Commissioner Chatha’s Gift

While our High Command was spreading pain among us and also brought us immeasurable shame, for the first time the people of Pakistan banded together to gift us immense pride. This they did by the way they voted on Feb 8 despite all the odds. The discipline and commitment they exhibited during the process, watered once more and revived the moribund tree of our desiccated dreams of hope.

But the High Command, waiting just around the corner, had already installed mechanisms to rob us of our will, in cahoots with Qazi Faiz Isa, and Sikander Sultan Raja. This they did by robbing the people of the mandate they had given to the people of their choice. This left behind gloom and widespread frustration in its wake, and a way forward that none could see.

It was at this time when, on Feb 17, in an unprecedented act of public confession, Mr Liaqat Ali Chatha, the Commissioner of Rawalpindi Division, took the blame for the egregious poll rigging done in his division. He confessed that it was on his instructions that his subordinates had rigged ALL the seats so massively that candidates winning by as many as 70000 votes, lost out to the ones trailing them; that his conscience could not bear the thought that this could eventually become a spiral which would unravel Pakistan; that first he thought of committing suicide in an act of contrition, but then decided that instead of this sinful death, it would be better that he exposed what happened to the public, and be hung by the gallows instead.

And most thankfully, he also pointed out that the C.J Qazi Faez Isa, and the CEC Sikander Sultan Raja, were complicit with him in the perpetration of this act of unprecedented national fraud. Qazi Isa has lost no opportunity to expose his ugliness, but I did not know the Raja except that he belongs to the extended fraternity of the Rajas of Jehlum, with many of whom I’ve had the privilege to serve, and whom I found worthy of respect. But Sikander Sultan seems to have come from a damaged pedigree, most likely of a chance encounter with a low-born. Every thing about him points in that direction.

After Commissioner Chatha had dropped the brick, the first reaction from most of the commentators was that his words were the first drops of verity, like bracing rain, to fall on a vast canvass of mendacity parched of all truth, where each one was given to lying in accordance with his status. The contrast of his words with the prevailing moral reality, and their effect was truly stunning. One knew that a reaction would not be long in coming and runts would come snapping at his heels.

The first runt to do so was Amir Mir, the Punjab Minister for Information. He tried to destroy the Commissioner’s credibility by pitching his own lack of it, against it, and ended by suggesting that the Commissioner was not right in the head.

This reminded me of the time when Zia ul Haq had catapulted himself to the office of the President without giving up that of the COAS, and so, continued to chair many a conference in GHQ. Maj Gen Naseer S.J [FF] was DGMT at that time. He was a short man. His temper was shorter and it was known of him that he did not easily suffer long-winded falsehoods masquerading as truth, which Zia was wont to dish out. During one such conference the General locked horns with Zia so seriously that Zia had to be rescued. To do this, Gen Naseer was ushered out of the conference room. But then the task remaining for the other Generals was to mollify Zia’s ego. This they proceeded to do by assuring Zia that ever since Gen Naseer’s head injury in a recent accident, something had gone wrong with him, and so Zia ought of overlook the incident.
In short the argument was that since something had tripped in the General’s head due to injury, he had begun speaking the truth, and so, should be forgiven for it.

And nearly 50 years later Amir Mir has relied on the same logic to clinch his case i.e that if the Commissioner insists on speaking the truth in an atmosphere where lies were triumphant, he must surely be mad!
But with this was loosened another barb at the Commissioner’s credibility. It began being asked why he could not have made the same confession ten days earlier?

This should have been quite simple to understand. What he said and in the situation in which he said so, needed courage. This courage comes with the build-up of consciousness and awareness, with the gathering burden of conscience, or through sudden inspiration. After all, when Hazrat Umar [R.A] converted, did anyone ask him why he had not converted ten days earlier? And did this discount the value of his conversion by even a jot?
And then Commissioner Chatha’s act needed to be subjected to the usual analysis by the “intellectuals”, and suggestions began to be aired that perhaps he was put up to what he had done to create conditions whereby Asim Munir could cancel the recent elections.

I, frankly cannot see any logic in this. Asim Munir can cancel the recent elections on the basis of a thousand other excuses which he has the resources to create, or on the basis of no excuse whatever.
The way I see this is that the only ones who have clearly made a gain because of Mr Chatha’s courageous act are the people of Pakistan, the clear losers are the High Command and the Government of Pakistan, and any personal loss that will be suffered, will be suffered by Mr Chatha and his family.

So all of us, with the knowledge we have, can believe only that which we CHOOSE to believe.
On the basis of this I choose to see Mr Liaqat Ali Chatha as the hero that he is, and one we were in terrible need of.

Till something contrary of great cogency comes up to change my mind, I will continue to admire this man, and be grateful to him for what he has done, and for just being there.

Saeed A. Malik.

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