Justice Katju: Nawaz Sharif’s return will set the Pakistani prairie on fire

By Justice Markandey Katju–

Justice Markandey Katju

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

I had written an article comparing the situation in Pakistan to potentially another Gaza.


A Pakistani friend living in the United Kingdom, with whom I often talk on WhatsApp, and to whom I had sent my article, asked me how I could compare the situation in Pakistan with that in Gaza.

I explained that the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which is still ongoing, was not on a sudden impulse, but was the result of pent-up anger over decades-long atrocities by Israel on Palestinians, which reached a boiling point on October 7.

Similarly, the situation in Pakistan is reaching a boiling point after the reign of terror unleashed by the Pakistan Establishment ( meaning the army and police ) on the Pakistani people after the events of 9th May ( which many believe were stage-managed), in which about 10,000 people were arrested after being dragged out of their houses, many beaten, tortured, or simply ‘disappeared’. Those arrested have been incarcerated in jail on trumped-up charges where they have been languishing in horrible conditions for several months. The judiciary, whose solemn Constitutional duty was to protect the rights of the people, has become impotent and servile, the media largely muzzled, and the people living in fear.

But just as in Gaza, this situation will not last forever. Wherever there is oppression there is resistance.


There is a Chinese proverb ‘ A single spark can set the prairie on fire ‘. This spark will be the return to Pakistan today, 21st October of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had been convicted on corruption charges by a Pakistani Court in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.


Surprisingly he had been allowed to leave Pakistan and go to England, ostensibly on medical grounds, though he appeared hale and hearty, and he has been doing political activities from there ever since.

Now it seems that the generals ruling Pakistan got a brainwave, struck a deal with him, and have allowed him to come back. The deal evidently, was that the corruption charges against Nawaz Sharif will be withdrawn or suspended and his sentence put in abeyance, and as a quid pro quo he will not interfere with the massive graft and loot by the senior army officers


Nawaz Sharif is intensely hated by the vast majority of the people of Pakistan.


However, the authorities are working overtime to make his proposed public rally after his return a huge success with a massive crowd.


The servile judiciary has worked with breakneck speed to facilitate his entry into Pakistan despite his conviction.


And all this time the immensely popular former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is supported by over 90% Pakistanis ( as all opinion polls indicate ) lies incarcerated in jail in a horrible tiny, dingy cell with few amenities.


But this sordid and dismal situation will not last long. The pent-up anger, bitterness, indignation and discontent of the people of Pakistan, who are presently cowed down and silent due to fear, and are reeling under skyrocketing prices of food, electricity and other essential items, as well as record and rising unemployment, is bound to burst soon in a massive uprising against the Establishment, and this process will be considerably accelerated by the return of the despised and hated Nawaz Sharif, which is going to be the spark which will put the prairie on fire.


My friend asked me how can the unarmed people of Pakistan take on the highly armed Pakistan army.

I replied by explaining the situation in Pakistan. After its independence in 1947, Pakistan aligned itself with the USA, which gave it huge military and financial aid, and Pakistan practically became a US neo-colony. However, of late another superpower, China has entered Pakistan economically in a big way, investing a huge amount of money there, and capturing a large section of its markets and raw materials. Thus there is a clash between two superpowers in Pakistan. Since the Pakistan Establishment is still very much pro-American, this must be causing a lot of resentment in China, and the Chinese leaders will definitely support a popular uprising against the former, including by giving it arms and other aid, surreptitiously and clandestinely.

The only way to restore peace and stability in Pakistan is to release Imran Khan and quickly hold free and fair elections, in which Imran Khan’s PTI is bound to sweep the polls, but this cannot be expected from the Pakistan Establishment, which seems to have gone mad.

Consequently what seems inevitable is the gradual emergence of some kind of a guerilla war by the people of Pakistan against the Pakistan army, as it happened in Vietnam during the French and American occupation of the country, in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation, in Spain during Napoleon’s occupation, and in the early stages of the American War of Independence.

An army can fight another army, but it cannot fight the masses. A tiger can kill a prey, it cannot kill a swarm of mosquitoes. Napoleon discovered this too late in Russia ( see Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ ), the British in America, and General Westmoreland in Vietnam.

Nawaz Sharif’s return is bound to set the Pakistani prairie on fire.



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