Underdog millionaires unite! Anjum Niaz

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And all lived happily hereafter: The king, his army of princes and the citizens of Pakistan. Democracy won and the National Reconciliation Ordinance aka NRO lost.

Before you dismiss this as a fable, wait, maybe the fairy tale can come true. It depends on the NRO folks who hold the key to making democracy a reality. This is their moment. All the millionaire underdogs hunted and hounded by various Ehtesab Rottweiler’s unite. The truth shall set them free. Threatened by the dharna; stalked by the shadow of Iftikhar Chaudhry; compromised by the cacophony of daily accusations, the NRO beneficiaries must stand up and halt the assault on their good name before the black coats drag them to hell.

Put your hand on the Holy Book and swear you have not committed a political or financial crime against the state. By this one act alone, you would automatically have cancelled out the NRO. Fireworks will light up your sky; rose petals will shower your waking hours; prayers for your wellbeing will reverberate in the air. Zardari will become our president for life and Altaf Bhai’s tribe of MQM will double a hundredfold.

The charter of democracy will be scrubbed-clean once again, destroying the NRO spores that have wreaked havoc on the 170 million Pakistanis. America and Musharraf who sired the NRO must face trial for this crime against humanity; a crime against an impoverished, terrorized and tattered country currently lashed by the revenge of democracy; not its benevolence. Can democracy succeed when people facing criminal cases are made its minders; can democracy succeed when the citizens mock the rulers for their past misdeeds?

You must know the real reason behind the sit-in on March 16? If you say it’s about Iftikhar Chaudhry being restored as our chief justice; you’re wrong. It’s the national outrage against the NRO. Justice Chaudhry is the only man who can challenge it. And hence for the people of Pakistan it’s critical that he returns to the Supreme Court as our chief. Justice must be done and those accused of corruption forced to disgorge the money they swiped to swell their bank balances abroad. If the NRO didn’t exist, and if our government didn’t destroy the NAB records, today we’d have a list of notables who hold accounts in Swiss banks. “You would be shocked at the huge sums stashed away by individuals from Pakistan,” someone in the know told me recently. When pressed for details, the person refused to speak.

If the above is bunkum, as some PPP stalwarts will say, please correct the record. It’s vital. Not only will you render the NRO irrelevant, you’ll stop fearing Iftikhar Chaudhry who at the moment is your bogeyman. The first rule of democracy is to elect people who don’t have a tainted record or bring extra baggage when they come to parliament. Why is the world in awe of President Obama? Because he swears on transparency. When he discovered his nominees had cheated on taxes, he scheduled interviews with five television networks and repeated again and again “I screwed up. I take responsibility for these mistakes.” James Joyner, a political analyst says “Obama has quickly cut his losses and moved on. And he’s apparently learned something from his predecessor’s mistakes as well: When everyone knows you’ve screwed up, go ahead and fess up — and then change course.”

Guess what? On February 16 which is the President’s Day, Americans plan on their dharna at Wall Street to demand an end to corporate dominance.

At the sit-in they will chant, “We Want Change.”

‘Change’ for Pakistanis means the repeal of the NRO unless our leaders swear before Allah that they are innocent. A mass swearing-in ceremony before the nation will render the NRO irrelevant. To follow will be a second swearing-in ceremony for all the brave judges whom Zardari spurned and left out to die. The third will be a farewell for the Dogar court where the master of ceremonies will be Attorney General Latif Khosa.

The ball is in Asif Ali Zardari’s court who is a gifted politician but, a mere mortal. He can immortalize his name by three strokes of the pen: swear he’s innocent; cancel the NRO and restore the judges. If that’s not possible he should quit.

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu



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