Living in fantasy land

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Living in fantasy land

Ayaz Amir

Any fool is entitled to his flights of fancy. Politicians on the stump are given to bluffing and exaggeration. We listen to them and unless one is a complete idiot one takes their pronouncements with ample supplies of salt. Leaders are given to exaggeration too, megalomania being a disease prevalent among those in positions of authority.

As long as we are aware of these antics and can differentiate between sense and outright nonsense little harm comes from them…from the wild rhetoric and posturing that leaders and politicians are given to and which they take as ineradicable elements of their profession. But when the same politicians also expect the rest of us to take leave of our senses and believe the nonsense they are uttering that becomes something completely different.

President Trump’s nonsense is one thing. But if the rest of the United States starts believing his nonsense and thinks that what he is saying is the divine truth then it means that an entire nation is going crazy.

Look at the leadership we have. The best we have been able to throw up these past 30 years is Nawaz Sharif, hoisted to the premiership three times, the most in our history. Yet to listen to him is to despair of the Pakistani condition, for if this is our best what must the worst be like?

We are all familiar with the charges against him—-from amassing huge wealth while in office to hiding his assets and telling improbable stories about how all this was accomplished. No need to go over this ground again. Our erstwhile caudillo has been disqualified by a full bench of the highest court in the land. The proceedings didn’t happen overnight. They were spread over many months and there was also a full-fledged investigation by the JIT.

Nawaz Sharif was asked to explain the money trail leading to his London flats, some of the most expensive in that expensive city. He was also asked to explain his offshore accounts which he had kept hidden from view. But he and his family could come up with no credible explanation, none whatsoever, except for the two Qatari letters whose contents no schoolboy in the country would entertain seriously for a second.

About all the questions raised in the Panama case hearings the National Accountability Bureau has been tasked by the Supreme Court to file proper cases. These will be heard when the time comes. During the course of the investigation many things were revealed—like the fact that Maryam Safdar was the real owner of the Virgin Island offshore companies, that in some documents submitted before the apex court transparent forgery had been committed, a punishable offence of course, and that the prime minister of Pakistan, a country with the sixth or seventh largest army in the world and the Islamic world’s only nuclear power, had a work permit (iqama) of the United Arab Emirates in his pocket, which he had not revealed as he was required to do under the law.

His disqualification rests on this work permit for which he was being paid a salary by the company set up by his son. The corruption cases are to be filed by NAB in the next few weeks. There are also unanswered questions about extensive money-laundering the details of which are to be found in a confessional statement given by Ishaq Dar, our finance minister, who is related to Nawaz Sharif in that his son is married to the latter’s daughter. Dar says that he gave that statement during the Musharraf regime under duress but never, not once, has he denied its contents.

But the way Nawaz Sharif is proclaiming his innocence and saying that there is no charge of corruption against him is to receive an education in confidence, the English word not quite conveying the sense of ‘dhitai’ in Urdu. And he has said incendiary things about the five judges who’ve sent him home. Anyone else saying half as much would have had a dozen contempt notices slapped on him. But the Supreme Court has exercised restraint, perhaps in the belief that it may not be a good idea to make Nawaz Sharif a martyr.

But Nawaz Sharif is exercising his imagination, suddenly remembering the Charter of Democracy and the need for a new social contract, the word revolution also spouting from his lips. Here’s one of Pakistan’s biggest tycoons who wouldn’t allow a decent trade union to function in any of his long line of factories, around whose palace in Jati Umra near Raiwind are stationed 1100-1200 personnel of the Punjab police on permanent guard duty and for whose benefit a protective wall has been thrown around the same palace at a cost of 70 crore rupees from public funds and who is not embarrassed to mention revolution when nothing else suffices.

And he wants the rest of us not only to believe this newly-discovered wisdom but to applaud him for this commitment. He says all these things with an absolutely straight face without a trace of embarrassment. He clearly takes the nation to be a collection of idiots.

In front of Data Darbar on the last stop of his GT Road march he said that if he were to come to power again cheap houses and instant justice, within 90 days, would be his top priorities. This is not a freshman speaking but someone who has been in and out of power for the last 35 years and now that he has been moved to one side by the Supreme Court he suddenly remembers affordable housing and instant justice.

For him to say such things means that he must be thinking that there will be people who will believe these fairy tales. And why not? If someone like him can be prime minister three times, if he is Punjab’s choice as leader, messiah and salvationist, what does it say of the intelligence and understanding of Pakistan’s most populous and powerful province?

 

Even so, we should be grateful for small mercies. While Nawaz Sharif remains a popular leader and the PML-N remains a force not easily swept to one side, it doesn’t take much to see that the GT Road gambit has failed in its primary aim of getting the people of Punjab to rise and launch a movement against the judiciary and those Nawaz Sharif accuses as being part of the conspiracy against him…his obvious reference being to the army.

 

Punjab is rising against no one. Nothing can save Nawaz Sharif and his family from the corruption cases waiting for them. If the Justice Baqir Najfi report into the Model Town affair—14 dead and scores wounded as a result of police firing—is made public, Shahbaz Sharif will also be in trouble.

 

This means that barring something extraordinary, nothing is likely to stop the wheels of retribution. It has taken a long time for them to move but now that the process has started we are in for more interesting times.

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