Capitals worldwide are the pulse of what is happening in a country; a deduction from decades of travel. My recent visit to Islamabad was an eye-opener. Government is poor and rather bankrupt, but the people are rich. When I say people, it means the top 1-2 per cent, who controls 90 per cent of this nation’s wealth. The next 5-7 per cent has the ability to weather this inflationary storm; the remaining ones are totally crushed. I struggle to find out who among the rulers cares. Nestled in the foothills of Margalla, our Capital is well-laid. However, you realize it has experienced abuse, as the rest of the country, the moment you step out of the older sectors. Its size has ballooned beyond comprehension in all directions. Corrupt and greedy developers, in cahoots with equally dishonest bureaucracy and politicians, have encroached into protected green belts; creating jungles of concrete where the greenery was meant to grow. During my stay, there was an auction by CDA for new developments. Bidding prices went crazy. From the numbers shared by friends who participated, the price per square yard at times matched or exceeded prime properties of New York or London, breaking all previous records. Where is all this money coming from? Tonnes of black is being turned white using loopholes created in a system driven by the rule of the corrupt elite for the elite mafias. The most disturbing part was the complete disconnect between those who govern this ungovernable nation and the realities on the ground. It reminded me of what the Queen of France said before the French revolution. A courtier informed her that a common man has no bread. She replied, “let them eat cake.” These cake-eating ruling elites have no clue about the suffering poor. Pakistan’s ship is in dangerous rocky waters while the rulers enjoy rendering of sweet music emanating from a violin. Ignorance is bliss; however, indifference is a curse. These cake-eating ruling elites have no clue about the suffering poor. It was an opportunity to spend time with old friends and enjoy their hospitality. My school and university fellow Ghafar Mahmund organized a get-together of Burn Hall and Punjab University friends. The event was planned at his home; however, it got shifted to Islamabad Club because of the national electrical debacle of a power shutdown. It did not take the shine off the joy of meeting contemporaries from over half a century. There was a lot of gupshup and catching up to do. In this free flow of ideas my intellectual friend Naseem Ur Rehman opined that if one is an optimist at age 20, you are smart; if one is an optimist at 70, you are a fool. Food for thought. I jokingly countered if you lose optimism at any age, you lose motivation and the will to live. A dead end. It is a ritual for me on every visit to Islamabad to spend an evening with my friends Siraj Ul Mulk, Masud Abbasi, and Malik Tahir Awan, the host this time. Siraj had another family commitment. This group of ours is deeply embedded in our rural traditions and moral values. Afzal Ghauri was also present. Hours flew by sharing anecdotes from our pasts and especially days of student politics. Our closeness permits a brutal analysis of our prevalent situation, even if we differ on political affiliations. The consensus was that we are headed for a huge disaster unless there is a ruthless change of direction. There is consensus amongst local and international economists that Pakistan’s economy for all practical purposes is bankrupt. Even worse; it has become morally bankrupt and rule of law is in shambles. If we can see this as observers outside the arena, why can’t those wielding the levers of power see it? They are much better informed. The analysis is that we are seeing regime change part 2 being enacted. The assumptions made at the time of the regime change in April have gone wrong. It was assumed that once Imran Khan had lost his popularity, his removal would be acceptable. Instead, it proved to be a watershed in IK’s political career. A factor that was never material in our 75 years of existence came into play; the reaction of the people of Pakistan. Imran Khan’s resolve and Pakistanis’ desire to bring change to this corrupt system pushed decision-making from drawing rooms to the streets of Pakistan. It is ironic that all the achievements of PTI during its Government were never disseminated appropriately to the people of Pakistan. Flag-bearers of his regime never got out of their combat mode. The masses had to see for themselves the ugly face of the corrupt undo the accountability process. The incompetency of PM Sharif and the total failure to manage the economy brought unbelievable pain to the masses. From a political leader, IK emerged as the liberator of the nation who will break the shackles of subservience and bring justice to the poor. This new onslaught of suppression unleashed by the PDM regime and its backers to win back the turf taken over by PTI is too little too late. Be it Fawad Chaudhry’s arrest or the brave resistance by Farrukh Habib, or the impending arrest of IK and top leadership; it will only add fuel to fire. PDM’s total surrender to Pakistani or international Establishment may buy them some time, but the die is cast. Change is inevitable. Free and fair elections are the only option. The writer is the director of CERF, a non-profit, charitable organisation in Canada.