December 22, the winter solstice, arrived with a venom. It may have been the shortest day of the year but it cast long shadows for the nation. It may have begun as a day of biting cold but ended up with enough fireworks to set this beleaguered country alight. On this day, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani declared that democracy was under threat — what began as the ‘best revenge’ is itself under threat of being avenged.
Television anchor Hamid Mir has claimed threats to his life, especially after he sought to know from the participants on his show whether the army was a Pakistani or a “Punjabi army”. He was finally successful in soliciting from one of them the answer that it was indeed a “Punjabi army”. Hamid, being a committed patriot, would, perhaps, in hindsight, have liked to comment in a different way.
Chaudhry Nisar, Husain Haqqani, Asma Jahangir representing Husain Haqqani and Sheikh Rashid have all claimed receiving death threats.
The diverse composition of the affected tells us that there is more than one agency indulging itself in peddling its wares. Perhaps a commission is needed to investigate this matter.
Come to think of it, there are only three issues to be pursued in the memo inquest. The first, that did Haqqani have anything to do with the memo? Second, was he being sponsored from within Pakistan to pursue the memo option — and this in no way assumes the president to be such a sponsor. And finally, was it the handiwork of the Americans who may have used Mansoor Ijaz because of his connections to Haqqani? Any or all three are possible. Does it not behove our rational sense that the Supreme Court may determine, for the moment only the maintainability of what Mian Nawaz Sharif has petitioned before it? It is not that this is the first time that the Supreme Court has gone this route; they ordered a similar inquest in the NICL case and are still awaiting a report. So what is the panic?
Here is a story. In the days long gone when all was well in the Kingdom and the memo had not yet surfaced, there flowed milk and honey in the great river that connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad. But then a spell was cast by an evil spirit. A memo came to light. It was carried aloft by two leading lights of a great capital of the world. As so often happens, the two broke up soon after their escapade. One who belonged to the Kingdom was hauled and thrown into a dungeon where light had never shone. This was also when ghosts and evil spirits reappeared; rebellious knights with drawn swords and men in long robes lurked in the shadows of the king’s palace, or so it seemed to the King.
Wary of the ways of the palace, our Man of Zenda apprehended rejection despite his proven record of loyalty to the King and a possibility of a convenient disposition to stave off any dangers to the empire and to the King himself. This is when the Zendian decided to elicit the intervention of a far-off benefactor, and through him conveyed to his master the possession of the magic figurine, that if broken, would sniff the life out of the king and spell the end of his empire if the prisoner was betrayed. Fearing for his own life and the appended compulsion to rescue the prisoner, the King directed all to stand together and join battle against the knights and the men in long robes, and against those who speculated to the courts on the origin of the memo and its extended sponsors and forever seek redemption in martyrdom. That is when his prime minister spoke and led the charge. Except that there were only shadows to fight.
The king and his consorts put at stake the kingdom for one man who, disconcertedly, seemed to know far too much. The king’s subjects stood aghast, irrelevant to the power struggle in play, still without gas under their kitchen stoves and any light to brighten their now long-darkened homes.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2011.