Monday May 27, 2024

March to freedom

By Raoof Hasan
May 27, 2022

The seething rage that had been festering in the country for weeks has finally found resonance through layers and layers of people in a march to freedom called by Imran Khan. This has been so despite the incumbent government using all imaginable draconian and fascistic measures to block its passage to Islamabad, particularly from across Punjab where alleged criminal Hamza sits as an unconstitutional chief minister. The barbarity unleashed in the process was absolutely unprecedented. Even women and children were not spared.

One had hoped that it would not come to this but, in the end, no option was left other than the inevitable that has happened: people surging from across the country towards Islamabad to undo the wrong which had been done through a foreign-instigated and funded conspiracy with local collaborators who have since been planted in power to do the bidding of their master.

But then, one also thinks that the fate of the country had to be decided one day – so better now than later. The distinction between the traditional beneficiary elite laying siege and the forces rebelling against this capture to introduce a system of justice where all would be equal before law was never clearer than it has been since the advent of Imran Khan into politics who has led the charge passionately and fearlessly. Today, virtually the entire country stands behind him in this endeavour to change its fate by altering the traditional way we have been accustomed to thinking of things in the past. This is a gigantic leap out of yesteryears known for their rabid loot and plunder to present times that come laden with hope and promise. This is what the battle is about, and it looks improbable that this will end without ensuring crossing the threshold to a new Pakistan that would genuinely reflect the dreams of its people. Not long ago, it looked like a long haul. With the raging passion that was resonating with hundreds of thousands of people who stepped out on the streets throughout the country, it now appears to be within reach.

It is not a story of any single conspiracy, but multiple travesties since times when Pakistan had just emerged on the map of the world as an independent country. After the death of the Quaid, and in spite of the fact that an invitation from the former Soviet Union had been received by our prime minister to visit the country, we somehow remained entranced by the distant magic of the west, particularly the US. So, by spurning the earlier invitation from a not-too-distant neighbour in the region, the prime minister embarked on a trip to the US immediately after an invitation had been sought and received from them.

This marked the beginning of an association across thousands of miles of stormy waters which, on the one hand, plucked us out of the region where Pakistan was located and, on the other, plunged us into a partnership which, through decades, could at best be termed as transactional where mercenary support was extended for jobs done, most of which were to the detriment of the country.

But, somehow, because of multiple factors, some of which would be excessively demeaning to even mention here, Pakistan’s leadership remained infatuated with their on-now, off-now affair with the US. From becoming members of Seato and Cento to fight communism, to being entangled in getting the former Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, to becoming part of the war against terror that resulted in the death of over 80,000 people and loss of over $120 billion to the state exchequer, this relationship sowed the seeds of violence and polarization in the country whose harrowing consequences we still remain afflicted with.

When Khan thought of changing the foreign policy to align it with the state interests, he faced resistance from within and outside the country. While the pressure from outside was expected and could be handled with wisdom and sagacity, it was the pressure from within that was not only unexpected, but excessively intense. From securing illicit wealth they had accumulated in the Western world to keeping alive the possibility of finding asylum when they may be ousted from power to catering to a host of other realities that may crop up as a consequence of their loot and plunder, it seemed that the interests of the beneficiary elite remained intertwined with pledging subservience to foreign diktat.

Khan did his best to get all stakeholders on board while making policy decisions. Outwardly, they would nod agreement, like they did in the case of the visit to Russia, but, at another level, they started planning to sabotage the working of the government to force its ouster. Non-prosecution of accountability cases, Nawaz Sharif’s escape to London, bails granted to convicts in contravention of the applicable legal requirements, manoeuvring of the government’s coalition partners, and uninterrupted pressure exerted on state institutions to refuse cooperation were instruments that were exploited to compromise the writ of the government.

Simultaneously, outside forces were busy working in unison with these domestic collaborators. During the course of a meeting with the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Donald Lu hurled a naked threat that Pakistan would have to face consequences if Imran Khan were not removed as prime minister. In the meanwhile, the US charge conducted a number of meetings with leaders of the opposition parties to put them together on a platform as also some disgruntled members of the PTI to convince them to jump the fence. Orders were issued to the government’s coalition partners to shift allegiance which they dutifully did. But Khan did not cave in. He carried the fight to the conspirators and their collaborators and stripped them naked in the court of the people.

Khan may have been ousted, but the mission of freeing Pakistan from the shackles of slavery and fear could not be forfeited to those who are responsible for this bondage of shame and ignominy. The march to freedom is an ongoing battle that is illustrative of the dream when Pakistan and its people would be free to take decisions independent of any interference by outside powers or their criminal collaborators within. The caravans which made it to D-Chowk bring a message of hope for a beleaguered people as they glance at the streaks of light breaking through across the horizon. They shall keep coming back till final victory has been stamped. As always, the inimitable Faiz comes to mind: “Surely, the slow, placid night/ Will touch its inexorable shore/ Surely the moorings of the heart’s agony/ Will come to rest somewhere”

The writer is a political and security strategist and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute in Islamabad. He tweets @RaoofHasan