existence? IK is not a phenomenon that got ushered in from the wilderness in 2018. He has spent 27 years connecting with the masses by tirelessly campaigning for equal justice and the rule of law.
Those of us who understand farming can differentiate between flood irrigation and drip irrigation. In flood irrigation, the force of flowing water spreads in the entire field to provide moisture. Through drip irrigation, droplets are released slowly to each plant directly to seep into the roots. That is how PTI’s message has penetrated the hearts and minds of Pakistanis over time; turning into their belief. The amateurish efforts open the perpetrators to ridicule. The media moguls were bullied into submission by threats of disrupting their business empires. This attempt, like all previous ones, is destined to fail.
I am reminded of Iran in the late seventies when the underground movement against the Shah took root. I was there, thanks to my friend Amjad Mowaz. Imam Khomeini was in exile in France. Shah’s brutal intelligence agency, SAVAK, was in total control having ears and eyes everywhere. Imam’s recorded messages on audio cassettes were distributed amongst the people at great risk to volunteers. Many lost their lives. Despite the complete backing of the Americans and the Army, the will of the people swept away Shah’s autocratic rule. What is now happening in Pakistan is nothing less.
For all practical purposes, the Constitution has been abrogated. Two provinces that makeup 60 per cent of Pakistan are under illegal Governments whose tenure has expired. Judicial orders by the higher judiciary are being flouted daily. The political components of this hybrid attack the judiciary, viciously in parliament ruining the forum’s sanctity. They were emboldened enough to go to the gates of the Supreme Court to hurl abuses led by the obnoxious diesel engine Fazal and the bandit queen Maryam. Plagued by a lack of response, this small crowd made a hasty retreat instead of an elaborate dharna as announced.
Under Shahbaz Sharif, his “El Capo” Rana Sana’s efforts to undo PTI and restrain IK failed for a year. They called in the army just as it is done during natural disasters and floods. Uniforms are now heading the “crush IK” efforts. They have taken over this responsibility zealously. After enacting the May 9 drama, suppression of dissent has been taken to new heights, never seen before. Under this scorched earth policy, these mindless undertakers have defanged the media; coerced the judiciary; unchained brutal Punjab police and subdued the bureaucracy. “Unknowns” are freely attacking the sanctity of homes; destroying private properties; disrespecting women and destroying businesses.
The real intent of what is unfolding came out in the open in a recently unveiled “Economic Revival Plan.” It has set goals of 1 trillion GDP by 2035. The civil-military leadership has agreed that Army will oversee the economic revival till it is fully functional. Governance has been handed over.
Where do the people of Pakistan, PTI and Imran Khan fit into this game plan? They are being treated as an inconvenience that needs to be silenced. All the enunciated plans are grandiose; who will implement them? Will it be through the super-managers in uniform?
In the presence of deaf and dumb media, the responsibility falls onto social media, especially on Overseas Pakistanis, who cannot be chained. All this suppression has increased the popular support for IK by adding the sympathy factor. Rulers may win a few battles using fear as a weapon but the war has just started. Pakistanis need to stand tall to be counted; correctly negotiating this crossroad is crucial. A wrong turn would spell a disaster for the nation’s democratic dispensation.