By Dr. Haider Mehdi

“Humans plan and manipulate while Nature smiles at their short-sightedness and fallibility.”

                                                                                                                        A Persian Proverb

Political historians say that it might have happened in the not very remote past in an impoverished South-Asian country plagued by scarcity and misfortunes, at the verge of an economic-political abyss.  It might have been caused by the bad governance of a ruling elite obsessed by self-interest, political power and determined to preserve the decades-old political “status-quo.”  It might have occurred because of the unjust power structure of a few ruling over a mass of humanity nearing 190 million – 95% of them suffering from humiliation, deprivations, extreme poverty, sickness, hunger and by a sense of betrayal by their own elected representatives.

Sakinah Bibi, 24, once a beautiful and vibrant young woman grabbed her two children aged 4 and 2 and jumped in front of a moving train. An hour later her husband hanged himself from a tree. This was the 14th suicide in the last two weeks. Sakinah, in her suicide note, said that she could not tolerate her children’s starvation any longer.

No one really paid much attention to Sakinah Bibi and her entire family’s tragic death. Neither were the other suicides discussed  by anyone. The media, mostly TV talk shows, were busy deliberating the brilliant political move (this is how they termed it) of the ruling party which had succeeded in getting the 26th Amendment passed by a majority vote in the outgoing National Legislative Assembly to empower the incumbent president to another five-year term of office. The ruling party, with skillful help and complicity of the major opposition in the National Assembly, had already secured a majority in the powerful Senate. The stage was perfectly set for sharing political power between the two major parties and their leaderships for another five years. The political “status-quo” had been preserved – democracy had been saved. At least, that is what the leaderships of the two main political parties believed. 

Colonel THK, code name “Bismillah 786” of the infantry division, had not been able to sleep for  three nights following Sakinah Bibi and her children’s tragic deaths. “My husband seemed mentally occupied, emotionally disturbed and in a perpetual agony of a kind that he seemed not able to fathom or express. No matter what I said or did, I could not console him or draw him out. He was being consumed from within – as if he was carrying a massive burden; as if he was haunted by some impregnable sense of duty that he had failed in carrying out.  He was restless and yet showed a resolve of a kind that I had not observed in him before. He took notes, went through some papers over and over again, made calls and spoke in whispers in a stern and authoritative manner. I imagined something drastic was going to happen,” Colonel THK’s wife, Zainab, later told a talk-show host on a TV channel.

At precisely 12:30 on a pleasant spring night, Colonel “Bismillah 786” ordered his battalion to be combat-ready. The assault on all “power centers” in the capital city started in the early hours of the morning. By 7:30 am the “Young Officers Revolutionary Council” had carried out a bloodless “coup d’etat.”   No time for speeches of “aziz hum watnoo” as took hpw much work was to be done. People all over the country were jubilant – sweets were being distributed, national flags were being waved, “qaumi tiranas” were being played. An air of relief had descended all over the country as if a curse had been lifted off the nation.

Socio-political historians and researchers claim this kind of monumental and revolutionary event in the life of a nation is experienced when the majority of the masses feel an absolute alienation from the mainstream political stratum, followed by extreme public indifference and complete distrust in governmental institutions. This debilitating public distain, in turn, is caused when the ruling elite and its leadership is completely cut off from mass sentiments and fails in the pursuit of the welfare of the common citizens. Social scientists contend that the ruling elite’s diabolical concept of “Real Politik” as a process of their covert, manipulative “modus-operandi” to perpetuate political power and preserve the  political “status-quo” and its accompanying power-structures, is the single largest contributor to the birth of revolutionary movements and their actual expression and eventual enactment. A socio-political revolution is, in fact, the rebirth of a nation: the restoration of its dignity, sovereignty and a sure guarantee of its continued survival, legitimacy and future prosperity.

By 12 noon that spring day, the Young Officers Revolutionary Council, had made its national agenda public. Acting on the parameters of a newspaper column written by an eminent author, the YORC issued the following public policy directives:

“a) Full utilization of generation capacity and clearance of circular debt to end load-shedding of electricity immediately, b) Restoration of full supply of gas to domestic consumers and CNG vehicles, c) Waiver of all taxes and levies on petrol, diesel, kerosene oil and other oil products to reduce their prices drastically, d) Waiver of all taxes and levies on electricity to reduce cost, e) Allowing distributing companies to buy electricity directly from the power producers at lower possible rates, f) Ordering the construction of new dams and wind energy projects, g) Re-organization of vital national public sector units to attain maximum operational capability at lowest possible cost,  bringing the losses to negligible level, h) Revision of the budget to eliminate wasteful expenses to get funds for public needs.”

Having provided urgent relief to the public, the YORC constituted and independent Election Commission to conduct democratic elections in the country within 90 days, under strict guidelines. Among their conditions, it stipulated direct election of party officials at all levels, declaration of taxes, assets, sources of income, etc. and restricted terms of office for all elected public representatives.

It is said that within a relatively short period of time a young, dynamic, progressive and revolutionary Third Force emerged as a grass-root political movement and swept the democratic elections, seizing the opportunity to fix and manage the decades-old national problematics. Indeed, it is recorded in history that the task was neither simple nor quick. But the people got what they deserved: a change – public welfare projects, relief from daily deprivations and a future political discourse authentically nationalistic, global in vision and dynamically focused on the welfare of common citizens.

They say somewhere in the national capital a statue stands of Sakinah Bibi and her children along with Colonial THK, code named “Bismillah 786” as a monument of national liberation.

This is the shortest novel I have ever written – but I also know that fiction always draws from a sense of reality – at least partially!

So be it!