Time of reckoning | Raoof Hasan

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“They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing of commonplace individuals going about their business in the assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of a danger it is unable to comprehend. I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself from laughing in their faces, so full of stupid importance.” — Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

The Panama judgment is out. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has been constituted which will enquire further into the 13 queries posed by the Supreme Court judges to give them definitive input into the misdoings, or otherwise, of the Sharifs so that they could be proceeded against appropriately.

If I remember it right, there was a judicial tribunal commissioned to enquire into the brutal, daylight killings of 14 people in Model Town. One Justice Ali Baqar Najafi headed it. He found the key figures of the Punjab provincial government guilty of the brutal crime. What happened to that report? Was anyone punished?

Then, there has been a spate of commissions formed to investigate various heinous crimes in our midst so that the perpetrators could be held accountable, mistakes rectified and ways found to cope with consequent crises. Does anyone remember the fate of those reports? Were any short- or long-term strategies formulated to deal with challenges outlined in the reports? Were those found guilty of grave dereliction of duties charge-sheeted and punished, or did they continue occupying plush seats of power?

The outcome of the Dawnleaks commission has been a long drag coming — that, too, faced with perpetual reminders by the military that the case had not been forgotten. Understandably, its findings are an attempt to cover up the powerful and punish those of lesser consequence.

Will the JIT formed in the Panama case be any different? Have the people managing the affairs of the government changed, or has their approach undergone any conscience-driven transformation? Are the drivers that be any different now from what and who they have been through decades? Is the administrative hierarchy that is going to be entrusted with the task of appointing institutional representatives on the JIT going to free themselves of the executive’s tentacles to respond to the dictates of their duty? If the answer to all of this is in the negative, why and how should the fate of this JIT be any different?

Yet, in spite of the overwhelming odds, the people don’t stop hoping that something will break somewhere to bring about the coveted change. Why this virtual consumption with transiting to a change for the better? Why this deep-set hope that the fate of this JIT could be different from that of scores of similar ones constituted in the past?

More than any other factor, it is the engineered collapse of institutions in this country that has led to the state failing to deliver on even the basics of why it is there — the fundamentals of the social contract that it is committed to implementing as the very rationale of its existence in the first place, and for demanding the allegiance of its citizenry.

But, there is another factor which has crept in. While the liquidation of the state institutions is now taken for granted and there is an emerging consensus on its reasons being rooted in the increasing administrative and financial greed of the ruling mafias, at least one institution has so far been spared the epitaph: the military. There is a likelihood that it may also change after the Panama judgment. The role of the premier intelligence agency has been a subject of discussion in the media and fingers have been pointed towards an alleged partisan role that its head may have played in impacting the judgment. The rebuttal issued by the DG ISPR is patently insufficient in dispelling the rumours in the current excessively charged environment. A thorough internal enquiry may be the minimum that needs to be undertaken to assuage the impression failing which the allegation may gain ground with the passage of time.

It is when one struggles to delink oneself from the existent times and their belittling compulsions that one is able to grasp the extent of morbidity and decay around. It is absolutely nauseating. Hundreds-of-thousands of people have been punished through the 70 years of this country’s existence, with a large number even going to the gallows for a crime they may never have committed, but not one from the ruling mafias has ever been held accountable for their fond indulgence in crimes of a myriad kind. They walk around climbing the stairs to power unaffected, undeterred and prospering as if the realm of crime were their exclusive domain and a favourite hunting ground.

The Panama case is the first instance that has ignited a ray of hope that all that may change, and the ones who have looted and plundered this country mercilessly may be held accountable. The brief of evidence which convinced two judges of the bench, who are the next in line to be the chief justices of the Supreme Court, could not convince another three. But even they believed that the main accused and his accomplices could not be allowed to walk free.

Nearing the time of reckoning, and notwithstanding the burgeoning hope factor, the emergent equation is disproportionately tilted in favour of the powerful to the detriment of the weak. But the powerful are not to blame alone. The weak are guilty, too. At times, even more than the powerful because they have allowed this gross plunder to prosper in their midst:

“They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force — nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.”–Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”

The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com. Twitter: @RaoofHasan