Men who have seen tomorrow| Talat Hussain


Sublime confidence. Juicy details. Delineated contours. Drawn shapes. Measured lengths. Marked dates. Unfurled schedules. They leave nothing to imagination. They cause national excitement by spreading their tidings. They are Pakistan’s Nostradamuses, who claim to have seen tomorrow. With each passing day, their numbers are growing.

We can now ignore them only at our own peril. It is not longer the case of desperate-souls peeping into crystal balls and conjuring up fanciful images that pander to their un-fulfilled hopes. What we are dealing with here are revealed designs and the nuts and bolts of plans that foretell a new political universe in the making. It is fascinating to just listen to what they are saying.

Spoke Imran Khan, head of the PTI, the other day: “…this case is like the dream that I used to dream about a new Pakistan. Today, keeping my faith in Allah, I want to congratulate the whole nation in advance about the verdict (in this case), which will take the country to another level. As a result, the country will be fashioned anew when for the first time a powerful will be caught out by the long arm of the law.” (Translation)

The very next day, the grand Shaikh from Rawalpindi, Shaikh Rashid, had a tongue-in-cheek and a not-so-friendly advice for the Sharifs: “I am telling them that in the next eight weeks, their bad days would have arrived. And Mr Nawaz Sharif the day when you are handcuffed I will be the one raising the voice for you [says mockingly]. Allah willing in the next eight weeks everything will be taken out of the Sharifs.” (Translation)

In another interview, he also gave out a ‘Things-to-Happen’ chart for the coming days. This included the nature of the report of the JIT as well as the judicial proceedings that the submission of the report will entail, which in the end, according to the grand Shaikh, will lead to Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification.

The day after his future-telling, we heard a revved up Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain speak about a full blueprint. “This is now beyond Panama leaks. History is being written. The (Supreme Court) verdict will be historic and everything will be crystal clear! About two months ago, I thought that there might be a middle way but that did not happen. The two judges did not just write dissenting notes but gave a verdict against them. The other three judges said that they (the Sharifs) may be given more opportunity and they must be investigated. If they could prove (their innocence) through new evidence then the (bench) will be in agreement (with them); if not then these three judges will also agree with the dissenting judges. I think the Supreme Court will not just give a verdict but will give a guideline as to how the country should be run.” (Translation).

(Chaudhry Shujaat’s telling of the tale about the future reminded one of how an honourable judge was quoted in the media on April 11, saying that the [yet-to-be announced] verdict in the Panama leaks case was not about an individual but about the law and that this verdict will be remembered for centuries).

Not to be left behind, Babar Awan, the man for all seasons, looked at the tea-leaves and read them thus: “They (the Sharifs) will not survive.”

These remarks echoed the statement that his colleague Naeem Bokhari – may he live long to serve the national interest again and again – had made on April 20. “When I read the file I said, ‘the Sharifs have run out of luck.’ They are history. It is over. Mian Nawaz Sharif will not be able to live in London. He won’t be able to dwell in Jeddah. They will be hooted in Mecca and Medina.” (In part translation)

If these forecasts were just insightful analysis of the political quagmire the Sharifs are in, there would be no reason to strike sensational notes about them. But these are not about politics; these are judgments about judgments that the judges are yet to pass; these are forecasted outcomes of legal proceedings that are yet to start. These opinions are about investigations that are yet to be finalised.

But if these opinions are amazing for prospective purposes, some events are fabulous for their retrospective effect. Consider the JIT report that was submitted to the Supreme Court bench, making the case – among others – that the media was involved in “bashing the Supreme Court and the JIT.”

The astounding part of the report is that, while the JIT was formed on May 5, 2017, it was able to use in its annexure monitored reports from the media as far back as April 20 – practically 16 days before it became an entity of five members. (Ahmad Noorani dealt with this matter first in The News last week).

Anyone even remotely familiar with the process of monitoring knows what it takes. While scanning newspapers, marking paragraphs and highlighting relevant parts itself is a tedious, human-resource intensive job, it is nothing compared with keeping an eye on nearly a hundred channels that beam content every second of every day.

Apart from technical facilities of immense size and sophistication, you need hundreds of people to review recorded material, go to the precise part of an aired statement or a visual, select it for copying and above all make a legally accurate transcript. With each person’s average speaking capacity at around 150 wpm, nearly a hundred talk shows a day (apart from breaking news and hourly and half-hourly bulletins) featuring two three or even four persons per show, make monitoring a specialized job with dedicated work stations employing a vast number of technical and editorially-savvy experts.

Even if the JIT is capable of carrying out herculean tasks with effortless ease, the marvel of it being able to produce media monitoring records dated before its formation remains – well, remains a marvel. But somehow JIT members were able to do the impossible of walking the earth without experiencing birth, to use an old phrase.

Other things are also happening. It is not just words or reports that are spooking common sense. The bolting of horses from the PPP’s stables towards the yet-to-be green pastures of the PTI is also a fortune-telling of sorts. It is an ‘action-forecast’ as it were, saying that the Sharifs’ goose is cooked. Clearly, those joining the PTI are positioning for the blowing of favourable political winds because they believe that the JIT report will be adverse and the bench will drive the PML-N leadership to the margins of future history. And they have based their political life-changing decisions at a time when the JIT is still talking to witnesses!

How come we have so many men and women in our midst who have seen a legal and political tomorrow when that tomorrow has not yet arrived? How come precise plans are being made on the assumption that the Supreme Court bench will punch down the prime minister when the bench is, technically and legally, a long way from deliberating the matter? How come the JIT was monitoring the media when there was no JIT to monitor the media? Why are political leaders sending advance national greetings when no cause for celebration is marked on the cards? Or is there one already marked and lesser mortals can’t see it – or can’t say it?

We will soon know whether the men who claim to have seen tomorrow are indulging in wishful thinking or are speaking from a script that they have been privileged to look at, even if in rough form. When the JIT report is submitted and the judges have spoken we will know, retrospectively, whether those speaking for the judges and the JIT were being naïve and propagandistic or whether they were well-prepared and well-briefed.

Of course, we can’t discount the possibility of a fluke hitting the right spot, a wild prophesy coming true because of the random geometry of chance. Strange things happen. Coincidences happen. Accidents happen. So it may so happen that the crazy talk of the Sharifs’ legal assassination just happens to tally with a judicious, fair-minded and above-doubt verdict in the end. But when a match result gets announced publicly before the match is played, and then the announcement turns out to be true, it is difficult to convince the audience that it was a fair and square contest that involved no bookies, no fixers, no bought-off players and no sold-out spots.

The writer is former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.