Where’s Imran’s Third Umpire? – S Iftikhar Murshed


Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan addresses his supporters at an anti-government protest in Lahore on Sept. 28, 2014. Supporters of Pakistan's two opposition leaders, Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Tahir ul Qadri of Pakistan Wami Tehrik attended the sit-in protest in Islamabad, demanding resignation of Prime Minister  Nawaz Sharif and fresh polls.Xinhua/Sajjad
Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan addresses his supporters at an anti-government protest in Lahore on Sept. 28, 2014. Supporters of Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehrik attended the sit-in protest in Islamabad, demanding resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Xinhua/Sajjad

The Imran-Qadri accord in mendacity is founded on instigating chaos aimed at prompting intervention by the so-called ‘third umpire.’ But they are not alone in this treacherous enterprise


“When I spoke to the Lahore Bar, I could say to them: ‘O, ye Punjabis: consider your sword-arm and the name that the Englishman gave you – the martial races. On the field, you have done martial deeds; in courts you have brought martial law.’ When I spoke at Peshawar, I told them, ‘O, ye Pathans, you should be proud of your blood feuds,’ and I wanted them to tell me whether they loved the rule of law more in its application or in its abrogation. But in your case, I was wondering whether I should say, ‘O, ye Sindhis or O, ye Hindis,’ when I remembered that my accountability to you was on a more than rhetorical or sentimental footing.”

These were the unsparingly honest words of Justice MR Kayani (1902-1962), the chief justice of West Pakistan from 1958 to 1962, in his last address to the Karachi High Court Bar association on November 7, 1962. The statement was made at a time when the country was under the dictatorial rule of General Muhammad Ayub Khan. The few who dared to express such views did so at their own peril. Kayani was undeterred.

He concluded the speech with the inimitable humor and wit that had become his hallmark: “Now, gentlemen of the Bar, although I have been advised by the medical department, on pain of dismissal from life, not to write more than six pages of (this) address, I have already entered the seventh…” Eight days later, on November 15, 1962 Kayani passed away at the Circuit House in Chittagong, East Pakistan (Bangladesh). His half-written speech, which he was to have delivered at the bar association of the port city, was lying on the table beside his bed.

The citizens of Lahore organised a farewell reception for Justice Kayani a few days before his death, and conferred the title of Lisan-e-Pakistan (the voice of Pakistan) on him. In his reply he said that the purpose of his deliberately hard-hitting and satirical speeches over the years was to boost the morale of the people who had been living through the long night of oppression.

There was no need for him to give any explanation. His contemporary and close friend Chief Justice SM Murshed of East Pakistan reminisced about him some years later: “He thought what he wished and spoke what he thought…With him, speech was not an art to conceal thought, but to propagate and ventilate it…Emerson has observed that a grain of wit is more penetrating than the lightening of the night-storm which no amount of curtains and shutters will keep out…Yet behind this joyful exuberance of wit there was an anxious solicitation for truth.”

Both jurists have passed away but they live on in their judgments and legal pronouncements. They fearlessly stood up to the oppressive rulers of their times and upheld fundamental rights, rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution. What Justice Kayani spoke about more than half-a-century ago is hideously true even today, and, this is what lies at the heart of the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan.

Ambitious but depressingly mediocre old men – all in their 60s and some even nearing 70 – have resolved to go the whole hog to capture power even if it entails the derailment of the democratic process. What else is one to make of the PTI leader Imran Khan’s frequent references to a mysterious ‘third umpire’ who will be the ultimate arbiter on the future course of events.

Yet there was a time not too far back that Imran inspired hope. He held out the promise that he would lead the country away from the swamps and muddy places towards the brave new frontiers of enduring peace and prosperity. There were indications that the initial steps in the way of the transformation of Pakistani society had been taken.

The PTI broke new grounds in last year’s elections by awarding 80 percent of the party’s tickets – 600 out of a total of 800 – to newcomers. An impressive 35 percent of these were given to men and women below the age of 40. Never before had any political party of Pakistan dared to take such a colossal electoral risk.

But then something went dreadfully wrong. The post-election Imran Khan was an entirely different man. The starry-eyed idealism that he had previously exuded was replaced by an impatient urge for power. For the last forty days or so that the federal capital’s Red Zone has been occupied by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri along with a few thousand of their supporters, the dominant theme of the PTI leader’s nocturnal diatribes has been the allegation of massive rigging in the May 2013 elections.

Yet to cite just one example, the PTI’s Sindh general secretary, who won a seat in the provincial assembly from PS-93, Karachi West, was disqualified by an election tribunal on August 7 for manipulating the results of seven polling stations thereby giving himself more than 5,000 votes at the expense of the Jamaat-e-Islami candidate. However, this did not deter the discredited party official from shamelessly proceeding to Islamabad with scores of PTI workers where he was seen on television standing next to Imran Khan vociferously demanding “resignations and fair elections.”

But the PML-N is equally tainted by the presence of such unsavory characters among its elected representatives. For instance, the party’s MNA from NA-107, Gujrat, was awarded the death penalty under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 for the killing of six people in a botched assassination attempt on a political rival in 1998. Despite the initial rejection of his nomination papers for last year’s elections on this count as well as for links with violent extremist groups, he was eventually allowed by an election tribunal to contest the polls.

These were but two examples that were recently cited by the print media in the context of the May 2013 elections and there could well be several other incidents. But the inescapable truth is that last year’s polls were the most closely monitored in the political history of the country, and, the assessment of international observers is that they were fairer than any of the previous 11 general elections.

The shallow mask of affected affliction that Imran Khan wears while bemoaning massive election fraud was ripped away by Feisal Naqvi in his article ‘When the madness passes’ (September 18). The author painstakingly ferreted out statistics which show that the PTI filed 58 election petitions, and, of these 39 had already been decided. But despite all its noise about widespread vote rigging, the PTI has appealed only two in the Supreme Court.

The Qadri-Imran accord in mendacity is founded on instigating chaos aimed at prompting intervention by the so-called ‘third umpire.’ But they are not alone in this treacherous enterprise. On Monday the MQM chief, Altaf Husain, with the governor Punjab seated by his side, spoke about the need for a government of technocrats and called upon the army to take across-the-board action against all corrupt politicians.

The next day this changed to an appeal to the army to take over, and, after MQM workers were temporarily detained, he announced Karachi-wide sit-ins and issued a statement on Thursday urging immediate military intervention. One wonders why former president Pervez Musharraf alone has been charged for high treason under Article 6 of the constitution.

But perhaps the most telling comment was that of my school friend Aslam Nazir, a British national who is on a brief visit to Pakistan. He said that columnists could never be short of topics because of the tragicomedy, which has been an art form since the time of Aristotle, but is perpetually being enacted on the country’s political stage. It was then that I recalled Justice Kayani’s timeless words. ‘The voice of Pakistan’ still echoes in spite of the passing of the years.–Courtesy The News International

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