STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan
I have shared this anecdote previously; however events of 8th March gave it a new meaning. In 1997 we were organizing PTI and holding corner meetings for Chairman Imran Khan to mobilize support for the forthcoming elections. One such meeting was held in Kahna, a suburban town near Lahore. I had the responsibility of PTI Punjab as its President. When we reached the venue with IK, I saw about 20 rows of chairs were laid out. The first 10 rows were occupied by young children. I was deeply agitated and gave the local organizers an earful.
IK overheard our conversation. He spoke quietly in my ear and his words reverberate in my memory till today. He said “Hafeez we are in it for the long haul. These kids are our strength and will one day grow up to be our diehard supporters.” I accepted it with a pinch of salt. As a political operator one generally lives in here and now. A quarter century later these words have come true. Ali Bilal, a diehard PTI supporter who was brutally murdered on 8thMarch belonged to that generation.
Ali Bilal lovingly called “Zil-e-Shah” was a special child around 30 years old and a resident of Islampura, Lahore. He was a permanent fixture at Zaman Park fullyparticipating in PTI’s political activities. He was taken into police custody around 4.30pm on 8th March and loaded into a prison van along with other PTI workers. A journalist captured it on video and even spoke to him. 3 hours later his dead body was dropped off at Services Hospital in an official pick-up by persons in plain clothes. He was pronounced dead in medical report; the doctor who wrote that report is being victimized.
Zil-e-Shah will be remembered as a martyr for democracy.
His post mortem report is now public. Ali was brutally tortured. His body bore over 26 torture marks and died by blood forced trauma. The cruelty and precision of his beatings have startling similarity with the beatings meted out to Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill; especially the private parts. Was this operation carried out by this interim government under directions of Rana Sana or did it have active participation of forces under Dirty Harry’s control?
The mainstream media mostly blacked out this criminal activity of ruthless beatings. PTI supporters on their way to Zaman Park were cruelly attacked by firing expired tear gas shells, water cannons discharging acidic water and lathi-charged by depraved and crazed uniforms. Vehicles were smashed especially those carrying women. Ladies were beaten up on a day universally celebrated as “Women’s Day.”
I realize the limitations of writing in English in Pakistan; being a non English speaking country. However based on input and response of readers, it appears my articles reach my target audiences of intellectuals, opinion makers, influencers, Overseas Pakistanis and decision makers. Thinking minds influence societies especially in precarious times like the present. I urge my readers to do their bit and spread the message.
In my previous article I had called the three Supreme Court Justices “saviors of democracy”. It was not said lightly. Every component of the Establishment was conspiring to find ways to run away from elections. Supreme Court’s judgment demolished this ambiguity. Election schedule has been announced in Punjab. KP Governor, directed by Maulana Fazal, is acting like a dunce. He is moving perilously close to flouting the Constitution and inviting treason charges.
However the electoral process requires funds, security and manpower to conduct the elections. The Federal Government is obstructing at every level to derail the process. Supreme Court needs to stand guard to ensure fulfillment of its judgment. It may require hauling in Prime Minister Sharif and directing the delinquents to behave or face the consequences.
It has clearly emerged that the Interim Government inserted in Punjab is totally partisan; just listen to Amir Mir’s interview with Kashif Abbasi. It is a sad moment to see Amir throw away his lifelong anti-Establishment stance to fly a flag for 90 days. Anti IK bureaucrats and police officers have been strategically placed to victimize and harass PTI. 8th March is just a trailer of the coercive strategy prepared to rig the elections.
I hereby state categorically that if PTI can stand up to this onslaught, nothing can stop them. It needs to pull out all stops and overwhelm this tottering regime and bring out its cadres chanting “Imran teray janisar beshumar beshumar.” It translates “Imran your devotees willing to lay down their lives are uncountable.” 8th March human wall of women facing and stopping the onslaught of water cannon is such a proud example of uncompromising resistance.
The “devil” is the collection of corrupt politicians; dishonestones in media; compromised elements in judiciary and bureaucracy plus elite mafias in cahoots with a coterie of Generals. All banding together to protect their vested interests and stranglehold on power. The “deep blue sea” is the throbbing will of the people sick of this prolonged misrule.
Arrest and stupid FIR’s against Imran Khan will only fortify the commitment of public to stand behind PTI. The recent polls by Gallup, despite their political leanings, puts him way ahead of the united strength of coalition of the corrupt. Where the temperature stands today, IK can clean sweep Punjab and KP without even stepping out of Zaman Park. One year of corrupt mismanagement by PDM has the voters convinced who should rule them.