“Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise./ Up from the past that’s rooted in pain, I rise./ I am a black ocean, leaping and wide,/ Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.”– Maya Angelou
It is said that being caged is not a good feeling. Not only does it deprive you of your physical freedom to move around and perform your normal daily chores; it numbs your faculties and transforms you into a virtual comatose state that, over time, could even become a permanent feature. That is how and when you start loathing the idea of being free again and prefer to wear the comfort of being a hostage of someone else’s whims and fancies.
When I look around, I feel that some unwieldy forces have been unleashed upon us to take us prisoner and transform us into dummies to be tossed around when and where needed. It is also hoped by the architects that, with the passage of time, we will get used to our caged state and happily wear the apparel of slavery. But it is neither an easy transformation nor a convenient one to assume roles which may have been anathema in another phase of life that we lived.
But then so much else is also symptomatic of this ailment in our society, most lethally our attitudes and our apt readiness to compromise with mediocrity, even crime. The judicial theatre that played its act in public view is a classic example of the below-par performance which has become a norm. Beyond the domain of self-projection, I am yet to discover the rationale necessitating this show. It is a matter of serious concern how patently some pre-orchestrated mindsets set about demonstrating their culpability and their penchant to play to the gallery. Wisdom demands that when there is nothing to display by way of merit and substance, it would work better to keep the stuff under wraps.
But when such advice is not heeded, and when anger and intolerance, being the absolute antithesis of the letter and spirit of law, become publicly visible, one knows that the rails of justice are in unsteady hands, treading a highly bumpy path. This was amply demonstrated at the commencement of the hearing of the cipher case against Imran Khan when a cage-like contraption was built inside the courtroom for him to stand in. Beyond it being a reprehensible act to humiliate him, it also generated ominous symbolism associated with the Morsi trial in Egypt. What was the message being conveyed and whose ego was being assuaged? What precedence are we setting to be emulated by others in the future?
Provision of justice, or its derailment, often become visible in such-like demonstrative optics. But the more they try to humiliate Khan and inflict pain upon him, the more they diminish themselves before the eyes of the people and communities throughout the world which are irretrievably wedded to the cause of justice, even under the most daunting of circumstances.
What is the justification for courts reserving judgments and why is it enacted ever so often in cases concerning Imran Khan? It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. Maybe, our courts need a refresher course to be reminded of this dictum so that it may henceforth proceed to dispense justice without any let or hindrance.
Notwithstanding the brutal use of the state machinery, there is one reality that Imran Khan has established beyond a shade of doubt: that, with an unprecedented demonstration of faith, grit, courage, and perseverance, he is rewriting the political history of Pakistan. Gone are the days of leaving the country under pressure, benefitting from the illicitly earned billions in foreign lands and planning a comeback by employing petty political tricks. Gone are the days of showing weakness in the face of unmitigated unleashing of state power. Gone are the days of enacting compromise and surrendering on matters of principle which are integral to defending and promoting national interests.
Instead, there is an unbending resolve to stand firm while confronting tyranny and to act with courage in a display of conviction and self-assurance. Terror and torture can only delay the inevitable, but it cannot be prevented. The more the stock of fake and fraudulent accusations piles up to create a distance between Khan and the people, the quicker it will be obliterated under its unwieldy weight. Truth shall ultimately surge forth to blow away the false and fabricated narratives which are routinely floated around the person of Imran Khan.
Much is being sold in pre-packaged containers in the country, most importantly confessions which are secured under duress. Instead of creating confusion in the minds of the electorate, these are acting as testimonials for the truth that Khan is propounding and the veracity of his narrative, thus adding further to his strength at the grassroots level.
But it is having another unseemly effect: loss of faith in the state and what it stands for. In a caged environment where most of what is offered is by way of optics rather than substance, it is reason enough for this dreaded dilution of mutual trust, thus accelerating the exodus of all thinking minds from the country to take up residence abroad where they feel they can make a meaningful contribution without living under an umbrella of impenetrable fear. In this barren environment, in addition to carrying a begging bowl asking for financial support from countries and institutions, we will soon be seeking people endowed with thinking faculties to manage and carry forth the affairs of the state.
A cage is an inappropriate weapon that we have invented to control the nation’s thought process. Much that it has been tried through times, it has not worked. It is more suited to empowering dictatorships, but its relevance in democracies is a far-fetched contraption.
In an age of social media and enhanced awareness, such cages are more likely to be dismantled to give free flow to human endeavours to fashion a society that would cater to furthering their freedoms and faculties and contribute to alleviating the sufferings that growing multitudes of afflicted people are enduring.
The age of offering caged justice and numbed brains is over. People yearn for freedom that caters to their appetite for a country that would be caring and compassionate towards their problems and committed to solving them and creating hope for a future that has been elusive for an eternity. It is time to make a transition in the right direction by ensuring human freedom and justice rather than curbing them. The latter time in history is well-nigh over. It lies beyond recall.
The writer is the information secretary of the PTI, and a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets/posts @RaoofHasan
By Raoof Hasan