No shape or substance, just hollowness

Raoof Hasan
A supporter of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, holds a placard as he along with others gather for what they call a true freedom protest, demanding Save constitution - Save Pakistan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 14, 2023. — Reuters
A supporter of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, holds a placard as he along with others gather for what they call 'a true freedom protest', demanding 'Save constitution - Save Pakistan', in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 14, 2023. — Reuters

Throughout my living years, I imagined that I had a fair stock of words I could choose from to express my thoughts exactly the way I needed to. That, unfortunately, may not be the case any longer.

Immersed in the putridity of the current times, my mind is numbed of thoughts, my words have deserted me and my eagerness to express has faded away. There is a blankness that I confront every time I try to strike the keys to type. Dreadful apparitions remain in pursuit casting their ominous shadows.

One never thought it would come to this. Despite excruciatingly difficult times and all-out assault from vultures of a variety of kinds, one continued nurturing hope in the institutions that they would rescue Pakistan from their lustful gaze. That hope has now faded away and a state of despondency has taken over. We are in the grip of myriad mafias. With their vicious stranglehold tightening, the country has been reduced to a rudderless ship with no guide to navigate it through stormy waves.

We are now living in a country where even a marginal distinction between right and wrong, legal and illegal, constitutional and unconstitutional, and moral and immoral has been completely erased. Justice also seems to be wilting under mammoth pressure from those responsible for the decay that has strangled the country in its scathing grip.

If people opt to suffer it silently, there is no stopping the walloping degeneration and depravity from digging in. And if they rise against this travesty, they will have to bear the brunt of a draconian state using its instruments of torture with no mercy. The harrowing plunge into the pit is going to be deep and painful.

It is now a proven reality that an institutional clash, most notably between parliament and the judiciary, was wilfully orchestrated with a sinister motive: that of weakening the latter and eliminating any semblance of resistance to the burgeoning fascist state that was being planned and which is now unravelling.

The manner in which state power is being unleashed in all its brutality and ferocity is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan encompassing the times of previous martial law administrations.

This phase has gone well past the worst and is scripting its own benchmarks to hold the country hostage in its vice-like grip to perpetuate its evil agenda. Before and after the unfortunate happenings of May 9, indiscriminate arrests have been made targeting all cadres of PTI leadership as also its workers and activists.

Women and family members of those arrested have not been spared. They have been victims of gory harassment and intimidation. With a number of people shot dead in the ensuing violence, over 5,000 members of the party are reportedly incarcerated at this juncture, suffering the draconian excesses of the criminal ruling conglomerate.

All this is being done to target one person alone: Imran Khan. The manner of his previous arrest and the hovering danger of his re-arrest in multiple fake and frivolous cases is the worst form of victimisation ever perpetrated in the history of Pakistan. The objective is to eliminate him.

Having failed in neutralising him politically, they targeted him physically. He miraculously escaped the assassination attempt, though with a badly wounded leg which he is still nursing. Having been frustrated there, the perpetrators have now resorted to getting Khan out of the way through securing his conviction on charges of involvement in terrorist acts and, consequently, banning his party. That is when they are likely to hold elections, without Khan in the race, to ensure their victory and continuation in power.

Fear is being driven among his followers to desert him. Pressure is also mounting on those arrested to announce leaving the party as the price for their freedom. By and large, this effort too has failed as there is no one who, despite the use of draconian methods on Khan and his followers, sees a political future out of the PTI.

In addition to the massive awareness that Khan has cultivated among all echelons of society, he has also nurtured a new political culture which in due course of time may introduce a credible and sustainable value system to replace the brazenly valueless politics which have been practised in the country in the past.

It is now being threatened that those involved in demonstrations, including on May 9, will be tried under various laws. This would further perpetuate the stranglehold of a coterie which is absolutely unwilling to tolerate dissent. The gross travesty that the country has been reduced to is totally untenable and unsustainable.

Something has to give way. It is hoped that howsoever it happens, it does not fragment into pieces and a way is found to knit it together around the tenets contained in the constitution by recreating a distinction between right and wrong and between legal and illegal. After all, this is no 'Animal Farm'. People living here deserve to be treated like humans to have their words back to generate hope and optimism.

Today, Pakistan is a state without its pillars: a truncated parliament reduced to almost half of its mandated numbers by keeping the PTI out; a judiciary which has been mocked through open and invective-laced defiance; and a constitution which is treated like a disposable pack of papers. We have a group of crooks and criminals pretending to be the government. Is this the shape and substance we want Pakistan to showcase to the world?

It is an extremely painful experience to write on the deteriorating situation in the country. Suppression and oppression don’t make for effective tools to control. They spur reactions of myriad kinds which can potentially spill over in violent acts.

If this situation is to be arrested, one will have to objectively evaluate the reasons which have brought us to this pass and which have dented people’s trust in the ability of the ruling gang to take a hold. On the contrary, the unmitigated reign of terror which has been unleashed upon the people will further erode their confidence, if they are still left with any. Everyday counts, Every minute matters. There is palpable fear in the air. People can’t cling onto a country that has no shape, no substance. They can’t cling on to what is just hollowness.

Let me end by borrowing T S Eliot’s words: “I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter; I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid.”

The writer is a political and security strategist, former special assistant to former PM Imran Khan, and currently a fellow at King’s College London. 

He tweets @RaoofHasan

Originally published in The News