Of intellectual corruption, moral turpitude and judicial nuances
Not too long ago, people the government disagreed with were routinely dubbed as ‘traitors’ and incarcerated for undefined periods of time. The list of those who suffered indescribable inhuman treatment as a consequence is long and painful. Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who has inspired generations to continue dreaming and aspiring for ideals beyond the reckoning of ordinary mortals, was one such individual. But it did not deter him from continuing to write his immortal poetry which is etched deep on the psyche of every individual who breathes of freedom and better times.
I am also reminded of how the careers of some outstanding and brilliant army officers were prematurely destroyed over loud murmurings regarding the mishandling of the 1971 conflict. It prompted the then civilian martial-law administrator to send them packing to the Attock Fort to be tried by a brigadier who was to later topple his government and send him to the gallows. The army has never been quite the same after the unfortunate Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case.
Times may have changed, but the mindset that contributed to the immense pain of that period has somehow lingered. It now takes to conveniently dubbing people as ‘agents’ of one outfit or the other, one mafia or the other. A recent controversy regarding a story carried by The Times of India titled “ISI has infiltrated US think-tanks” based on an accusation tweeted by a Pakistani author Dr Ayesha Siddiqa is aptly symptomatic of that mindset. Strangely, she does not seem to find fault with the overall strategy, but goes on to moan that “they are sending unqualified people to compete with Indians in the US”. To add bite to her accusation, she also names two individuals who fit the category: a gentleman associated with the US Institute of Peace and the other an adjunct scholar with the Middle East Institute.
Unfortunate that the accusation was, it elicited a collective response from a group of concerned people who condemned it as baseless and demanded of Dr Siddiqa to “immediately retract and apologise for her statement and refrain from propagating such unsubstantiated mudslinging”. Strong language, but appropriate if we are to grapple with and overcome this self-defeating mindset that sees conspiracy in everything that does or does not include a specific individual or propagate a certain line of thinking.
Subsequently, Dr Siddiqa sent a note to The Times of India protesting that the author of the story had pieced together “three different but loosely-related conversation threads to look like a scoop”. She questioned the “ethics and the sense of morality” in doing so and went on to explain that she was not suggesting that “these people were formally part of the ISI, but that I have issue with their narrative that paddles a peculiar perspective”. The matter should rest here, but we should exercise extra care, particularly the ones who have the advantage of access to media and other forums to project their points of view, in levelling accusations of a kind that cannot be substantiated and that may unfairly impact some people.
That brings us to another kind of immorality. On the recent trip of the prime minister to China, Hussain Nawaz and Salman Shahbaz were quite conspicuous by their presence as members of the visiting delegation. By way of explanation, the government spokesperson would claim that they paid for their own trip. But, if I may dare, is this facility of becoming a member of an official delegation available for all people who can pay for their trip? Understandably not! So, why were these two gentlemen (among others I may not be aware of), who are running their business empires, given this special treatment which would kick-start their interaction with their Chinese counterparts with prime ministerial patronage? Doesn’t this fall under the banner of corrupt practices and shouldn’t the chief executive of the country be asked to explain?
Now that we are discussing the question of moral transgressions, let me point out another example of this incessant sufferance. The appointment of the advisor on aviation to the prime minister involves a blatant conflict of interest. First, he is the head of the Royal Airport Services which provides airport-related facilities to various airlines. The convenient argument that would be forwarded by the government apologists is that he has resigned from the company. The question is: has the company stopped operations? Has it been closed down as a consequence of its head having become the advisor to the prime minister? If the answer is in the negative, as is the case, wouldn’t the newly-appointed advisor be in an advantageous position to work for the benefit of his company to the exclusion of its competitors – a fear that has already been expressed by many such companies?
According to published reports, his advisor has allegedly manoeuvred to have three members of his personal NGO appointed on the Board of Directors of PIA including one who has been made the acting chairman. One also understands that this advisor is allegedly an aspirant in bidding for the PIA whenever it is offered for privatisation. In such an event, wouldn’t he be able to use his position to his advantage or that of his patrons whenever such a situation may occur? Why is the Supreme Court silent on this grave transgression? Or will it come forth only when damage has been done to a premier national institution?
There has been relative quiet since the new government assumed the mantle of power. Some say it is because of the enormity of challenges faced while others attribute it to a lack of vision and planning to grapple with the abnormally serious situation. The militancy rages on. The cities of the country continue to be coloured red in orgies perpetrated by the extortionist mafias, obscurantist occupations and sectarian biases. Defying its own manifesto proclamation of not spreading the begging bowl, the PML-N government has already secured a deal for $5.3 billion loan with the IMF and, according to reports, it is asking for another $2 to 3 billion from the agency. The budgetary proposals have led to inflation in the prices of basic commodities and there are reports that the cost of petrol, electricity and gas would go up further. No relief seems to be in the offing for the common person. Like they say, the more it changes, the more it stays the same. If only I could reproduce a Punjabi saying here which I am not as I may be hauled up for grave ‘moral transgression’, but it is definitely time to plan an obituary for those who still believe in this system and its vile proponents!
The writer is a political strategist. He can be reached at: [email protected]