There was a time when every Police Station was mandated to maintain ‘Basta B’ (B Bag), which had the names of all the ‘Badmash’ (Rustlers, Ruffins Bullies, Gangsters) of their area. According to Justice Muhammad Rustam Kiyani (M.R. Kiyani), the most outstanding judge of the Lahore High Court who rose to be its Chief Justice in the decade of the sixties was invited to visit the West Pakistan Assembly, he was surprised to see familiar faces in the house. The journey of these people from gangsters to rulers is very fascinating because they became the ultimate rulers of that place.
On inquiry, he found out that some of these names appeared before him when he was posted as District and Session Judge in Gujranwala. All ‘Basta B’ individuals were marked while their activities were closely monitored. After the first Martial Law in October 1958, a vast majority of them were elected to the parliament. Kiyani Sahib tried his best to fight back this imposed menace but he could see the impending disaster as the ‘Badmash’ had now become ‘Badshah’ (King). They were elected through the ‘Sarkari League’ that operated from the Muslim League House on Davis Road.
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When high profile Goondas used to control the cities
While they operated occupied the legislative branch, cities were put under the control of high-profile ‘Goondas’. Lahore the capital of West Pakistan was under two well-known ‘Badmash’. Acha Shookar Wala operated in the city with his headquarter in the Qila Gujjar Singh area while Jagga Gujjar controlled Multan Road and the surroundings including the ‘Bakar Mandi’ where he imposed ‘Jagga Tax’ on every animal that was sold there. Acha was close to Governor Malik Amir Muhammad Khan who bestowed him with awards for his services to the city. Jagga was his own man who protected his domain without the help of the administrative machinery.
After the 1965 war, student demonstrations started against the dictator. Ayub Khan decided to replace the governor. General Musa Khan the retiring Army Chief replaced Amir Muhammad Khan the tyrant. Musa Sahib was a gentle soul who wanted to create a soft image of his government. He ordered an operation clean-up. Most ‘Goondas’ were rounded up and eliminated through Police encounters but the ‘Badmash’ within the legislature survived as they were needed to fight the political battles of the dictator. In the first free and fair elections in 1970, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Con) the ‘Sarkari Party’ was routed. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won big in West Pakistan.
The democratic era was short-lived
After July 1977, the third usurper created a fresh ‘Basta B’ gang which has continued unabated till today. It did not end here. Pervez Musharraf the fourth dictator started off well but fell into the same trap. First, he joined hands with ‘Basta B’ individuals of the past and then created some of his own. In the end through his NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) he left the biggest mess of all time. Corrupt elements were given a free hand to loot and plunder, first it was PPPs turn and then PML-Ns.
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Habib Jalib the revolutionary poet wrote an interesting line, “Likhe Thay Nam Jin Kay Thano Main Who Shamil Hain Hukumranon Main” (Those individuals whose names were recorded in the Police Stations are in the corridors of power). This has been the biggest tragedy of Pakistan whose effects have to be neutralized. There are suggestions of setting up a ‘Truth and Reconcilliation Commission’ where perpetrators can come and admit to their past mistakes and seek forgiveness. It is not a bad idea if the sinners leave the arena for all times to come. The good old ‘Basta B’ can be revisited and restored to avoid any future mess from unscrupulous individuals.
Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi the founder of the ‘Chaudhry Dynasty of Gujrat’ who was himself a dismissed Sub-Inspector introduced ‘Thana Politics’ to get the ‘Badmash’ into the legislatures. His son Chaudhry Shujahat Hussain and nephew Pervaiz Elahi continue to be important players in politics. The infamous Muslim League House is also in their possession. During his long stints as Interior Minister, Chaudhry Shujahat together with the Sharifs of Gawalamndi recruited ‘Basta B’ individuals into the Police force converting them into a criminal outfit that the people have to deal with. Thanks to these established politicians, the outlaws are now the custodians of law which is why convictions do not take place.
Even the appointments in the judiciary leave a lot to be desired
While the Sharifs are under the NAB radar, the Chaudhrys have succeeded in getting away, their ‘Mitti Pao’ approach has worked for them while ‘Muk Maka’ of Sharifs has not. This blatant ‘Badshahi of the Badmash’ has to be dismantled. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a constitutional democracy where rule of law must prevail. Not only free and fair elections but the constitutional requirements of the contestants have also to be met. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, all candidates have to be first cleared by a council before contesting elections.
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The Shah of Iran also ruled through the ‘Badmash’ who was then tried and executed after the revolution in 1979. During one of my visits to Iran, I brought about the question of this mass cleansing, straight came the answer, “Those who worked against the people cannot be spared”. It reminds me of the famous English saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. These spoilt children of ‘Basta B’ have to be handled with an Iron Rod if Pakistan has to be saved otherwise this gloom and doom will continue with disastrous consequences. As a nation we have to decide our course, the ‘B’ in the ‘Basta’ will stand for ‘Badmash’ or ‘Badshah’.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.