The can of worms | Pakistan Today

The can of worms

At Penpoint

  • Drugs are in the equation now

The arrest of PML-N MNA and former Punjab minister Rana Sanaullah on a heroin possession charge indicates a new departure for the PTI government, and though supporters and detractors might take diametrically opposed views, both would see this arrest as marking something new.

PTI supporters would feel that the battle had moved from corruption to crime in general. So far, all that had been attacked was the ability of politicians to obtain large sums because they had the power to approve the award of contracts. That was presumably why NAB was the lead organisation in investigating and prosecuting. However, what had been ignored so far was the nexus between politicians and crime. It had been left to the judiciary to go after Mansha ‘Bomb’, the real-estate encroacher, whose activities were only made possible by the connivance of the local police. The politician was supposed to have his own loyalists posted in key positions, and that influence led to criminals approaching him to preserve them from ‘interference’ in their activities. As criminals could be otherwise useful (such as on election day), politicians interfered. It is not hidden, but not much emphasised, that criminals are an integral part of every ‘machine’, the overall apparatus (mostly human) that is needed to contest an election. The nexus between criminals and politicians was observable in the USA, where the influence of the Mafia extended to control of politicians.

One of the strongest of criminal forces, the world over, have been drug cartels. Whether retailers, wholesalers, transporters or manufacturers, drug gangs have had a lot of money to spare, and to bribe law enforcers. And politicians. However, if Rana Sanaullah was running heroin, it would be an unusual example of a politician getting involved in transport. He would have been involved in providing protection, if he stuck to traditional roles.

There is also the problem of being in opposition. This is not to say that those who have gone over to the PTI have done so to protect drug dealers, but the fact of the matter is that it is easier to protect dealers if one is in the government rather than the opposition. Rana Sanaullah’s supporters have pointed out the unlikelihood of his doing what he is supposed to have done while in opposition. At the same time as Rana Sanaullah’s arrest, PML-N MNAs and MPAs met Imran Khan, preparing to jump ship and form a Forward Bloc. Why would they want to do so? Mainly because they must have been finding a life obedient to the law difficult, so they would want to be on the right side of the government.

There is also the question of the role of the Anti-Narcotics Force, which has been taken over by the Army. If the government is framing Rana Sanaullah, then the ANF is a partner. That has dangerous implications, and not just for the opposition

It should also be remembered that Rana Sanaullah was President of the Punjab PML-N. While he was careful to remain obedient to his party President Shehbaz Sharif, his arrest would spread ripples within the party. The PML-N was supposed to be the spearhead of a movement against the government, and its Punjab chapter was supposed to have borne the brunt of the movement, not just because it is the stronghold of the party, but also because the anger against the PTI government will be the most. At the recent All-Parties Conference, the opposition had not decided to launch an anti-government movement, but it had also not decided against. It was not said out aloud, but the opposition does not seem ready to do more than put itself at the head of a movement against the government. It seems as if the government assumes that the likelihood of a movement is quite high, which is why it has arrested the person who would have been an important component of such a movement. It would help the PTI if some legislators were to desert, because the PML-N does not have much of a party organisation, and depends on its legislators to organise on a mass level. So, any forward bloc would leave gaps in those constituencies.

Then there is the question of the links to Islamic militancy. Militants are supposed to be getting their funding from the manufacture and sale of heroin, and Rana Sanaullah is linked to them. There is also the question of the role of the Anti-Narcotics Force. If the government is framing Rana Sanaullah, then the ANF is a partner. That has dangerous implications, and not just for the opposition.

It means that the means have been put together for achieving complete conformity. There is a kind of establishment consensus which means that all dissent is to be stamped out. The PTI does not really benefit, for though it ensures it remains in office, it actually means that power remains elsewhere. While Imran will gain the blame for failures of governance, any credit for any success will be resented, if the past is anything to go by.

The problem with this model, where all dissent is crushed, is that justice goes out the window. The judiciary is already struggling with the impression that judgements are to be bought. A further problem has been the Nawaz Sharif case, with a video revealed of a judge in one of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s accountability case confessing to having given that judgement under pressure because of a video that showed him in a bad light. NAB Chairman Mr Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal also had a video released. Any judge who convicts Rana Sanaullah will be suspected of doing so under pressure.

It should not be forgotten that the Nazi Party came to power through an election, but also that it later captured the leading institutions of the administration, including the judiciary and the Army. Imran seems to be a heroic figure in the Hitlerian mould. The only problem with having him at the head of a party that can offer the establishment support is that he may get ideas above himself, and may develop ideas about himself, just as happened to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mian Nawaz. Perhaps that is what politicians should be worrying about. Not how the judge was blackmailed. But how they can be.

Judges mostly are staid and sober, even somewhat boring. Politicians, on the other hand, no matter what party they belong to, are out to enjoy life. They are also thicker-skinned, plus their constituents do not expect them to be better than they are. However, revelations may fly back and forth, once this can of worms is now well and truly opened.