The sight of an alleged-criminal and fugitive Salman Shahbaz sharing the head-table with his father, alleged-criminal and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, at the banquet hosted by Turkish President Erdogan, reflects the extent to which criminality of the basest variety has penetrated the psyche of the ruling cabal. My head is bowed in shame and, I am sure that every self-respecting Pakistani would feel likewise upon seeing this deplorable sight of alleged criminals as representatives of the country at the highest level of bilateral interaction.
What is the message that Shahbaz Sharif intended to communicate to the people of Pakistan, his host, the rest of the world and, most importantly, his patrons in the regime-change conspiracy by including his alleged-criminal son in the delegation and giving him a place of honour at the head table? Instead, isn’t it his responsibility as the chief executive of the country to ensure that his absconder son, just like any other absconder, surrenders before the court as is required by the law? This act of wilful and disdainful defiance is indicative of the sickening reality that the ruling elite, having meandered into power through a foreign-inspired and funded conspiracy, duly supported by their local agents and collaborators, consider themselves above the law – and they flaunt this publicly as a badge of pride and honour!
This is not the only case that casts a dreadful shadow of infamy upon the entire nation. The Sharif family, unfortunately, has been reduced to being a group of convicts, alleged-criminals and absconders who now have the reins of power to manipulate a withering system for the removal of their names from all crime registers and their convictions overturned. In course of time, this and such other debilitating incidents could be cited as proof of the state’s complicity in criminal indulgences, thus leading to extraction of favours which may not be helpful for the cause of Pakistan. This has happened in the past when the state was forced to compromise under pressure from countries which apparently were our allies but, in reality, worked to damage our national credentials by manipulating the vulnerable character of our leadership.
Since this government is the outcome of a conspiracy which, having been certified by two consecutive sessions of the National Security Committee (NSC), is now an established reality, are we again headed in the direction of being exploited because of our weaknesses, thus facilitating our adversaries extract a huge pound of flesh which they have long been desirous of? This appears to be the likeliest scenario whose eventuality could present a harrowing challenge for the continued security of the country. We are already on the verge of an economic collapse. All that is needed is a slight push and we could go hurtling down the slope unchecked.
Under the circumstances, why has this criminal concoction been inducted in the first place, and why have they been given carte blanche to do with the state and its institutions as may suit their objectives? Why have they been facilitated to take illegal, undemocratic and rabidly unconstitutional control of the largest province of the country without enjoying a numerical majority there? Why have Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz not been indicted in corruption and money-laundering cases which have now been pending for months? Why has the incumbent government been allowed the use of a disproportionate measure of violence against peaceful protestors and why has the petition moved by the PTI regarding its right to assembly and protest not been adjudicated by the courts?
These are disturbing questions. It appears as if the entire system has been hijacked by a collective of alleged criminals to cleanse their names of the blemish of corruption. This is what they intended doing and this is what they have set about doing with no checks either from parliament which is virtually dysfunctional, or the judiciary. The public pressure, which is now visible and mounting, is blunted through use of excessive and indiscriminate violence. This is neither sanctioned in a democratic polity, nor has this any precedence.
What is the mystery which presaged and which continues to shroud the advent in power of a compromised government? It may not be very difficult to let words unravel this mystery, but that may not be enough to avert the harrowing consequences which the state and its people will have to suffer in the event this concoction was given some permanence. Whatever may have prompted the undertaking of this weird experiment, it has not only failed miserably; it has also generated boundless bitterness and reaction across the societal fabric. Its continuation in power can lead to a massive and damning catastrophe that may dent the legitimacy of the state and compromise its strategic interests.
It is time to take a step back and contemplate the aftermath of an ill-conceived plunge into the abyss. Pakistan is already suffering its consequences in the shape of an unprecedented economic meltdown and absence of administrative legitimacy. The downward slide is getting steeper, and any further continuation of this incumbency could lead to Pakistan crumbling under the unbearable weight of corruption and administrative paralysis. Now is the time to act and pack off this concoction and head for elections.
At the end of the day, it is the interest of the state and its people which should be held paramount. Personal egos, even if bruised through self-inflicted wounds, can be consigned to the massage rooms to be restored to health. The country needs to breathe. It cannot be kept alive artificially which would be tantamount to imbibing poison. It should be taken off the ventilator controlled and managed by powers that need to divorce their innate penchant for tinkering with its vital signs. Numbness is setting in amidst dangerous noises. The state cannot function in this manner.
This experiment, for whatever it was worth, has failed miserably. It is only in its quick disposal that the seeds of national resurgence can be sowed. A continuation of this ill-conceived misadventure can spell disaster for the country, the signs of which have been visible ever since the initiation of this incubation. Let it go. Let the genuine voice of people speak for what they want which would be possible only through the holding of free and fair elections in the country without any delay, and without any interference. That is what people are calling for. That is what they should get.
Let some droplets of penitence sparkle on the foreheads. Let some strands of shame become visible. Let Pakistan move on.
The writer is a political and security strategist and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute in Islamabad. He tweets @RaoofHasan