‘May Day! May Day!’


Sultan M Hali
PRIMA facie it may appear that this article is about the air crash which occurred at Karachi on 22 May. It is in fact the favourite pastime of a former cricket baron cum analyst to take potshots at what he euphemistically calls the “Miltablishment”. Last month, in his editorial titled ‘May Day! May Day!’ published in an English weekly dated 9 May 2020, the informed opinion maker fired broadsides on both the current dispensation ruling Islamabad, the military the nation as a whole, because in Orwellian fashion ala Animal Farm, the masses are sheep. It may be recalled that “May Day” is the international distress signal transmitted when a ship is sinking or aircraft is facing the peril of a crash or serious emergency.
The allusion to the masses being sheep depicted in the editorial cartoon, is deep rooted. George Orwell, in his epic Animal Farm, had stated that the masses can be taught meaningful slogans, which will be repeated till such time, the slogan loses its efficacy and the sheep are taught a new slogan. When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh. George Orwell’s book Animal Farm depicts the pigs leading a revolution at the farm and taking it over. They teach the sheep a slogan “Four Legs Good—Two Legs Bad”. Later when the pigs compromise with the ousted farmers and strut about on their hind legs, the sheep are taught a new slogan: “Four Legs Good—Two Legs Better”. The magazine has carried the Orwellian twist a step further and depicts sheep as masses, ready for slaughter at the hands of the rulers. The twisted thought process surmises that last November, it was a foregone conclusion that the matter of an extension of the Army Chief was settled, so there was nothing to stop it from blocking regime change in the following months. The informed writer infers that is the reason why the long march to Islamabad by Maulana Fazal ur Rahman appeared as a dramatic first step in that direction. It was inconceivable, they argued, that the good Maulana would have dared to undertake such an enterprise without a wink from the Miltablishment. The author conjectures that the Supreme Court stepped in and slapped a six-month question mark on the extension issue. He continues to deduce that the mil establishment can take no chances and must remain unequivocally on the right side of Imran Khan, regardless of any provocations, frustrations, delinquencies, transgressions, offences, infringements or lapses on the part of the Prime Minister and his team.
Continuing hostilities on the eastern border with India that could precipitate a national crisis at any time, depending on the need of Modi has made the mil establishment even more wary of regime change. Mil establishment nudged the PM to reconcile and manage the media better in the national interest, he ordered the arrest of Mir Shakil ur Rahman and beefed up PEMRA to do his bidding. Apparently, the fact that Imran Khan refused to give an extension to NS as head honcho of the Pakistan Cricket Board, he is now the target of the ire of the erudite analyst and his mouthpiece, TFT.
The warped thinking of the former cricket king infers that Imran Khan has been making his own counter moves on the chessboard. When there was talk of some sort of “deal” in the offing between the Miltablishment and the Sharifs for regime change, he put a spoke in the wheel by stopping Maryam Nawaz from joining her father abroad, arresting party stalwarts, and launching corruption cases against Shahbaz Sharif and his sons. When the Sindh Chief Minister, Murad Ali Shah, was earning kudos for following the Miltablishment’s lockdown advice, the PM sent in his hounds to sic him and derail his policies.
According to the editorial, the honourable Prime Minister has resisted advice from the military establishment to change the Punjab Chief Minister Buzdar for the sake of better governance in the core province. Everyone knows the inspiration behind Usman Buzdar’s appointment as CM Punjab. Indeed, when the Miltablishment toyed with Aleem Khan for the position, Imran Khan swiftly put him into prison. The Miltablishment changed tack, agreeing instead to key bureaucratic changes to run the province. But when Aleem Khan returned to the Provincial Assembly to stake his claim, Imran Khan sent the Miltablishment’s blue eyed bureaucrats – CS and IGP –packing and installed his own pro-Buzdar “team”.
At every stage, the Chaudhries have jockeyed for more power in the Punjab, even flirting with the opposition outside the Assembly and being soft on them inside it. Now the pressure to change CM Buzdar has increased. So, Imran Khan has decided to dangle the Sword of Damocles on the head of the Chaudhries by digging up a dead case from 2000 so that they should stop conspiring for the coveted position. This is killing two birds with one stone. He is stopping them in their tracks while sending out a message to his loyal followers that he is also holding the corrupt within his ranks accountable rather than only victimizing the opposition. This is gamesmanship. The distorted mindset of such pseudo-intellectuals is that the government and the military are not on the same page. Such thinking is dangerous when the nations face multiple perils.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.