Undeclared martial law prevails in Pakistan; writes Justice Katju

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

”Tha shor maut se bacho bacho talwaar chali talwaar hali”

The above line from Hindi poet Shyam Narain Pandey’s epic poem ‘Haldighati‘ succinctly expresses the situation prevailing in Pakistan today, where there is an atmosphere of fear, consternation, and presentiment.

After former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest on 9th May by the Pakistan Rangers, there have been protests in many cities in Pakistan by PTI supporters. These included attacks on army GHQ, Corps Commander’s residence, and military installations, as many people believed it was the army which ordered the arrest.

It is very likely that indeed it was the army which ordered the arrest.

However, the attack on army buildings and installations has provoked a strong reaction from the Pakistan army whose media wing, the ISPR, declared it as a “black chapter” in Pakistan’s history, and warned of strong action against the culprits and those behind them.

Without naming Imran Khan’s PTI, the ISPR has clearly pointed to it and its leaders as those responsible for the violence.

Consequently there has been a crackdown on the PTI, many of whose top leaders and workers have been arrested or are absconding.

The PTI leaders have called for a countrywide protest against Imran Khan’s arrest

However, after some initial response to this call, the protests have mostly died down, since the army has taken out its sword. As was said ” Sach achcha, par sach ke liye koi aur mare to aur achcha ”. Everyone values his neck.

I submit :

(1) The PTI, and its leaders, including Imran Khan are finished politically forever. The PTI was created in 1996 by Imran Khan, who worked assiduously to build it up for over 2 decades before it came to power in 2018. Now in a few months he has destroyed it by foolishly taking on the Pakistan army, which is the real power in Pakistan.

(2) Undeclared martial law has now been imposed in Pakistan, and is likely to continue for quite some time.

The real reason for Imran Khan’s arrest was obvious : of late he had given some intemperate statements severely critical of some senior officers in the Pakistan army

There is a dictum ‘power grows out of the barrel of a gun’, and in Pakistan the gun is with the army. So the real power in Pakistan is with the its army, which has ruled Pakistan, overtly or covertly, almost throughout its history. Speaking against it in public is extremely dangerous, and that is what has really led to Imran Khan’s arrest, not alleged corruption.

I submit this arrest will not be confined to Imran Khan alone, but will immediately send several harsh messages throughout Pakistan :

1. If Pakistanis want to remain healthy, they must never openly criticise the Pak army, otherwise they may be beaten up or end up in jail, like Imran Khan, or suffer worse consequences. This is despite the fact that the Pakistan army has looted Pakistan.

When Roman general Pompey the Great went to Sicily, the people of Sicily objected to his jurisdiction on the ground that it was against an ancient law of Rome. To which Pompey replied ” Don’t quote the laws to us, we carry swords ”.

So laws matter little when there is martial law, declared or undeclared.

2.  Arrest of Imran Khan has sent a clear message from the Pakistan army to the Chief Justice of Pakistan & other judges to pipe down. Despite their earlier bravado, Justice Bandial & his companion judges will soon forget drawing contempt charges against those who defied their 4th April order ( that elections to the Punjab Assembly must be held on 14th May ), citing Justice Munir’s ‘doctrine of necessity’. All judges in Pakistan ( and civil servants ) will soon get the message that obeying the army’s orders blindly is the only way to remain safe and healthy.

3. Many PTI members will soon quit the party, or duck for cover. Aspirants for membership must have now forgetten about it, realising that it may get them into trouble.

4. Imran Khan’s arrest has sent a strong message to mediahouses and mediapersons who were supporting him to pipe down, or face the consequences

5. And it has also sent a clear message to supporters of Imran Khan not to come out in protest on the streets in large numbers, otherwise a ‘whiff of grapeshot’ may be used to disperse them, as was done by Napoleon’s troops on the Paris mob in October 1795 on Vendemiare

Facebook, twitter, and youtube are reportedly shut down in Pakistan.

There will of course be a Prime Minister and civilian govt in Pakistan, but this will be just a fig leaf. Undeclared martial law has been imposed in the country.

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