Faislabad – Fond memories and a reality check: STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

Every time I enter my Lyallpur, erroneously named Faisalabad, my heart misses a beat or two. For a very good reason; I have tons of fond childhood and youthful memories associated with this City. Be it the rising dust from our grandfather’s car on dirt road being chased by village kids and stray dogs, or the serenity of imposing mango trees of his orchard known as “doctoran da bagh.”It was located in Sant Singh Wala, chak 207 GB andnamed after my father and his three brothers who held doctorate degrees in their particular fields.

It was a good start having a rural background and English schooling under strict Irish Priests in Burn Hall, Abbottabad. I developed an understanding and empathy for both ways of life that separates our nation; haves and have-nots. We were never rich, yet we were comfortable and secure. The joy of open fields and fresh air still enriches my soul nearly seven decades on. That was the feeling when commuting between Lahore and Lyallpur on old Sheikhupura Road. It felt the same on the Motorway till we entered the city; urban congested roads where following traffic laws’ is considered as dangerous as committing blasphemy.

I was accompanied by Afzal Ghauri, my alter-ego, and my two nieces, Momina and Mahnoor Khayal, both High Court lawyers. We came down jail road to the entrance of Agricultural University. I had a flashback of Pipal tree lined main entrance so calm and serene, a precursor to entering a great seat of learning. I lived there with my father, Dr. Abdul Hameed Khan, who retired as director advanced studies guiding PHD students who must be senior Professors by now.

I was there to assist my nieces, young and bright lawyers,reclaim their late father’s property that their paternal uncles usurped illegally through forgery and fraud. I got the assistance of friends to gain access to the concerned officials. We were well received and were able to get to the concerned department head. He called for the case file and a quick review revealed the ugly side of our corrupt, lethargic and dysfunctional bureaucracy.

My nieces’ case is ironclad. Forgery and fraudulent transfer of title is completely documented. This crime was committed with the connivance of crooked officials. Yet despite being lawyers, my nieces had been running pillar to post for last 3 years without any substantive results. The blockage was through the “baboo mafia” that really controls the operations of our broken Governments’ bureaucracy. They rake in tons of money fleecing millions of citizens who cannot access the insulated “brown sahibs” that replaced the British rulers. I narrated this case because it is a microcosm of the harsh reality that prevails at all tiers of our governance.

Greek philosopher Plato’s saying came to mind “No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth” recently shared by my friend Masood Ijaz, who we lovingly call “Nikoo”. I plead guilty to this charge. Stating the truth is embedded in my genes and I have willingly paid the price for this fault of mine. However I sleep well and can look people in the eye. Within this life Allah has rewarded me with peace of mind, a loving family and a comfortable life.

Nearly twenty seven years ago when I threw in my lot with PTI and Imran Khan along with my late friend Ahsan Rashid and few others; we were driven by the need for reform in this beleaguered nation. After a quarter century that resolve has only deepened. This nation is ruled by corrupt mafias in every segment of the society tied together by common cause of greed; nation be damned.

As a student of societal behavior I see a very strong paradox that runs throughout our system of governance. Those who are honest are meek, cautious and risk wary. It makes them inefficient. The bright ones who deliver have also come to realize that morality is dead and the laws are unenforceable. Hence they deliver, but not before extracting their pound of flesh. Honest officials, like the one we met, who can deliver are withering away. They need to be valued.

Out of more than 225 million Pakistanis less than 1% controls all the levers of wealth, power and control the destiny of this nation. Their absolute control has gone unchallenged for decades. We have experimented with so-called democracy, dictatorship and a combo of both. The rulers rather than giving respite to the 99% of citizens have only reinforced the 1% mafia. Individuals continue to be stronger than the system.

In this darkened horizon Patrick Lawrence, a prominent sociologist, words ring loud. Reality seen through the prism of logic leads to “pessimism of the mind.” To get out of this quagmire he goes onto emphasize that “optimism of the Will” is the sole way out. That “will” to fight back has been personified through the present struggle being conducted by Imran Khan. My comment is based on merit and not because I have a bias.

The question is who in the past 75 years stood upto forces of status quo that protect the gut-eating power elite? Who has fought this battle of attrition for the people of Pakistan spanning nearly 27 years to break-out of this stranglehold? Pakistanis have realized this and bought into this dream. I am convinced that people shall prevail. For this herculean task who is better equipped than Imran Khan?