STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

The gates were opened by an armed guard and a white Land Cruiser emerged. The young driver was clearly inebriated. His two friends were boisterous. It was past midnight in Defence, Lahore. The vehicle charged down the main boulevard and did not stop at a red light. The cop on duty radioed ahead. The vehicle was flagged down at the next light by a smartly turned out ASI.

The driver was offended. He leapt out of the vehicle and aggressively demanded why was he stopped? Did the police officer not know who he was? Sensing a situation developing, one of the friends called his dad, who in turn called a friend. As the argument developed the police officer’s cell phone rang. It was his superior. Whatever the conversation, the ASI stepped back and respectfully asked the driver to leave.

I will share another anecdote. It was a “mehndi” function. A young dancer was performing. Everyone was doling out money. I saw one of the participants, impressively turned out; throw away excessive amounts of money. I asked a friend who is this guy? The response bowled me over, “it is an excise inspector who always gets postings of his choice.”

This is the Pakistani society that PTI has set out to reform. There is rampant corruption at all levels of the society. Employees of police, tax, judiciary, customs, and public service departments have the greatest amount of disposable cash. The pillars meant to support an orderly civilized society are all corroded from within.

The formal structure of governance has been overtaken by a collection of mafias. They have taken control of various sectors creating monopolies. They manipulate the markets and the economy for their own benefit, forming an unholy nexus with bureaucracy and politicians.

Some of my reformist friends call them elite. I believe it is a misnomer. This class is the worst from of predators that are soaked in the blood of the teeming poor. Since PTI took over with its reform agenda, the spotlight has shone on the mafias. They cover the entire economy. These include energy, food, finance, education, health, media, cement, and real estate sectors.

They have aligned with the political leadership in the past three decades. Since the advent of the Sharifs and Zardari in the nineties, this unholy alliance has grown into a hydra. Both families participated in and were beneficiaries of such manipulation. Everyone looted the nation to their hearts content.

What was their motivation and objective? A select group of predators with their political cohorts sought and gained financial control and a hold over everyday lives of the common folks. It was working well; their all encompassing embrace was getting larger and stronger. They were rudely interrupted by a dreamer who threatened not only the well entrenched politicians but also these mafias.

Imran Khan’s journey started in 1996. A small group sought to reform the system in Pakistan. It started as a vision to bring justice, equality and fairness to common man. It was a long journey on a winding, treacherous route. Nearly a quarter century later the battle still rages between the predators and the reformers.

Those who point fingers overlook the turmoil and struggle PTI had to go through to get where it is today. Fighting a battle that all “sane folks” considered unwinnable, it takes tremendous will power, resolve and unwavering commitment to keep going. Those who know IK or have worked with him can truly appreciate what it took.

Playing a match knowing that all odds are stacked against you and virtually nil chances of victory, it takes a super human resolve to keep going. Huge stamina is required to maintain the struggle and keep the team intact. Especially when exit or compromise is not an option.

Who were the opposing forces? Entrenched corrupt political vultures, and their Mafioso partners flourishing under the cover of establishment and judiciary. Finally the arduous journey got a break. PTI came to power. What did they get? An anemic, lethargic, corrupt power structure that was geared to serve the ruling elite. Commoners can go to hell.

Getting into power was just the beginning of the real journey. Sharifs and Zardaris are partially defanged, their remnants are spread like the weeds in an ill kept lawn. Over three decades of decay they have developed deep roots. Uprooting them is an uphill journey for which the system is ill-equipped.

Till now little has been achieved to make the corrupt accountable. We are trying to get results through a justice and accountability system that has been heavily perverted. It is tilted to protect the crooks we are trying to catch.

It will not give the desired results. For PTI to achieve its objectives there is a clear and present need to reboot. Nothing will work under the existing legal framework. There is an irreconcilable need to revamp the laws governing accountability. A complete overhaul of bureaucracy and delivery systems is a must. Major legislation is required to replace the archaic laws.

It was achieved in Malaysia, Singapore, and Turkey. Why not Pakistan? We have the Captain. He needs to rework to surround himself with a selfless, committed and efficient team. IK is a fast learner, two years is more than enough to learn the ropes of governance. Now he needs to get into action mode. He can afford to lose his government trying to achieve these laudable objectives. Voters have wizened up. They will bring him back with an insurmountable majority.

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