STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

In the sixties, during my youthful days while vacationing in Lyallpur, a rustic environment, there were few enjoyable distractions. “Madaris” used to be one of them. It was a mix of entertainment, jugglery and some magic tricks thrown in for good measure. Madari and his entourage of a monkey, other pets and assistants carrying his paraphernalia would roam a locality announcing their arrival. It used be through “dugdugee”, a small drum peculiar to this trade.

After the announcement he would set-up in an open ground permitting time for a crowd to assemble, mostly kids with some adults, including women. After his opening tricks, the Madari’s high point used to be his monkey’s dance. It would enthrall and entertain us. The audience would chip in putting their coins in the collection tray.

I am reminded of those times as I witness the present happenings on Pakistan’s political scene. These are technological times, thus the “Madari” sits in London and his monkeys’ perform in Lahore. An ongoing saga that ebbs and peaks on a regular basis. It is important to have clarity as to why this “Madari ka Tamasha” is being enacted; it makes it easier to comprehend this phenomenon.

Former PM Nawaz Sharif stands tall among the dictators and plutocrats who milked their impoverished countries blind by stealing billions of dollars and moving them overseas. He embarked on this nefarious journey nearly three decades ago. He manipulated the laws and created a framework that enabled him and the elite to fly under the radar. He was getting away with it successfully by denying the existence of such fraud, and through manipulating the judiciary and investigative agencies.

His luck ran out after Panama leaks and the change of guard amongst judiciary and establishment. It was further fortified by PM IK coming to power riding the popular wave for accountability. As a historic first, his massive corruption was exposed and Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were convicted. Concocted “Qatari letter” and “Calibri font” documents were flimsy defense that did not pass the smell test. Their flagrant lies stood exposed. It was a high point in the accountability process that boosted the nation’s morale.

Unfortunately the respite was short lived. A billionaire fortune achieved through sucking the blood of the poor was too much to give up. So the dirty tricks department of PML (N) went into overdrive to engineer an escape from incarceration. The first onslaught was launched triumphantly by Maryam Nawaz of a compromising video of Accountability Judge Arshad Malik through media hype. Maryam has absolute faith in blackmail and manipulation to con the public through lies and deceit. However this effort bombed.

The next move was one of the oldest tricks known to mankind; feign ill health. This ruse was cleverly and intricately woven to show that Nawaz Sharif was on his deathbed. He needed immediate evacuation otherwise he will pass on. False medical reports were concocted and verified by compromised and corrupt doctors panicking PTI to get rid of the hot potato. In hindsight it was a huge mistake that subsequently caused immense embarrassment for the Government. It could likely be the turning point in their fortunes.

Once in London, Nawaz Sharif dramatically recovered without any serious treatment or hospitalization. Meantime the accountability process started to run out of steam through manipulated delays and legal maneuverings. Freed from the shackles, Nawaz began lashing out on everyone including the military leadership. After reclaiming his billions, his quest to regain power started in earnest. His mouthpiece, Maryam was willing to go to any extent in delivering these results.

While these attacks were going on, the Accountability Courts and NAB faltered and failed to secure any convictions bringing the corrupt to justice. This emboldened PML (N) to go for the jugular once again. This time the focus of their attack was judiciary. A false affidavit was created through a former Chief Judge of Gilgit Baltistan to discredit a former Chief Justice. It was followed by a fabricated audio tape in support of these assertions. It was hugely touted through a media group which benefited tremendously during Nawaz Sharif’s last regime.

This Machiavellian plot was meant to serve two purposes. First, to provide Nawaz Sharif grounds for extension of his visa in UK. Secondly, to muddy the waters ahead of the appeals in High Court challenging the conviction of Nawaz and Maryam. This effort seems to be blunted for now. The High Court has issued contempt notices to the author of the Affidavit who now seems to be finding escape routes. The audio tape seems to be a fatherless child. PML (N) is trying to extract maximum mileage on media; however it is unwilling to produce it as defense in High Court.

It has triggered a tit for tat in the audio game. Maryam’s tapes are making the rounds where she is doling out government funds to media that does her bidding. In all this haze, the dispensation of accountability is totally stalled. It would be a huge tragedy if the criminals who stole from the public exchequer get away with it.

The government is facing severe challenges on the economic, political and governance front. It is imperative for its credibility to push the accountability process forward. It needs to eliminate the villains whose actions have led to such infliction of pain on the general population. PM IK needs to focus on this as a top priority.

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