Tuesday January 18, 2022

Demons of darkness

December 31, 2021

This is a season of desperate voices emanating from all those who see their political fortunes dwindle. Not used to such treatment in the past, they remain incredulous that it is actually happening to them and they are no longer being rescued by their traditional benefactors.

Every day, a new rumour is malevolently coined about a deal which has been struck with the powers that matter. Be it the Sharifs or Bhutto/Zardaris, they appear to be virtually begging for the reprieve they once thought was their prerogative.

The Sharif camp is buzzing with news that their leader is coming back after settling things with their nemesis while Zardari is calling out loud that his help has been sought to put things right in the country. Apparently, neither is true. In fact, the reverse may be closer to reality.

The stranglehold is tightening around Nawaz Sharif on two counts. The British government has refused to extend his visa for further stay and his appeal before the court is likely to be rejected soon, and for good reasons, too. Whether it was the case of his illness and consequent escape to London, or the pretence of his subsequent treatment for imaginary sufferance, he has been lying through his grinding teeth. Once his appeal is thrown out, no further legal means will be available to him to continue living in the UK with his present status. The options for him would include seeking political asylum there which his party stalwarts claim he would not, or shift to another country that is willing to receive him which is unlikely, or come back to Pakistan to walk into the prison cell to complete his term.

On the other count, the Rana Shamim gambit has turned out to be a disgraceful sham. First, he refused to acknowledge the authenticity of the original affidavit in the court. After going through the contents of a sealed copy of what he calls the genuine affidavit, together with dealing with a number of sordid twists and turns in the case, the bench has decided to indict him and others involved for contempt of judiciary on January 7. This has turned the tables on the Sharifs who played the devious game to bring the courts under pressure by assaulting their credibility to steal relief in cases which are pending before them for adjudication.

On the Zardari front, under growing political pressure because of endemic corruption and lack of performance, the PPP government in Sindh is gradually losing ground even in the rural sector which has been generally considered to be its strong base. Every day, there are cases in the courts where its stalwarts are routinely reprimanded, even humiliated on account of their shoddy deals and grossly deficient governance.

Yet their leader does not shy of saying that unnamed people have sought his help in putting things right in the country, and that he has conditioned it with the ouster of the incumbent government. So, apparently, he considers this to be cuckoo land where he can manipulate things as he may deem and desire, completely oblivious of the reality that times have undergone a drastic change and there may not be much sympathy anymore for these corrupt charlatans and their sycophants and bootleggers. Not only that those times of yore do not exist any longer, there is no likelihood of any movement to bring them back either.

But their likely political demise will impact many a people who have been recipients of their largesse in the past and who would like to keep the coffers flowing in the future also. Their fascination with corruption and glorification of crime is immeasurable. No wonder that these politically comatose politicians are being kept alive artificially only on television screens and newspaper pages. There is a dire desperation to this effort as if its failure will signal the demise of the entire media edifice. So stories of their rampant corruption are regularly pushed under the carpet while grandiose fictional achievements are attributed to their tenures in power, Those whose induction and survival in the power echelons was owed entirely to the patronage of the most vicious of dictators are projected as ardent champions of democracy and stalwarts who have kept the candle of freedom burning. Nothing could surpass this utter distortion.

While the media is likely to continue playing a demeaning role, it is the judiciary which can rid the country of these worms which have skinned it of its flesh and spirit. The devilish machinations of these criminals lie exposed before the courts. Rather than letting them escape the dragnet of justice yet again, it is for these courts to punish them for their grievous excesses. They don’t deserve any mercy. The country has plunged to its nadir simply because of a culture of crime and corruption they cultivated and sponsored. Today, it is a towering structure which casts its hideous shadow on all who move within its precincts.

Their punishment and elimination from the political arena is not going to bring the twin-scourge of crime and corruption to an end. It would only be the beginning of a prolonged struggle to cleanse society of its numerous contaminations which are sunk in deep. It is not going to be an easy task. It would require the best of intentions, promulgation of progressive, pragmatic and effective policies and a string of transparent, accountable and functional institutions to work in tandem with unprecedented resolve and dedication to do the job.

But for brief interludes, the country has mostly been subjected to merciless demonisation. Completely drained of its spirit and character, it has been horribly mauled. Work needs to be done on a variety of fronts which would require immense courage and character. No short-cuts will do. The entire distance will have to be covered in measured and well thought-out steps targeting the entire repertoire of maladies that Pakistan is afflicted with. It is a mammoth challenge, but one which has to be undertaken urgently.

The Pakistan that we have today is a poor replica of the entity that the Quaid had envisioned on August 11, 1947: a liberal, progressive, enlightened and tolerant country. Instead, we have turned it into a regressive and bigoted country. It continues to plunge further depths of retrogression as the demons of corruption and religiosity cast a long shadow on its ability to rise from despair. But rise it must because, without that happening, there is no recourse to salvation.

Let the demons of darkness cry hoarse. The journey onward must continue in earnest.

The writer is the special assistant to the PM on information, a political and security strategist, and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute. He tweets @RaoofHasan