Pakistani opposition leaders, Shahbaz Sharif (L), leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Asif Ali Zardari (C), former President and leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Fazlur Rehman (R), head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, gesture during a press conference after submitting the no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan on march 8, 2022. (Photo by Farooq NAEEM / AFP)

STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

Hans Christian Anderson, a Danish author wrote scores of fairy tales impacting generations. I remember reading them as a child. The Emperor Has No Clothes was first published in 1837, with roots dating back centuries traceable to Indian folklore. An extremely vain, proud and ruthless emperor spent lavishly on his clothes at the expense of state matters.

He was conned by two swindlers, posing as weavers. They convinced the emperor that they can spin a magnificent dress invisible only to the stupid. Upon supposed completion, they mime dressing him for a citywide procession. The townsfolk see the emperor naked, but out of fear go along with the pretense until a child blurts “the emperor has no clothes”. Emperor is startled but continues to walk more proudly than ever. That is what is happening in Pakistan. Swindlers and vanity have combined to lead us into a bottomless pit. The emperor stands exposed.

Gallup Pakistan’s Ijaz Shafi Gillani was President of Karachi University Students Union at the same time I led PUSU. I follow their reports to stay informed. In their latest report on TV programs 59% of time was spent on politics, 19% on legal matters and only 6% was spent discussingthe disastrous economic conditions in the country. We are headed for a train wreck yet everyone wants to brush the topic under the carpet.    

Pakistan is headed for financial default end June or latest in the next quarter. Yet this authoritarian regime enforcers are totally pre-occupied with suppression using a big hammer. Their joker allies in government are egging them on; blinded by their obsession of removing IK from the political scene. Imagine Pakistan as a big pond; we have a crocodile let loose in it that devours everything coming its way. Constitution is un-enforceable; Courts are paralyzed; women are being brutalized in public and in custody; political workers are being treated worse than enemy combatants; and Army Courts are being commissioned as the flagship of brutality.  

This State sponsored chaos is leading to the tightening of economic noose around Pakistan’s neck. Remittances and exports have tanked; economic growth has sunk; tax collection is in negative territory; inflation is emasculating the common folk’s ability to survive and corruption is at itshighest levels. Our lender of last resort – IMF wantsConstitution upheld and human rights restored; otherwise no deal. This was in response to a former scrap dealer now our PM reaching out directly to IMF chief; he was put in place. In complex financial systems, such attempts end up in the dustbin; leaving errant party licking their wounds. Without an IMF program friendly countries cannot offer a bailout.

Pakistan is entirely reliant on 32 billion dollars remitted annually by 10 million Overseas Pakistanis. A huge majority of them are totally outraged by this brutality unfolding every day by “unknown persons”. The enforcersruthlessness has all the markings of a of disciplined forceacting under the orders of their commanders. Unfortunately these commanders have the wisdom of mindless street fighters. This outrage could easily morph into a resolve to punish the perpetuators for violating human rights by withholding or reducing remittances. It would lead to a total collapse of our fragile economy.

People at my age find it difficult to form new friendships. However, every so often one comes across a gem that needs to be valued like my friend Dr Zia Virk in USA. He is apolitical yet his passion for Pakistan has motivated him to speak up against this massive abuse of power. There are hundreds of thousands like him. Those blinded by power of the gun beware the wrath of Overseas Pakistanis.

Imran Khan is facing the full brunt of this onslaught. As layers of PTI’s weakkneed leaders are peeled off, IK is becoming a symbol of the suppressed desire to be rid of culprits who have looted Pakistan. This is beyond being a political leader; he has become a part of the hearts and minds of Pakistanis. Shutting him out of state controlled media will not work in 2023. The closed door planners are using techniques of 70’s and 80’s that get exposed within days. Deep State or the Establishment stand exposed like the electric wires in rundown slum. The whole drama enacted on May 9th being used as watershed event to mow down opponents stands totally exposed. Watch the BBC documentary on social media. This amateurish ruse was poorly planned and executed; it makes its authors look like buffoons before the whole world.

I share personal anecdotes about IK in articles to highlight his traits that would be of interest to intellectuals or scholars and to bring them on record for history. In 2002 I was part of PTI’s election team. Through my close friend Raja Anwar, IK and few close associates met with ISI’s internal wing chief. Midway during discussions, IK took offense to some of the demands raised and the meeting ended abruptly. In a follow up discussion with IK at his E7 residence; as a political hack I argued that unless we are part of the power structure, we have a long and arduous journey. IK stood firm saying “Hafeez I don’t want power without the backing of the masses”. His wife Jemima stood firmly behind him. Two decades later that time has come. IK lives in the hearts and minds of people. Political manipulations will come to a naught, as it happened many times before.

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