On that fateful August day, nearly thirty years ago, by chance I had stayed home from work owing to an upset stomach. Apart from that, my telephone was out of order (these were the days before cell phones). Feeling better towards tea-time, I made myself comfortable on the sofa in my lounge, where my little daughter brought the classwork project on which she wanted my help and that of my wife. The TV was on and it displayed the snarling face and hooded eyes of the dictator-of-the-day, as it too frequently did. I turned it off and, through that evening, cut off from communication with the outside, we concentrated on my daughter’s project. Thus it my family and I were unaware of the huge events that transpired that day. When I went out for my morning paper the next morning. Ziaul Haq had been killed in an air crash. The reign of the satanic dictator was over. Possibilities… and hopes… could come alive again. However, there was a big question: Who had killed him? Could it have been Al-Zulfikar? Or members of a disgruntled minority sect? The Americans (sacrificing their own Ambassador)? The Indians? The Russians? The Iranis? Who? We did not know. And we still do not know. The truth about that assassination has never been told, perhaps never will be. For that is the way of things in this country. The truth is too seldom told. Consider the Bhutto hanging. How did Bhutto actually die? Was he hanged or beaten to death or starved? And (since the case against Bhutto is generally regarded as false), who actually murdered Nawab Mohammed Ahmed Khan? And why? This is a land of lies and secrets, the lies we tell ourselves and the secrets we keep from our people. To begin with, even the very narratives of the Independence movement were contrived well after the event, with concepts like ‘the ideology of Pakistan’ being promoted by Yahya Khan’s fanatical Information Minister General Sher Ali Khan as late as 1969. In the poisonous Zia era, the wholesale rewriting of the history of this region achieved the seal of completion. As a result, our origins and identities have become confused and lost in a non-historical melange of half-truths and outright lies. It is long past time that our various leaders and other authorities ‘came clean’ before the people. Corruption, mass murder, and outright treason have been perpetrated upon the citizens of Pakistan Who were the assassins of Liaquat Ali Khan? Hayat Sherpao? Benazir Bhutto? Akbar Bugti? How did Hassan Nasir die? Or Shaheed Suhrawardy? Or Shahnawaz Bhutto? Or Murtaza Bhutto? Or Saleem Shahzad? One could go on in this refrain forever. The worst examples are the lies we tell ourselves regarding the wars we have fought. We celebrate the 1965 war as a victory, whereas the valour and fighting ability of our officers and men was squandered in defending Lahore and Sialkot when we had set out to conquer Kashmir. Worse still was the 1971 war when, unable to accept the confederal arrangement for which our then largest province had voted, and unwilling to negotiate with them, the dictator of the day unleashed unspeakable violence upon our former nationals and handed over half the country to the Indian army. The Zia regime spun every kind of confusing fog around the origins and purpose of the so-called ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union, we were told, had this inexplicable thirst for warm waters that was driving them southwards to conquer first Afghanistan and then Pakistan. And the Afghan ‘jihad’ had arisen in ‘spontaneous’ resistance against this. Looking back at what proved to be one of the most fateful decision points in Pakistan’s history, it is doubtful we will ever know the truth about what happened back then. Narratives about how and why Mullah Omar’s Taliban warriors went into Afghanistan from Pakistan in 1994 also remain murky. This was an event which had serious repercussions for Pakistan, Afghanistan and the world at large. What actually happened at Ojhri Camp? What gives the Lal Masjid preachers the fortitude to sustain their verbal aggression? More recent still is the Osama mystery. Beyond the issue of violation of our sovereignty by the US armed forces, the reality is that the most wanted man in the world was living here among us for nine years. This presumed fugitive enjoyed the ministrations of three (no less) wives, numerous children, and assorted servants. Yet no one spotted one of the world’s most recognisable faces as he moved his substantial entourage to Peshawar, Karachi, Haripur, and finally Abbottabad? The purpose of this article is not to speculate about these mysteries, only to point at some of the secrets around us and the fogs that surround them. We are not helped by the smokescreens created by many of our political leaders, media personalities and so-called ‘analysts’. It is more than being in a state of denial; it is active collusion in spreading the web of lies that is strangling the people of Pakistan. Former Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has proposed a Truth and Reconciliation commission. This could certainly be a starting point, but the actual materialisation of such a commission remains doubtful. Even his own Party’s maximum leader would have difficulty accepting such a concept. The point is that it is long past time that our various leaderships and authorities ‘came clean’ before the people. Corruption, mass murder, and outright treason have been perpetrated upon the citizens of Pakistan. They deserve to know the truth. It is necessary to point fingers and name names, rather than continually sputter on about ‘conspiracies’. Having come clean, we must ‘clean up’. I do not believe there is any ambiguity about what has to be done and, clearly, the process of deep disinfection has to be complete. Nevertheless, and this is the point, the people first need to know the truth of where things have gone wrong, and they need to endorse and participate enthusiastically in the processes of rectification. It is necessary to tell the truth… before the processes of history render both the truth and ourselves redundant. The writer is a poet, author and columnist Published in Daily Times, June 15th 2018.