An angry nation, ready to explode | Shaheen Sehbai

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So much has happened in just two weeks, drastically changing the mood of the people and the mode of politics.

Politics first. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has become so virulent and toxic that he does not appear to care about anything, neither for his party, nor for his governments in Islamabad, Lahore, Gilgit and Quetta.

He is continuously working to create conditions that can lead to separation of Punjab from Pakistan, ala Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

My way or the highway is his new mantra, and his daughter has been egging him on, relentlessly.

That he has been continuously showing an inclination to have extremely cordial relations with India, especially the Indian Punjab, has been evident in most of his policies. Vegetables and steel have been regularly imported from Amritsar, trade and cultural delegations have been exchanged many times between Punjabs, and his love for the Modi government is no secret. Now he has even declared Sheikh Mujibur Rehman not guilty and accused the establishment of forcing Mujib out of Pakistan, the same way he wants us to believe he is being pushed out.

The physical stress, aggression and frustration on his face when he is speaking to crowds betrays his confidence as if he was trying to forcibly convince the people that he was powerful enough to beat everybody.

The physical stress, aggression and frustration on Nawaz Sharif’s face when he is speaking to crowds betrays his confidence as if he was trying to forcibly convince the people that he was powerful enough to beat everybody

He has obviously been given a psychological dose by the courts and the establishment.

The courts, instead of summoning him and his cohorts on contempt charges, have shown unmatched restraint and resilience. The judges have alternatively gone into an overdrive on issues that had to be initially dealt with by these elected governments, especially the PML-N in the centre and in Punjab, besides Sindh.

This has probably aggravated Nawaz Sharif’s state of aggression. He must he wondering why are they not responding? Why are they ignoring his threats? Why are they intruding into his domain so aggressively? These judges appointed by me were supposed to be my friends, helpers and abettors like Justice Qayyum. What has happened to them? Why is Shahbaz so calm and cool? Why does he not attack my enemies? Is he in cahoots with the Pindi boys? I am still popular with voters and Chakwal is the latest example but why is everyone not listening to me?

All this and much more in politics has brought the political temperature to a boiling point. Everyone appears to have crossed the normal limits, in a way, retractions are no more possible, not so easily.

The PML-N MPs in Balochistan revolted against their own leadership, ignoring PM Abbasi, overthrowing a government, almost, forcing the Chief Minister to resign. A hung assembly in Quetta will be a great example for other provincial legislatures waiting to go for the kill in due course.

For the judiciary, the sudden mode of flowing activism visible via the actions of the Chief Justice indicates a clear decision has been by the justices of the higher courts on the side where they stand. Obviously, the Constitution and the law, guaranteed by the Pindi boys.

The Supreme Court has in turn gone into the micro-management mode and issues like dirty water, hospital beds, medical colleges, rapes and murders are now kosher. A new face of the judiciary, similar to Choudhry Iftikhar’s tenure, is now on display. It is the badly needed populist side of activism.

But while the justices can play around with these issues, gaining applause and accolades, their primary job is to see that the courts and judges under them perform their duty honestly, competently and in a timely way.

That is yet to happen. Lower courts are turning down higher court judgements, and this is a new phase or face of judicial independence. How can this be justified? People are finding it hard to understand how a SC judgement can be overthrown and rejected by a lower court, as in the Hudaibiya case. Is this the new judicial independence we must live with? Are we again witnessing the episodes of SC judges removing the SC chief justice as seen in the 90s? Where is the SC judge who was supposed to oversee the trials in NAB courts? Has anyone heard a whiff of whisper about him or by him?

While these new chapters are being written, the mood of the people is now turning from angry to rebellious. MPs in Quetta provided one example. People of Kasur showed the street mood. In other cases, PML-N leaders who came out in public were forced to run and seek refuge, unable to face even the smallest crowd.

What happened in Kasur after the rape and murder of an innocent girl was just one indication. Thousands of people turned out for her funeral and then turned their fury on the administration. A mini-Model Town episode was re-enacted.

If anger for a minor girl can draw such crowds, the maulanas preparing for the movement for Khatam-e-Nabuwat would be offering congrats and toasts to each other, smelling the kill.

Likewise, the new joint leader of the political spectrum, Dr Tahir Qadri, who jumped quickly to lead the backlash in Kasur, would be celebrating his own upcoming political war victory declaration. It is time to cash on everything that goes against a fallen but fighting Nawaz Sharif.

What must be kept in mind is that all these positions taken by different sides appear to be final, not retractable.

It is another thing that it is not the time for such heroics. Nawaz must concede that he has lost the legal battle and he will be convicted for crimes under the law; he cannot escape from his loot and plunder by using the democracy-in-danger slogan; he must let go.

All others must realise that Pakistan needs a united front against the regional and international pincer movements that threaten its unity and strength.

The army has fought well on the internal front and held the fort so far against external enemies, but the Pakistani nation must come around to meet these threats.

Losing is not an option.

The writer is a senior journalist

Published in Daily Times, January 12th 2018.