“Lalchee nu jhuta marda aiy” a Punjabi saying, translates as “greedy’s undoing is a liar.” Rustic wisdom that has been passed down through generations now has a new twist. “Lalchee” and “Jhuta” have teamed up as PDM, an unholy alliance harming Pakistan’s future. The nation is on the brink of financial disintegration, yet their top leadership descended on Lahore like a ton of bricks to dislodge Punjab’s CM. Led by master manipulator Zardari and bully-in-chief Rana Sanaullah, they failed. PTI and PML (Q) scraped through, getting 186 votes; it was the thinnest margin. In the parliamentary system, this English idiom applies: “a miss is as good as a mile.” PDM came close to achieving its nefarious designs through bribes and coercion. They woke the “conscience” of three young PTI MPAs, leading to their premature political demise. C’est la vie – such is life. In this dark moment for our nation, the Punjab episode may turn out to be a ray of hope. Looking at the previous history of the establishment, moving a few pawns around could easily be done. Witnessing this drama unfold, it appears this did not happen. It was Rana Sana’s geo-fencing and Zardari’s dirty millions at play. Re-booting may have started; however, Moonis Ellahi’s associate, young Faran Khan’s mysterious disappearance points to some rogue elements still at play. As events in Punjab reached a crescendo; “lalchee-jhuta” combo was rejoicing in the phantom relief package of 11 billion dollars earmarked for Pakistan. It is aimed at combating climate change and the devastation caused by flooding. PDM took out full-page ads touting it as their success. Here is the dampener. They probably spent more money on this campaign than what will trickle through shortly. Out of the meagre inflow, we have to wait and see what will get past these corrupt, unprincipled looters’ bottomless pit of greed. Vested interests and entrenched mafias must be forced to yield ground for much-needed reforms by an honest, just and reformist government. Let us all commit to standing guard for these aims. For too long we have been ravaged and looted. This nation needs a break. International observers would recall similar exercises were done for Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and other disaster-hit areas. They mean nothing tangible; pledges at such conferences are shallow at best. Let us dig a bit deeper. Out of Islamic Development Bank’s whopping $4.28 billion pledge, only $600 million will be available for projects submitted by Pakistan for IDB’s approval. The rest is syndicated trade finance for deferred oil payments to Saudi Arabia. The same is true for the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which are repurposing their existing commitments or offering project-based financing. There was a comical interlude. Following the announcement by the IDB, PM Sharif jumped onto the dais to thank the IDB in broken Arabic, while Bilawal Bhutto attempted to move on to the next speaker. The US Congress must approve the $100 bill. After that, the funds would be available in the US for disbursement only after their experts reviewed them and vetted projects were submitted with proper checks and balances. These announcements did provide an opportunity for this embattled regime to tout an achievement. Lies have no feet. The truth will emerge once this cartoon movie concludes and these pledges are filtered through a real lens. A mere gimmickry enacted both in Geneva and Pakistan. The reality is that there is total darkness that is deepening by the day on the economic front. One look at the containers piling up at our ports says it all. Why are they stuck? Banks cannot release dollars to pay for the freight of these goods. Severe shortages have started. Raw materials for medicines are languishing as the pharmaceutical industry shuts down. In this polluted environment, the sick will die due to the non-availability or unaffordability of medicines. Poultry is becoming a luxury, and lentil prices are skyrocketing. Yet PM Sharif is indulging his sulking cabinet and MNAs by ordering 165 Mercedes cars at 5 crores each. What a crying shame! Another criminal scheme is unfolding. Foreign currency deposits of Overseas Pakistanis attracted by PTI under “Roshan” schemes are about to be poached or have already been pilfered. It appears our Finance Minister is about to break this piggy bank. Last time he froze dollar accounts after the nuclear blast. It took two decades and Imran Khan’s credibility to attract these dollars back. If it happens now, it will extinguish forever the reservoir of Pakistan’s greatest benefactors; Overseas Pakistanis. We are at crossroads; we can veer left or right. The choices are clear; not only for the masses but also for the establishment and judiciary. Either follow the selfish agenda of PDM who brought Pakistan to its knees and are blindly driving Pakistan to an abyss. Pushed over the edge, we will only have our body parts at the bottom of the drop that vultures will feast on. Alternately, seek political stability through a free and fair election at the earliest. It will bring a government based on popular will that can commence the long and arduous path of national reconstruction of this battered nation. Let PM Modi’s prediction of turning Pakistan into a nation of beggars fail. Punjab dodging the bullet is a good beginning. Let this process be expedited to come full cycle. Vested interests and entrenched mafias must be forced to yield ground for much-needed reforms by an honest, just and reformist government. Let us all commit to standing guard for these aims. For too long we have been ravaged and looted. This nation needs a break. Divine intervention only favours the brave. Begging on your knees is not the answer; let us take our fate into our own hands. The writer is the director of CERF, a non-profit, charitable organisation in Canada.