Pakistan took baby steps towards democracy this year. Hope was revived as new leaders were sworn in and old faces bowed out. A 16-year-old held the world captive with the power of her words. Art found its lost voice.
Yet, the country remained racked by terrorism. Inflation and rolling blackouts continued to punctuate conversations. Too often, a child took a bullet not meant for him. Living became a privilege as most made peace with surviving. But what if the year had taken a different course? What would the country look like? How would we feel? We take you through a slightly different version of 2013. Loaded with imagination, humour, hope and a big fat what if…
Disclaimer: All characters and events in this report, even those based on real people and events are fictional. Any opinion expressed here is not meant to hurt any feelings and should be taken in good spirit.
Fresh elections were held after the results of May, 2013 elections were overturned as ‘irrefutable’ and evidence of widespread rigging surfaced, thanks largely to the untiring efforts of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Imran Khan’s PTI tsunami had swept the new polls across the country. And the first act of the new government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan was to hold an emergency meeting of all the stakeholders to discuss the serious law and order situation and diplomatic crises emerging from the blockade of the Karachi port and Torkham and Chamman check-posts by PTI activists.
The PTI chief ministers of the four provinces claimed that like the Prime Minister they were also against the blockade but at the same time, they were in full agreement with the party chief’s contention that their governments had no right to stop the PTI workers from exercising their democratic right to protest the US drone attacks by blocking the NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister said that he did not agree with the PTI workers’ decision to challenge the government by taking the law into their own hands and had also communicated this to the visiting US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel during their one-on-one meeting. However, on the advice of the core committee of the ruling party, he has refrained from ordering the law enforcement agencies to forcibly end the blockade. According to the party leadership, that would amount to resorting to undemocratic methods to solve a political problem.
“When he asked me to let him talk to the PTI leadership directly, I told him to go and meet the party chief at his Banigala residence,” said the PM, terminating the stakeholders’ meeting abruptly. He said he had to rush to Banigala as a meeting was scheduled, in the next 45 minutes or so, between the US official and the party chief.
Before he left, his Interior-cum-Foreign minister, a beaming Shireen Mazari informed him that the TTP had accepted the government’s offer to open an office at the Convention Centre in Islamabad so that peace talks could begin immediately. As he was rushing out he did not hear the second part of Mazari’s information, that the TTP leadership had accepted the offer on the condition that it would fly the flag of the Islamic Emirate the of Taliban at the venue when talks commence. The meeting between the PTI chairman and Chuck Hagel did not go well as the former said the end to the blockade would be conditioned on a written undertaking from the US to stop drone attacks immediately.
When told that in that case it would be impossible for the US administration to persuade the US Congress not to cut off aid flows to Pakistan, the PTI chief reportedly retorted that such threats did not bother him. “I can manage Pakistan’s economy without hocking our sovereignty to the US or any other bilateral or multilateral donor. Fund-raising is my forte. Those who have seen me do it for Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital and Namal (Bradford University) college know what I am talking about,” asserted a self-assured Khan, looking straight into the eyes of a squirming Hagel, who left the Banigala mansion in what appeared to be ungracious haste.
The writer is Executive Editor of The Express Tribune
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 29th, 2013.