I was once forced to stop my vehicle at a busy Faisalabad intersection many years ago by a ‘tamashbeen’ crowd that had gathered in the middle of the road to watch a battle between, what were perhaps two enraged motorists. One of the parties in the conflict had an advantage of height and physical fitness and dealt out much more effective punishment to his opponent. As usually happens, when the onlookers saw that the fight would be uneven (and therefore short) they decided to end the show through intervention. As the defeated individual got up from the ground, he dusted his tattered clothes and seeing that his opponent was walking back to his car, puffed out his chest, spread out his arms (much like the late Sultan Rahi) and in a thundering voice (that turned to a coughing fit after a few sentences) let loose a ‘barak’ that would have done justice to a Punjabi thriller. I was able to see the entire show under duress, since the fight had created a gridlock blocking all traffic. This incident came to mind as I watched a change manifesting itself in the behaviour of ruling party legislators, portfolio holders and politicians, as the announcement of the Panama Case judgement drew inevitably closer. This change was observed to be directly proportional to rumours that (according to many) reflected the will of the nation for effective accountability. I would have ignored all what was being said in talk shows and elsewhere, had not PML-N statements begun to sound desperately threatening.

Since I am a student of history, the study of which is incomplete without dabbling in political psychology, I began to see the first signs of how stress and the possibility of a setback can effect weak links in political hierarchies. The deplorable incident, where a ruling party legislator provoked an opposition colleague to physical violence by using language beyond all decency, was perhaps a small piece of the bigger scenario that may begin to unfold in the near future.

And now the census, which would have begun as this column goes to press. While there is no doubt that the Pakistan Army will complete the task assigned to it with the utmost dedication and honesty, there remains a nagging anomaly in the method of individual authentication. It has been announced that census teams will carry out this authentication through National Identity Cards, driving licenses, passports or any other ID document in hand. While taking this course of action, the government appears to have ignored our current demographic situation.

Pakistani population centres (whatever their size) are at this point in time a confused mix of genuine citizens and illegal residents, particularly from Afghanistan, Central Asia and even Arab countries. A head count such as the one now in progress provides us with an opportunity to vet households from a security point of view. This can only be done effectively by using a single authentic source ie the re-verified NIC issued by NADRA. If all adult Pakistani citizens are required to be in possession of their CNIC by law, then why not use this and this card alone for the purpose.

Another newsmaker this week has been a statement by Hussain Haqqani (a former Pakistani Ambassador to Washington) implying that he was perhaps instrumental to facilitate CIA operations in Pakistan under instructions from the PPP government of the time. In the shadowy battleground of any great game venture, a foreign agency will carry out its operations in line with its national policy. Unacceptable however, is the inclination of my own countrymen to serve the interests of a foreign power for whatever it is worth. The incentive to sell their motherland stems from the knowledge that if in danger of exposure, they will easily slip away across the seas and return at an opportune moment, when all will be forgiven – for such is Pakistani politics. I am waiting for the day when I shall revel in the knowledge that a genuine traitor has been stripped of citizenship and hung or incarcerated. I am waiting for the day when the word ‘treason’ ceases to be used frivolously for politically or personally motivated reasons.