PRESIDENTS may come and presidents may go. Those of the mighty USA, the sole superpower, depart when the band ceases to play ‘Hail to the Chief’, either after four years in office when voted out, or after eight years when constitutionally impelled to retire. Our presidents depart in a different manner. They are forcibly evicted when found senile, they are removed by the ‘people’ i.e. the current army chief — even though they be of the army themselves — they are blown out of the skies, or they depart in disgrace.
But life must go on and it does. The people of Pakistan one day must awaken and must fight for their rights — trusting to faith will get them nowhere. The male of the Pakistani species is more likely to improve his lot than is the female of the species who will be doomed until one man, or one government, has the guts to repeal the Ziaul Haq devised prohibitive laws which keep them permanently in thrall to revenge, wickedness, bigotry, and atavism.
On the evening of March 1, a very agitated Mr Yasrab Khan, an office-bearer of the All Clifton Defence Markets Association, came calling. The president of his association, Mr Akbar Ali Rana, had been picked up by a bunch of law-enforcement agency goons and his last heard words, shouted as he was being whisked away, were ‘Kowjee ke pass jao.’ Rana’s ‘bibi bachee’ were in great distress, I was told, as were the fellow members of the association. How many wives has Rana Sahib, I asked? Only one, to the best of his knowledge, said Yasrab.
On March 2, a second delegation arrived. Rana’s ‘bibi bachee’ were still crying, distress abounded, and Rana’s whereabouts and welfare were unknown. Think, think — what was the best course? The best at that moment was the inspector-general of police, who has recently taken over. He is a reasonable man, with a strong sense of duty. But by the time my note reached him, God’s warriors had organized a car bomb to be blown next to the American consulate and the IG had other things on his mind.
Think again. A very tired chief secretary, the good Fazal ur Rahman, was luckily found at home and awoken. He acted. He first traced Rana’s whereabouts, made necessary inquiries, and he then ordered his release. We are lucky, we have a man who is not afraid to get something done to the advantage of the citizens of his province.
Now to Rana’s tale of woe. At approximately 1530 hours on February 27 some dozen police officers (some in civvies, others in uniform) arrived at his office in the basement of Kehkashan Shopping Arcade, Clifton, in two police mobiles and in what Rana recalls as a ‘zero mileage Suzuki’. They had no warrants, no summonses, but he was ordered to peacefully (what can we not do ‘peacefully’?) accompany them to the Clifton police station, where he was kept confined in the Suzuki. From there he was moved thrice to three different police stations where he was locked up, handcuffed, and kept standing for hours. If he wished to be released, he was told, he could pay up.
Now, we ordinary citizens are well aware as to the workings of our police force, but should the good IG Sindh wish to find out who did what, how and where, and take action against those who have harassed a citizen, he should send for Rana from whom he can obtain a first-hand report.
Since his release, Rana has discovered that it was one ‘Arif’, claiming to be an employee of Hussain Developers (owners and builders of Gulfway, Cliff and Metro Shopping Malls), who had filed an FIR at the Clifton police station charging Rana with having entered the offices of Hussain Developers on February 15, brandishing a gun, and had threatened those present with ‘dire consequences’. It was asked that action be taken against Rana under Sections 386/44 and 506-B of the Pakistan Penal Code. According to Rana, on February 15 he was in Rawalpindi.
Apparently, Hussainbhai has been served notices by the Cantonment Board advising him that unless he repairs his buildings to the Board’s satisfaction it will have no option but to demolish. The prices of land having risen, Hussainbhai now wishes all the shopkeepers, some 2000 of them, who have occupied space in his rickety dangerous uncompleted buildings (there for all to see who pass by the Teen Talwar monument) and who have no title deeds to show that they are the owners of such spaces, to vacate, so that he may build afresh and make yet more money out of his construction activities.
New subject: From ‘Honest Rat firstname.lastname@example.org’ came the following email message on Friday: “Dr Safdar Sarki is the former chairman of the World Sindhi Congress, London, an American national, a Sindhi nationalist and political activist, who has been arrested by security agencies in Karachi. Plainclothes security personnel arrested him from his relative’s flat in Karachi on February 23, 2006, from Gulistan-i-Jauhar area by SP Chaudry Aslam (former anti-robbery head) and it is still not known where he is. He is being tortured at an unknown place. A petition was filed in court yesterday to produce him in the court but there has been no response.
“Dr Safdar Sarki was severely beaten and tortured for about an hour in his flat in Karachi at about 3 am local time, then he was taken blindfolded to an unknown location. All his belongings, including his laptop, driving licence, US passport, money and valuables, were confiscated by the agency personnel. The witnesses saw Dr Sarki bleeding heavily before being bundled into an unmarked vehicle.
“Dear Cowsgee Saeen, please write an article about this story if possible. In a country where the power virtually flows from the barrel of a gun, where the military dictatorship is in vogue, accountability is an unknown commodity and the judiciary is the weakest link. It is so easy for the security agencies to ‘kill’ or ‘terminate’ anyone. Just declare him or her an Indian agent, terrorist, or a dacoit and shoot him in daylight. No one will even point a finger at ‘you’. Some would even applaud. That’s how the things are in ‘beloved’ Pakistan.
“Dr Sarki’s brother and other relatives have expressed serious apprehensions that his life is in real danger. The police and the agencies have not disclosed his whereabouts. I appeal to the human rights activists, media men, political activists and all the readers to please act in this case and force the government to immediately release the gentleman. If there is any charge sheet against him, it should be brought into an open court and he must be given full rights to defend himself.
“If we don’t act in time, another life may be lost and we may never be able to forgive ourselves. ‘All that is essential for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ (Edmund Burke).”
Enquiries confirm that the good or the bad doctor has been picked up. A ‘paan-biri republic’ we remain.