The days of our lives remain peppered with uncertainty, even if they are filled with all kinds of activity. It’s that time, yet again, which could actually hold in its fold that illusive thing called the ‘defining moment’! After 126 days of hearing the Panama case, the special bench of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan has decided to keep the judgment in safekeeping for some days. The SC has been hearing different petitions against the Prime Minister’s (PM) family whose names came up in the Panama disclosures of riches tucked away in offshore companies, along with those of many others worldwide, almost a year ago. The crux of the case is that the PM nor his family have been able to give satisfactory explanations for their very expensive properties in the heart of London.
In fact, they have complicated the issue so much with their conflicting statements that one is reminded of the film ‘it’s complicated’, wherein both the remarried ex- spouses rekindle a flame for each other. I also maintain that this one case has taught even the ordinary, unlettered Pakistani so much legalese that they have almost become lawyers — the whole lot of them. The cherry on the Panama cake/case is the delightfully vague letter from Qatar, which was woven dramatically in to the case by the PM’s lawyer and which had never been mentioned before. (Talk about the surprise element!) A Prince from Qatar sent it, in an effort to rescue the first family, proving an exercise in futility because it had no documented proofs attached, but that’s an aside. It, in fact, provided a lot of comic relief in the late night shows. Furthermore, it also came to light that the mentioned prince was the direct beneficiary of some national and private business deals struck with the Sharif government, including permission for irreverent hunting of the endangered Houbara bustard. All of this is stuff which can be referred to by the civilised world as ‘a conflict of interest’. Subtlety, along with forward planning, are plants which just do not seem to flourish in Pakistan. No half measures for us indeed.
It’s a judgment that has the potential to decide whether we can fix our flaws and look ahead with confidence or remain mired in our follies, with little recourse to improvement. So ‘bated breath’ would be the minimalist best way to describe this collective state of waiting. It is most certainly not about winning or losing, it is about putting the country on the right track and making sure that every elected individual thinks about the consequences before putting his or her hand in the till. Every aspect of governance is connected to each other. The focus has to be on improving the lot of the common man as opposed to being a closed club of the elite, by the elite, for the elite.
While the judgment is in hiding or in safekeeping, however you view it, other factors are trying to vie for national attention. The extremists instilling fear and the Army going after them. It also becomes clear that the new wave of terrorism has come about because 17 points out of 20 specified in the agreed National Action Plan of 2015 were not implemented at all. It was the job of the provincial governments who did not follow up. This neglect has emboldened those who want to destroy the lifestyles that we want to live and they seem to find recruits so easily from within our own hopeless and downtrodden, who have not been touched by anything remotely like good governance. The fear factor has enveloped what would otherwise have been a happy and invigorating final of PSL — as cricket excites and engages the whole country.
While all public gatherings are banned in this climate the holding of the final has become a case of do or die challenge! It does rattle the nerves a bit to see a game being played under such extreme security measures! If the idea was to make us forget the much awaited SC judgment on the Panama case and get involved in watching the final live in Lahore instead, it was such a short-lived diversion. Everyone went right back to the bated breath posture the moment the game was over. So let’s hope we are conclusively put out of our misery soon. March 23 is the 77th anniversary of the Pakistan Resolution and it really may be a good time to make amends for so much that has gone wrong.
Post Script: The more things change the more they remain the same. We have travelled quite some distance from the Ziaul Haq era but the new CJ of AJK, (who even has the sir name of Zia!) reminded us forcefully of the late General. If I believed in voodoo and stuff, I might even have thought that the dictator’s spirit has made its way back and is stalking us through the CJ. In his first speech after his new designation, the CJ announced that increments and perks of people working under him will be directly proportionate to the number of times they offered their prayers! Who is going to peek into the souls of the CJs subordinates and check out their intention every time they bow down to the Almighty? What about the appointed angels who are already doing that duty? It is best to leave matters of faith to individuals and their Maker, and increments ought not, most definitely, be linked up with display of piety.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2017.