American author DaShanne Stoke once said, “Those with unearned privileges often spin things as ‘political correctness’ to further silence those they wish to oppress.” Decades of brainwashing in the name of political correctness and declaring elected politicians corrupt in the name of the larger interest of Pakistan has made this country a state where the military generals dictate everything.
From political discourse to state narratives and from religious doctrine to social doctrines, everything is created by the military establishment, and no surprise, the majority of the population, while deprived of even basic facilities like clean water, access to health care and education, and three meals a day, are being fed on promises that were never meant to be fulfilled.
The manipulation of the system through a managed and organized propaganda campaign has always given the establishment the upper hand, and since it is equipped with weapons, there are few who dare to oppose its ideology on the ground.
You can be called a traitor. You can be accused of smuggling drugs. You can be accused of being a foreign agent, and you can even be silenced permanently, like Asia Times’ late Pakistan bureau chief Saleem Shahzad. This is how things work in a country where the law is defined by the establishment.
This past Sunday, the assets of special advisers to Prime Minister Imran Khan were revealed to the public and the media. This provoked stern criticism from the public, especially on social media, as seven of the prime minister’s advisers were found to have dual nationalities or permanent residency in a foreign country.
It is pertinent to note that Imran Khan before becoming prime minister openly said on several occasions that no one sitting in the cabinet could have dual nationality or permanent residency in another country. Since Khan is a master of taking U-turns and believes that a successful leader never stands by his commitments, he surely will find another excuse and will justify this revelation.
The asset statements revealed by these advisers also show that some of them are multimillionaires, and Khan has made sure that no poor or middle-class person can even think of entering the power corridors.
Moreover, retired Lieutenant-General Asim Saleem Bajwa, the man who successfully ran a campaign to boost the image of ex-army chief Raheel Sharif and currently heads the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, came into the limelight as he too is working as an adviser to the prime minister on media affairs.
Bajwa’s assets include 26 hectares of agricultural land, posh plots in Defense Housing societies, and a farmhouse in Gulberg Greens, Islamabad. Many were shocked to see the low values he declared for these properties in his asset declaration. In one case, he declared a 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser to be worth only 3 million rupees when the real value of this vehicle is around 30 million rupees (US$179,000) or more.
Since Asim Bajwa is acting as an adviser to the PM and is working directly in a political role, one hopes that he will provide a money trail of his assets and that the authorities who are questioning the brave and honest Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s family about their assets will treat him in the same manner.
In fact, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the man who is busy in the “accountability” witch-hunt against the opponents of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and who was unable to get even a single penny back from the property tycoon Malik Riaz or to charge him even after Riaz’ settlement with the UK authorities for financial wrongdoings, will also provide a money trail on his assets and those of his wife, as she owns an apartment in Spain.
Since Serena Isa’s property in London was challenged by the government and Shahzad Akbar wanted her to provide a money trail, perhaps now is the time that the higher courts should order the same inquiry against him and his wife. After all, at least the law should be equal to everyone.
Likewise, criticizing an individual like Asim Bajwa is of no use, as anyone who knows the hierarchy of the establishment can easily tell that the generals are given agricultural lands and a lot of other benefits. As well, there is a business empire run by the establishment that it is said to be worth billions of dollars.
From construction to selling cement and from selling sanitary napkins to wheat rice and fertilizers – you name the business, and it is being done by the establishment in the name of charity for the welfare of armed forces personnel.
This multibillion-dollar empire has benefited many generals but it has never been audited by any neutral authority, so those demanding a money trail from Bajwa should instead demand the accountability of the entire business empire.
An audit should be done by a genuine parliamentary committee comprising dignified and brave politicians like Raza Rabbani, Farhat Ullah Babar, Javed Hashmi, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Mushaidullah Khan. Only when every single institution is held accountable and accepts the constitution as the supreme authority and parliament as the only force that rules the country can progress be made and change happen in Pakistani society.
Since I have crossed the red lines and do not want to meet the same fate as Saleem Shahzad, that is enough for now. Let us talk briefly about the second development that happened on Monday.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a detailed judgment regarding the bail petition filed by senior members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique grilled the National Accountability Bureau. Justice Maqbool Baqir wrote about the NAB: “Its conduct throughout this case is a clear manifestation of utter disregard for laws, fair play, equity, and propriety.”
Justice Baqir also wrote about the witch-hunt and controversial use of accountability laws by stating, “These laws were successfully employed as tools to change political loyalties, for splintering and fracturing political parties.”
Pygmies were selected, nurtured, promoted, and brought to prominence and power. People with notorious backgrounds and criminal credentials were allowed to rule us in various capacities, with predictable results. This observation has not come from the mouth of any opposition leader or a dissenting journalist, but a top judge of the highest court in the land.
So it does not take rocket science to understand how a thrice-elected prime minister was ousted through a controversial decision and was jailed with his close aides who stood by him by manipulating the accountability laws in favor of Imran Khan by the establishment. This witch-hunt was always bound to backfire, as it is impossible to suppress the truth much longer.
Now when even Khawaja Saad Rafique, a close aide of Nawaz Sharif who stood firm with his party, has been given a clean chit, will the NAB publicly apologize to him?
At least the chairman NAB must apologize to Saad and many others like him for detaining him without any charge proven against them and should resign, as no man of dignity would carry on his job after such a judgment given against his institution by the court.
However, this is Pakistan, where for many, dignity or credibility means nothing. But then there are judges like Isa and dissenting politicians like Saad and Javed Hashmi who put everything at stake to save their dignity and credibility.
Constitutional and democratic supremacy remain a dream in Pakistan, but there are people who have stood on the right side of history, and perhaps in the future, many of today’s “traitors” and “corrupt dissenting voices” will be hailed as heroes.
For now, it may be dark, but the growing dissenting voices among journalists, politicians, the judiciary, and the masses are the beginning of a long revolutionary process where at the end constitutional and democratic supremacy will finally revive Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan, which was stolen by the dictator Ayub Khan and is still being hijacked by the invisible forces.
Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.