A perilous winter


Muhammad Tahir Iqbal

Winter has started with weird reactions in this part of the world. Something eerie, something spooky looms in the air. The elders are perturbed for their school-going children as something in the air burns their eyes. The elders in the arena of politics also feel unsettled, but for different reasons. Children are being advised to stay indoors for the harm the environment may cause; the elders in politics are seeking to come out of their dens with sound and fury. The mild winter even at its start has set off perilous trends in domestic and political fields. The bigwigs of politics have joined a race. Everybody amongst them intends to pull down his rivals. The frowns, fury and anger connote that this time the battle shall be fierce and conclusive. The judges, too, are peeping outside at the wrathful crowd that has reached the end of rope for years of exploitation in the name of loyalty. The political players, always avowing to safeguard the rights of the paupers in the street, have climbed up a high stage away from the reach of the poor whose job is to silently listen, out of veneration, and say yes to every gesture of their leaders. Thus goes the farce of politics in Pakistan in the current political dispensation. Imran Khan has been one of the most vibrant players ever since his emergence as a big stakeholder in the game, and that was in 2011. Thereafter, he kept rising the rungs of politics, but is still to capture the heights that can send him to the corridors of power. After the longest protest demonstration in 2014, he needed an issue to revitalise his movement against the most popular leader of Punjab. Thanks to the Panama leaks, it gave him the reason to stand once again with renewed vitality. First, he staged a protest very close to the premier’s residence in Raiwind, Lahore. Then he moved on to the Parade Ground in Islamabad, and that was a going to be the real battleground.Khan looks too ireful this time, as the Panama-based law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca has revealed that three of prime minister’s children owned offshore companies. The companies identified are Nescoll Ltd, Nielsen Enterprises Ltd and Hangon Property Holdings Ltd, in addition to apartments in Park Lane in London’s Mayfair area. Khan has questioned the sources of funds used to purchase the properties and companies of the Sharif family.In counter, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to leave the comforts of Islamabad and come down to Kasur and elsewhere to raise his voice for his family’s ‘legally’ earned offshore properties, and the ‘born-to-be-exploited’ people had no option but to applaud the words uttered by the respected prime minister. This was the ripe time to show allegiance to the prime minister. So, in a bid to exhibit his fealty, Hanif Abbasi came forward with a sack-full of proofs, and filed a petition in the Supreme Court levelling similar types of allegations on Imran Khan and one of his party leaders, Jehangir Khan Tareen. Abbasi alleged that Imran Khan had violated the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) 1979 by not declaring his offshore company, Niazi Services Limited, in all general elections including that of 2013.The petition also alleged that Imran Khan had willfully concealed his investment of Rs 2.97 million to purchase a luxury apartment at the Constitution Avenue’s Grand Hyatt locality in Islamabad. Questions have also been raised on the land in Mohra Noor, Banigala. Same kind of allegations of undeclared assets and tax evasion has been pointed on Tareen, too. In all this hubbub, the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should not be ignored. Though his visit to Deharki could not capture much attention, yet thematically he was the strongest. His was a comprehensive speech covering almost all aspects of the present day crises. He began with the rights of the non-Muslim communities, and went on to show the real face of Pakistan — an attempt to present a tolerant picture of Pakistan.
He also highlighted the somber atmosphere generated by August 8 Quetta terror attack on lawyers and the other at a police academy in Quetta in which many young cadets were killed.

Bilawal didn’t forget the rights of farmers. He criticised Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government’s unequal disbursement of funds in Lahore while neglecting the people of Thar. He once again lambasted terrorists, and castigated the interior minister for meeting members of banned groups a few days ago. He also condemned Indian troops’ firing at the Line of Control and the working boundary. He mentioned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a ray of hope for Pakistanis. In short, it was a well-written speech that should teach the bigger guns in the political arena to talk of the real issues of Pakistan.

Though Imran Khan is moving well as far as the Panama leaks issue is concerned, he forgets to talk about the plight of the people in interior Sindh, Quetta and Karachi. Most importantly, he forgets to talk about one of the biggest issues affecting Pakistan: terrorism.

Apart from the strange implication left by the start of this mild winter on politics, the perennial issue of sectarian violence, civil-military imbalance despite postures of calm, and divergence of opinion on CPEC have also started to simmer with more intensity. Still more is to come out of this winter. The judges have to issue verdicts, which would decide the fate of the prime minister, Imran Khan and the one who leaked the civil-military proceedings to an English daily. And also a new chief of the army staff is to come in to rein in the complex parameters of internal and external security problems.

Let us hope that whatever turbulence this winter possesses within its folds, the denizens of this land learn to survive all severities without compromising the integrity of this land.