When you set out to defeat and end up being vanquished, when you use every last ounce of muscle to push things a certain way, but they run away in the opposite direction – this is what we are seeing today in Pakistan. With each passing day one sees growing, ever stronger evidence of the fast losing grip of the powerful tripod of the Pakistani establishment on people’s minds and hearts.
The public outpouring of grief, respect, love, and defiance at the passing away and funeral of Asma Jehangir was one such example. Once reviled and maligned because of the establishment and its stooges’ propaganda, there was no stopping people from sobbing for her loss now; there was no stopping people from honouring her. Witty to boot, sharp of mind, irreverent, life and soul of every gathering, she would have people in fits of laughter no matter how serious the topic. All and sundry loved and respected the giant of a woman for her fearless and tireless defence of human rights, and her principled politics, but friends and family were lucky to have known and enjoyed the natural entertainer and mimic that she was. Her wit spared no one, not herself, not her family, not her friends, nor her colleagues or others in her work spaces. Years ago, she cracked a joke about her own death while remonstrating with her sister, and she had us in tears of laughter. She is one person I will miss with real pain in my heart, forever. Dr Taqi gave words to what I have myself experienced for years: she was our moral compass; her stances and reasoning always led me to the just, the correct position on issues. She used her heart as much as her mind, a unique combination, always leading many like me to identify as much with her passion as with her intellect.
But I digressed. When she passed away, she had achieved the almost impossible: respect and awe in the heart of the common man and woman in the face of relentless propaganda against her led by the deep state; she was at the height of her popularity. So much so, that a deeply conservative society defied social and religious norms and gave her a funeral with men and women from all stratas, all religions, all ethnicities who stood together shoulder to shoulder to pray for her and lay her in her last resting place. Let the significance not be lost: 99.99% had most likely never been to a mixed janaza before; maybe many won’t for a long time to come either. Every woman there had a husband, or a son, or a father or a brother in the procession. None thought to object. None thought not to come. None cared later what the obscurantists said. It was the human thing to do, and all the thousands who managed to squeeze in, did.
And then there is the national canvas of politics and intrigue, where for seventy odd years the state has dominated the narrative and held sway over the people. It is nowhere to be seen now, except in its own circles and its BOT armies on social media. The deep state wanted to politically kill a popular leader, and thrust one metaphorical poisoned dagger after another as if into the body of a shackled and bound man. The daggers were many: of commissions, of JITs, of media trials, of judicial onslaughts, of religious ambushes, of palace intrigues, of blackmail, of terror, of betrayals, of throwing money. But with each thrust, the victim became more popular, and the aggressor and its agents more reviled. The successive failures have been almost stunning in scale. Yet, the blitz continues in the false belief that it will achieve success. It is unbelievable the aggressors cannot see that they are damaging themselves perhaps beyond repair.
Forty one political parties, including the PPP, the PTI and the PAT were made to join hands and carry out a power show against Nawaz Sharif in Lahore in January. The attendance of less than a thousand persons at this event shocked even the PMLN. The former prime minister’s narrative had taken such a hold in people’s minds, that ever since his disqualification they have repeatedly visited humiliating defeats on conspiring opponents who were in bed with the establishment or who later joined in.
On 30th of July, I wrote in my angry letter to Mr. Sharif , “Your party now owes it to the country to safeguard the mandate given to you and the party. Your party owes it to the citizens to repeal these Articles meant to steal the people’s mandate.” I banged on and on in tweets and articles about the violation of the people’s given mandate, about the desecration of their vote. Nine days later, this message became the backbone of his campaign. Still, I reminded Mr. Sharif of his duty the very next month, “but the most important and fundamental aim of letting the people of Pakistan give the mandate again to whom they choose will have been achieved. It will be important for Mr. Sharif to remember that the game is larger than his person or his family alone. And I believe he knows it. Hence, his strategy and responses will need to be mindful of this fact, to keep his eye on the ball.”
It is now writ so large on people’s minds and hearts – that they are the ultimate victims of the deep state, that their vote was stolen, that their will was frustrated with strong arm tactics, that they now only want to bring back the man in whose person their sovereignty is embodied, in whose return they see their personal victories, in whose victimization they see their own.
If previous defeats of narrative, in the shape of embarrassingly thin jalsas and lost by elections, were humiliating, Lodhran’s stunning swing of 70,000 votes towards the PMLN was ignominy of devastating proportions for the establishment and its pet stooge.
The concomitant and continuing mortification of the judiciary because of the people’s reactions to their decisions, actions and remarks is part of the same story. Everything is going opposite to the plan. The people are speaking, with their words, their actions and their votes. There is no conceivable way to ‘tame’ the people, no coercive methods left to ‘herd’ them back to the deep state’s will. The flood gates are broken and the people are like water. A new dawn.
The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.