STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

World Cup 1992 evokes beautiful memories. I was in Riyadh those days where access to TV was restricted to watching bland Saudi channels. Our motivation to watchPakistan play in finals was intense. Where there is a will there is a way; a friend from Saudi Telecom found a way of accessing the required signals in his residential compound. We all congregated at his home. Anticipation and expectations ran high. The ups and downs during the match were like a roller coaster ride. The final outcome threw us into throngs of happiness rarely experienced in this desert country. The next day all Pakistanis held their heads high over this rare victory.

Cricket became the most popular game in the country overtaking hockey, squash and other sports. Captain Imran Khan, already a huge star, became a national icon. This was over three decades ago; ever since we have been attempting a repeat without success. These days again we were gripped by cricket fever till all our dreams came crashing down. The great sports analysts have dissected the causes of this debacle threadbare. I would put it simply; our youngsters had talent but the team selection was poor based on managements’ likes and dislikes. The management of our cricket board is a disaster run by a chairman who has never played professional cricket all his life.

Gambling in cricket is a billion dollar enterprise.Unfortunately some of the controllers of Cricket Board have dabbled in this for personal gains against national interest. What has happened in this World Cup is reflective of what is happening in our country’s governance. I recollect visiting Pakistan with our Saudi group Chairman Abdul Latif Al Sheikh in late eighties. After a hectic meeting schedule, as we were reviewing the outcomes, I asked him what do you think is missing in our country? He answered in one word, “management”. His comment hit me hard and put into perspective a lot of things that were going wrong then. That has multiplied a hundred fold, if not more, in the decades that followed.

Fast forward to the present. Management translated as Governance; has worsened to the extent that many experts call it a failed state. The breakdown in our system over the last two years presents a terrifying picture. Rule of law has taken a nose dive; degraded to an extent that the Constitution has become meaningless. If you add up the gross violations since April 2022, it appears Constitution has been abrogated without a formal announcement. We are living in an era of an undeclared martial law. Kidnapping by official agencies have become the order of the day.

The worst part is that the bureaucracy has become subservient to the dictates of the intelligence agencies. They follow their commands in unleashing cruelty rarely seen in our country and considered unimaginable in developed nations. Any association with PTI is a red rag to these out of control bulls dressed in police uniforms. Every day I get new stories of the mayhem unleashed against Pakistanis whose only crime is expression of free will; a statutory right of every citizen under the provisions of the Constitution.

The repressive rulers controlled by Pindi have a clear directive. Crush anyone who dares to step out seeking “Azadi”. They are blindly pushing up the most crooked politician ever in the history of Pakistan. The media has been successfully muzzled. Only those media persons are allowed to appear who obediently ask the ruler “how high” when ordered to jump. The people of Pakistan stand on one side of the spectrum; a vast majority has sworn unwavering allegiance to IK. On the other side of the spectrum stand our uniforms who have taken an oath of allegiance with a convict. They will leave no stone unturned to bring Nawaz to power bulldozing all opponents.

The two recent events put a spotlight on the hypocrisy at play. The Sharifs landed in Baluchistan to conquer it in preparation for the forthcoming elections. In this age of social media nothing remains hidden. This royal entourage received protocol generally afforded to a Prime Minister. Upon his much trumped arrival, only a handful of people showed up instead of anticipated throngs of masses. Most of their public appearances were confined to luxury hotel,Serena. Nawaz was able to bag about 30 new entrants in his party despite backbreaking efforts of the Establishment. Only a few of them have enjoyed prior electoral success. A massive political disaster.

The other event was a PTI workers convention in Charsada, KP. Despite huge barricades and suppression, workers turned out in huge numbers shouting full throated slogans. What does this tell us? Pakistanis are with PTI, period.

Why can’t the Pindi rulers see the writings on the wall? In their mindless pursuit to shove these crooks down ourthroats they have lost the respect, love and affection once enjoyed by the Army. They have beaten the daylights out of PTI supporters; yet IK’s support keeps growing. He is gaining respect for the bold stand he has taken despite all kinds of hardships in jail; his commitment to move forward with “freedom march”. The nation is headed towards an inevitable clash if people are denied a free and fair election. Wake up Generals; safeguard the future of the Army and save the nation such an unnecessary disaster.      

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