STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

23rd March 1973 I participated in a joint opposition’s jalsa organized in Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi. It was meant to be an event wherein parties opposed to Bhutto’s rule gathered to express their positions. That was not how Bhutto regime viewed it. They decided to teach their opponents a lesson. The grounds were full of an enthusiastic crowd. Suddenly gunfire erupted from all sides of the Bagh. People ran for cover and chaos set in.

Earlier, leaders had assembled at the residence of Chaudhry Zahur Ellahi. Nawabzada Nasrullah and few others accompanied me in my car and we were to pick up Pir Pagara en route from InterContinental hotel. Those days there were no cell phones. Just as we were leaving the hotel a motorcycle rider blocked our way. I recognized him as a political activist I had met and stopped. With a dazed look on his face, he blurted that bloodshed had started in the jalsa. We should not go there. Nawabzada sb in a loud voice that resonated in the car, instructed me to keep going.

The scenes I witnessed on arrival at the venue sends shivers up my spine even after five decades. The parking area was a battleground full of injured participants with blood being spilled around us. It was decided that come what may, we should proceed to the stage. Wali Khan, Zahur Ellahi, and Baluchi Sardars were already there.

This 100 meters walk from the car to stage is one of most traumatic experience in my life. Bullets were raining in from all sides. I was accompanying Pir sb who was moving at a snail’s pace. I urged him to speed up. His words still echo in my ears “Hafeez I have a bad knee that will aggravate causing great pain. If a bullet is meant for me it will get me whether I walk fast or slow!” Scores lost their lives and hundreds were injured that night. Pathans from KP were the prime target. They were chased into streets and brought down by gun wielding goons. The dictatorial streak in Bhutto had overtaken his democratic façade.

We would have seen a similar mayhem on 25th May. It was a tough yet a sagacious decision by IK to end the long march before lethal gunfire erupted. The atrocities under Bhutto in the seventies and brutalization of opponents under Zia in the eighties have been adopted in 2022. The ham fisted suppression of participants of the long march clearly demonstrates the intentions of PM Sharif ably executed by Rana Sana. Suppressive tactics may subdue temporarily, however it sows seeds of extreme hatred that will fester till they explode.

The message conveyed through cipher must have gone through layers of assessments in the State Department. It was their final position that led to the regime change. Looking at the history of such actions by CIA paints a dark picture for the course of activities in Pakistan. Plans did not end with removal from power of Musadiq in Iran or Allende in Chile. They ended with the elimination of these leaders.

The total blackout of the atrocities committed on 25th May by the western media proves the collusion between the perpetuators of the conspiracy and their executors in Pakistan. Imran Khan is clearly under threat. Cases under the black laws using section 124 are being cooked up against PTI leadership to imprison them. IK locating himself in KP is a safety valve for now. At this point it is important for PTI to consider how their resistance against the imported regime should proceed.

Doing a long march focused on Islamabad gives the rulers the ability to concentrate their forces. Resistance in multiple cities will disburse their ability to suppress. It has to be a struggle that inflicts a thousand cuts on various parts of the body. Explosion of fuel, electricity prices and resulting inflation in staple food prices will trigger this process. Condition of working classes and wage earners is back breaking and resentment is soaring. PTI needs to step in and give a direction to the floodgates of this pent up anger. Time is on their side. Each day under this unbearable load will weaken the PDM regime.

Economy is a far bigger concern now overtaking political considerations. Going back two months where did Pakistan stand? Economic growth was at 6%, exports were rising dramatically, remittances were at record levels, stocks were booming and the country’s economic take-off was on course. It did not suit the forces that seek to destabilize Pakistan and was disrupted through this untimely regime change.

Where do we stand today? The economy has tanked, inflation is galloping at 20%, and export manufacturing is seriously hurting. The leader of 2nd largest PDM party has gone missing. Bilawal is out of country having fun and is on a resume building exercise. PM Sharif is on fruitless image building spree using advertisements to resurrect his shattered image. The Government is without any direction hurtling towards a default.

The Superior Judiciary is seeking to enforce a course correction. PDM regime is rushing to give itself a NRO 2. They are changing laws to get off the hook; away from the noose hanging over their heads. Prospects for future of the country are extremely dark. Neutrality at this stage is not an option. Without an intervention we are headed for a massive blowout. Option for stakeholders is to step in now; otherwise it could be never.

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