Watching an eerie looking, seventeen second long video clip received on Whatsapp first thing in the morning can be quite unsettling, enough to forewarn of the unpredictable times ahead.
The short video had no blood soaked butchery of a mob mercilessly lynching a hapless human which, thanks to smart phones, one often comes across on social media nowadays. The familiar, rolling greenery is unmistakably of Islamabad and the venue (my editor got it checked from the source) is that of the meticulously landscaped tree-lined green belts and open spaces around the parliament. The scene seems to have come straight out of a Stephen King horror movie who, as we know, mastered the art of creating chillingly terrifying scenarios, mostly allusions which would serve as precursors to the main storyline with little help from overly exaggerated visual and audio effects.
The video opens with smaller than man-sized effigies made of cloth of different hues and colours—some hung from tree branches, some kept erect with the support of rocks and wooden sticks—swaying leisurely in the gentle breeze with the background sound of regular swoosh of speeding vehicles driving past and the distant beat of pop music (not by design but perhaps coming from the video maker’s car parked nearby).
Quite a surreal and eerie sequence in the best of times! In a land where traditions of black magic date back to thousands of years and its practice is still a flourishing business, the inescapable conclusion of sorcery in action is easy to draw from the above-mentioned mini horror show.
In an age of mind-numbing technological advancements, it is depressing to see the present government desperate to rule the country at any cost even with the aid of gratuitous witchcraft. To find out the answer we may have to go back a few years when slight reverberations in terms of signs of displeasure with the Nawaz Sharif administration had started to surface from the powers-that-be.
Whatever possessed our military establishment to start systematically dismantling and in effect whittling down the elected government’s authority and reach and, in the process, losing the fruits of a resurgent and growing economy is anybody’s guess. The ISPR headed by General Asif Ghafoor at the time confidently and even proudly publicised the new ‘doctrine’ as a panacea for all the ills afflicting the country, be those economic, social or political. The above and the defiant ‘rejection’ of the elected government’s report on Twitter, of all places, on the sordid Dawn Leaks episode could have been forgiven had the dollar been trading at 120 rupees or thereabouts and inflation hadn’t skyrocketed.
Whatever possessed our military establishment to start systematically dismantling and in effect whittling down the elected government’s authority and reach and, in the process, losing the fruits of a resurgent and growing economy is anybody’s guess.
Although with the benefit of hindsight it is easy to pontificate at this point in time what actions should have been avoided and yet such uncomfortable truths cannot be suppressed just because it’s too late in the day to do so. Couldn’t the governing arm of the hybrid set up have been guided and, indeed, firmly directed towards choosing the right people for key roles, for example, the post of chief minister Punjab and that of the finance minister? A recent example (not comparable in size in terms of monetary expenditure) of a spectacular failure of all drawing board projections is the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Although the brutal grilling of General Milley and his immediate boss, the Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, by United States senators made compelling prime time viewing and yet the answer remains unanswered as to why an armed-to-the-teeth behemoth like the US Army could miscalculate so spectacularly. A friend had an anecdotal but weighty take on this: according to him, the governments or top decision makers are often detached from reality which in effect ensures their acts are invariably dictated by pre conceived notions, prejudices and bureaucratic negativity as opposed to having any basis in objectivity and substance.
Those who met General Musharraf at the start of the Lawyers’ Movement could tell how woefully detached he seemed from reality. How tragic that history is repeating itself once again and the equally appalling miscalculations of installing and nurturing a hybrid regime are coming back to haunt the all-powerful selectors.
The ‘cleanup’ operation of the opposition was so comprehensive and savagely clinical at the cost of subtlety (unlike in the past) that General Faiz Hameed earned the sobriquet of a ‘clever beast’ amongst his three star peers. Little did his colleagues know that their prodigal mate was capable of throwing the baby with the bath water. This time around the military establishment’s obsession with a hands on approach but without imposing martial law as envisaged in the Bajwa doctrine has exposed the system’s frailties to the maximum. Having seen lots of water gone under the bridge in their lifetimes, right thinking people had hoped for better sense to prevail in the military circles too in terms of allowing civilian governments space to operate in after three disastrous martial laws but it seems the 1958 mindset of neocolonial arrogance is alive and kicking sixty three years on.
Because of all the destruction wrought by this abominable hybrid system and for committing the unpardonable sin of irresponsible and half-witted political engineering that ensued, logic and common sense demand that in order for the country to be freed from the concept of governance through supernatural beings, the whole regime must pack up and go home: the architect, the executor and the beneficiary. There is no point removing the archetypal contaminated water from the well without targeting the source of contamination. The sooner it is done the better.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect Friday Times/Naya Daur’s editorial policy.