The May 9 saga

No one endorses violence, and no one can endorse repeated assaults on the political system

Durdana Najam May 09, 2024
The writer is a public policy analyst based in Lahore. She tweets @durdananajam


Nine May is upon us. The DG ISPR held a long press conference to once again lay bare the wounds the armed forces received from a political party on this fateful day. He walked his audience through the mayhem in which the statues of the martyred soldiers were damaged and disgraced. Lahore’s Corp Commander House was ransacked. The building of the Radio Station in Peshawar was burned down. Many military installations were attacked. He produced some statistics as well to prove why it has been wrong to assess that the PTI has won the February 8 elections. Since the party received only 7 per cent of the total votes, that automatically means, according to the DG ISPR, that the party’s narrative, tilted against the armed forces, has been rejected by the people of Pakistan. Once the DG was done with the PTI, he turned towards India and blamed it for orchestrating terror activities in Pakistan. Now that our love affair with Afghanistan has stalled and gone sour despite celebrating the Afghan Taliban’s victory over the US over a cup of tea, it seems we are back to square one.

Agreed that incidents like 9/5 should not happen. Agreed that Pakistan’s armed forces deserve respect from its people. Agreed that a judicial commission on nine May should be formed with a retrospective mandate to probe who was behind the 2014 sit-ins. Agreed that Pakistan needs a strong economy to move forward and hence a viable working relationship not just with Saudi Arabia but every regional country.

Then will a commission report serve the purpose?

There is a report named Hamood ur Rahman Commission Report. There is a report called the Abbottabad Commission Report. There is a report called 2014 Army Public School (APS) Peshawar carnage. There is a report called the Faizabad Dharna Commission Report. Several reports determined time and again how Pakistan’s security has been compromised, bailed out, and remained incompetent in establishing law and order along the country’s strategic borders and in areas, such as Balochistan.

We do not want nine May to revisit us. That’s a genuine and acceptable expectation.

There are people in the political arena, in universities, in businesses, in bureaucracy, and now in the judiciary as well, since the arrival of the letter from six honourable judges of the Islamabad High Court, who have some similar expectations.

In the history of Pakistan politics, there have been several thousand nine May[s]. It was a nine May for the politicians when on three different occasions the civilian governments were taken over by the military dictators. It was nine May[s] for the judiciary when on several occasions they were disgraced, sent home, intimidated, and pressurised to give favourable judgements. It was nine May[s] when every election was rigged in Pakistan and pseudo-political pressure groups were formed to dismantle the so-called anti-establishment party. We have seen several nine May[s] in Karachi but one stands out — the mayhem on 12 May 2007, when Karachi police were asked to sit back and see the city descend into chaos by the establishment’s pet party MQM. It is nine May for the people of Pakistan when its intelligence agencies record private moments of influential individuals’ lives to blackmail them. It is nine May for this country when no prime minister is allowed to finish his tenure in office and is thrown out with disgrace. This country has nine May every day.

So, in order to avoid nine May to happen again, it should also be ensured that the events like those cited above cease to happen in this country. No one endorses violence, and no one can endorse repeated assaults on the political system, as well, leading to economic instability. What was the reason for pushing out the Nawaz Sharif set-up in 2017, and later the Imran Khan government in 2021. Both events downgraded Pakistan from the rank of developing country to a poor nation as per the IMF’s latest findings. We are several decades behind India and even Bangladesh, not to speak of terrorism that has returned with full vengeance.

To avoid nine May, Pakistan’s power paradigm will have to be readjusted. The billion-dollar question is: are there any takers for this long-awaited suggestion?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2024.

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