Iqbal alias Bala was a hardened criminal reputed to be a top “rasageer,” acronym for a cattle thief, around Lyallpur. My uncle, Dr Abdul Majeed Khan, a veterinarian, was a dedicated cattle breeder. He went to great lengths to assemble his flock of milking buffaloes. A big burly gentleman; it was intriguing to watch him feed and tenderly care for his flock. It triggered his son’s comment, “I wish he was half as gentle with us!” Elders had their priorities. One morning, his prized possession, a “bhuri maaj,” that milked over 20 kilos per day went missing. Uncle Majeed was in a foul mood. Police and “khojis” (trackers) were summoned to recover the animal. Local elders assembled to help. All indicators pointed to Bala. The dera (outhouses) were well-guarded yet they were breached. Bala was brought in for interrogation. Investigations by Punjab Police always involve beatings: “manji” was their tool of choice. The miscreant would be tied to a bed and hit in sensitive areas. Local SHO was reputed to be ruthless. The thrashing of Bala made me cringe. After the fifth round, the SHO was sweating all over and Bala bled profusely. He asked the SHO, “hand me the pistol hanging from your belt in front of everyone? If you can make me admit to taking it; I will accept the theft too.” There was stunned silence all around. Our experiences shape our comprehension. I remembered this event watching leaders of our imported regime lie through their teeth with a straight face. Our nations’ horizons are darkened by all the crap flying around. PM Sharif is advocating letting a regime complete its term, and the need for a comprehensive dialogue to prevent it from happening again! What hypocrisy! Sharifs learnt the power of media early in their game. Their backers sought the PTI’s help in navigating the minefield laid out by PDM themselves in negotiations with IMF! What nonsense! Qabza goons have taken over your home and then ask you to help with plumbing connections! Sharif’s modus operandi is a four-step approach, it is now quite predictable. 1. Appease and bribe. 2. Squeeze and coerce. 3. Attack viciously. 4. Eliminate the opponent or run away to repeat the same. Sharifs learnt the power of media early in their game. They are fewer in number and easier to buy and manipulate. Whoever does not submit is given treatment number 2; squeeze and coerce. Their playbook is fully operational. It is a matter of survival for PM Sharif; if this regime falls apart his political goose is cooked. Sharifs were never confused about their priorities. They had to remove the noose around their necks due to massive looting. NAB has been made toothless. Laws are being amended to benefit money launderers and the corrupt elite. The EC is in full swing. Systemic election fraud is afoot. PTI votes are being moved away from their addresses. Constituencies are being reshaped to hurt PTI. PTI MPAs announcement is wrongly held up. Fair elections are out the window through blocking EVMs. Voting rights of Overseas Pakistanis have been chopped fearing they will support PTI. Price hikes are a windfall for their corrupt mafia. Hoarders are tipped off before a price increase. They stock to the brim on old prices and rake in profits at the new price. Food, energy and water shortages are killing the common man. Food riots can erupt any time. Miftah’s cynical laughter has poured salt in their wounds. PM Sharif’s foreign trips on a begging spree yielded no results. After ISPR’s condemnation, Bilawal woke up from his prolonged holidays on the blasphemy issue. PM Sharif’s team is selling their narrative through their bonded minions; the unprincipled bribe takers that control the conventional media. TV channels have all been muzzled except ARY and BOL. Some in print media are their “bandees,” enslaved consorts. PML(N) forgot to update their playbook of eighties and nineties. This is 2022, the age of social media. Fearless youngsters are exposing and debunking their lies. New heroes have emerged. What are the facts? Under PTI, the economy was growing by six per cent. Exports and remittances achieved their highest levels hovering around $30 billion each. Industrial growth was seven per cent. IT sector was booming. Safety nets like Ehsas program, youth funding, health cards, panahgahs, and many such initiatives supported the needy. Cheaper energy imports were in the works. Inflation was being managed. The country was poised for an economic takeoff. Stability in Pakistan was unacceptable to hostile foreign powers. They found crooks willing to be partners within Pakistan espousing for a NRO 2. This unholy matrimony has brought the country to the brink of disaster. Inflation is galloping at 20 per cent. Exports are dropping like a brick. Rupee value is in freefall. Mafias are raking in profits while the common man is on life support. Remittances have dropped by nearly a billion. New budget will with lead to hyper inflation. The perpetuators of this national disaster need to reflect. Incorrigibly corrupt PML(N) is busy eliminating opponents that stand in their way. Their enablers have much bigger stakes. A bankrupt Pakistan will compromise our nuclear deterrent capabilities. Establishment has been the bond that has kept the country together. They cannot allow Pakistan to crash. Neutrality is not an option. It needs to be converted into an emergency landing. An economic meltdown will drown us all. Egos have no place in the face of a disaster. There is still time to prevent the inevitable through a course correction. Act to stop a 21st century disaster. The writer is the director of CERF, a non-profit, charitable organisation in Canada.