Extraordinary developments By Najam Sethi


In an extraordinary development, ex DG-FIA Bashir Memon has publicly revealed how the “selected” prime minister, Imran khan, personally summoned and ordered him to fix top opposition leaders by embroiling them in rigged cases of treason and corruption. When he refused, he was eased out. That “order” is today being implemented by NAB and Mr Memon’s successors at the FIA while the courts are dutifully lining up as handmaidens.

In another extraordinary development, Babar Rashid, a PTI member with avowed links to Punjab Governor Mohammad Sarwar and Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, has had the audacity to lodge treason cases against 42 opposition leaders, including Nawaz and Maryam Sharif and a clutch of ex-prime ministers and retired three star generals, at Shahdara Police Station in Lahore. Since the list of “traitors” in Pakistan’s history is long – the most prominent being A.K. Fazlul Haq, Hussein Shaheed Suharwardi, Fatima Jinnah, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and now Nawaz Sharif – this might have passed muster if he hadn’t also included the sitting prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider, whose inclusion in the latest list of Pakistani “traitors” or “Indian agents” jolted the Indian media into frenzied attacks on Pakistan and scrambled the Pakistan Foreign Office into the trenches, compelling the selected prime minister to disclaim any prior knowledge of, or responsibility for, Babar Rashid’s FIR. As if on cue, Governor Sarwar, Sheikh Rashid and others who had earlier happily posed for selfies and pics with Babar Rashid stampeded to deny any links with him while the usual suspects led by the federal and Punjab provincial information ministers went into epileptic fits to shake off any connection with him.

Instead of quashing the FIR to establish credibility, however, the Punjab information minister, Fayyaz Chohan, has ordered the police to strike out the name of the AJK PM but leave the others in, raising fresh questions. How could Mr Rashid, against whom several criminal cases are already lodged at the same police station, wake up the SHO in the middle of the night and persuade him to write out such an extraordinary accusation without a green light from the SHO’s superiors all the way up the decision making ladder? To further muddy the waters, the government says it has ordered an inquiry and threatened to make heads roll for this “embarrassment” but actually done nothing.

On the opposite side, another extraordinary development has taken place. The diverse parties in the opposition have finally welded together under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement. What is extraordinary is their unqualified acceptance of the anti-Miltablishment narrative of Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazal ur Rahman and Maryam Nawaz Sharif even as a majority of them were earlier in favour of only targeting the selected prime minister and leaving the Miltablishment well alone. This implies that the “other” narrative of Shahbaz Sharif and Asif Zardari of “working” with the Miltablishment to secure personal and political concessions has been sidelined, at least for the time being. The significance of this development lies in the fact that it was engineered by the selected prime minister and not the Miltablishment when he drove a wedge in the budding “understanding” by unleashing the full might of the non-Miltablishment organs of the state directly under his command and influence (NAB, FIA, IB, SECP, etc.) against the opposition.

One extraordinary consequence of this development is the unflattering and unprecedented spotlight on the Miltablishment as the main culprit of the spectacle – “the state above the state” as Nawaz Sharif put it bluntly. The “same page” alliance narrative of the Miltablishment with the selected prime minister has been transformed into a great embarrassment for the former, thanks to the wily tactics of the latter. Indeed, as government spokesmen proudly explain, Nawaz Sharif’s anti-Miltablishment speech was allowed to be aired precisely so that he could attack the Miltablishment without restraint.

But the law of unintended consequences is now injecting extraordinary infections into the bowels of the state. When Nawaz Sharif explains that his struggle is against a coterie of the Miltablishment rather than the brave soldiers of the nation who are martyred every day on the borders in defense of the Motherland, he makes a chilling call to defend the sanctity of institutions at the altar of misplaced personal interests or political policies.

The most extraordinary development in this sequence of events is the unintended consequence of formally catapulting Maryam Nawaz Sharif as the most popular leader of the country on the ground. Another is the unprecedented transformation of Maulana Fazal ur Rahman from being the timid leader of an electorally small regional religious party that has historically allied with the Miltablishment into the fiery anti-Miltablishment leader of the grand democratic alliance of today.

The conclusion is inescapable. Unless the leaders of the Miltablishment quickly change tack, we are headed into the most turbulent period in modern times with seriously adverse consequences for state, civil society and economy in Pakistan.