Sunday, April 5, 2009

Is there a Redeemer?

By Saeed Qureshi

The agonising fact is that the Pakistani leadership either in government or in opposition seldom looked to be having scant interest in the survival of Pakistan. Presently, the party in power is in the hands of such individuals who cannot think beyond their personal ends. After the establishment of an elected government last year, the woeful saga of returning to the promised goal of a democratic order and a civil society remained suspended, on the stage of Pakistan, like a Shakespearian tragedy, for pretty one year. The revival of true democratic system after a period of 8 years of authoritarian rule should have been the most coveted and urgent agenda for all the political players who have been crying hoarse for a representative dispensation during the time, when they were out of the power arena. Now they themselves are following in the foot prints of their unworthy predecessors.

It appears as if every political party, from MQM, ANP, PPP to the religious outfits, is trying and waiting for Pakistan to further dismember or entirely disappear from the globe. Now under the pressure from the relgious lobbies, Pakistan’s early power wielders gave it the name of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Thereafter, all the successive governments had remained hostage in the hands of the rabble- rousing and riotous relgious factions and entities. Every ruler in Pakistan tried his best to woo and submit to the whims and demands of the relgious extremists who have been howling all along after the creation of Pakistan for an Islamic order.

This Islamic order was first ushered in Pakistan by a secular and socialist prime minister whose name was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Mr Bhutto, in order to save his government, went over backward to strike an abominable deal with ultra right forces of Pakistan. He was the one whose mandate was to establish a secular, liberal, democratic society, resplendent with civil liberties and egalitarianism. Notwithstanding his other master feats such as liberating captured Pakistani POWS from India and giving the first good constitution to Pakistan, the distasteful betrayal of his own revolutionary agenda nullified all the good work that he had done.

Now it is all right for Jamat-e-Islami or JUI to declare Friday as closed holiday, ban races and clubs and use of alcohol. But for a person who was supposed to be the upholder of secularism, socialism and enlightenement, such drastic relgious injunctions brought forth the eloquent testimony to the bizarre realization that he was not honest or sincere about his own progressive manifesto. The PPP”s manifesto, if factually implemented, would have served as landmark for Pakistan’s glorious future as a modern state. He succumbed before the pressure and dictates of the obscurantist lobbies and turned the other way round that ultimately landed him in his tragic end. Not only that he lost power but his life as well. The trail of Bhutto family bereavements is the consequence of ZAB’s throwing to the winds, his own vision and creed.

General Ziaul Haq’s ignoble era was an era of doom for the progressive forces and votaries of civil society and indeed a boom for the relgious right who thrived under the state patronage. Gen Zia’s regime tore Pakistan from within along ethnic and religious lines. By defeating Soviet Union with the backing of western capitalist countries and their unlimited financial largesse and weaponry, he established that the Jihadis were a potent and invincible force. A complete and unchallengeable sway of the relgious militants was already established in neighboring Afghanistan and was waiting for the right time to spill over to Pakistan. That frightening doom’s day scenario has finally happened and we can witness it all over Pakistan.

The governments that followed Ziaul Haq were not motivated enough to remedy the situation and to check the swelling influence of the relgious militants. Amazingly, while Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reneged on his revolutionary charter of change, his daughter Benazir Bhutto created a Frankenstein of Taliban that is getting, pervasive, fearsome, violent, defiant and diabolic with the time passage. They are emboldened by the latest turn of events in that the PPP government has surrendered the sovereignty of the state of Pakistan to these uncultured practitioners and preachers of distorted version of Islam. Incidentally, it is once again Asif Zardari, a member of the Bhutto clan who by conceding to the demand of Taliban to establish their judicial system in swat, has pushed Pakistan into the lap of brute conservatism. A theocratic state within a sovereign nation state is in existence. The Taliban unless checked, won’t wait for long to spread their tentacles to the rest of the country. Can a patriotic head of state agree to such an absurdity?

Musharraf exhibited a complete sell out of Pakistan’s sovereignty to the foreign imperialist agenda. Had Musharraf been more democratic and had not infringed the constitution, his role as an opponent of the Taliban and other similar fundamentalist bands would have earned the support of the people. His penchant to stay in power by violation of constitution and misuse of his status landed him in trouble and leveled off his good work also.

If any one likes to suffer from the illusion that ANP and JUI and JI wish Pakistan well and want to see it stable and surviving then such a person should better read the history of Pakistan’s freedom movement. These three parties were in the forefront to block the creation of Pakistan. I don’t see any change of heart even now on their part. The only change is that they have changed their tactics.

Likewise, the impression that the MQM wants Pakistan to remain as a geographically intact state is patently far from truth and is not supported by the ever changing postures of this politically very potent and cohesive community. The reports were out in the past that they were clandestinely in favor of rejoining India and get the chunk of Urban Sindh to be under their tutelage either as part of Indian federation or as an independent state like Bangladesh.

President Zardari who joined the bandwagon of power by sheer luck and who suffers from the guilt ridden conscience, would rather see Pakistan truncated under the nagging paranoid that he will be, sooner or later, held accountable for his past convictions and crimes. The NRO that gave amnesty and immunity to his misdeeds by a dictator for self protection cannot remain effective for ever. It is a monstrous legal infringement and a national crime that cannot remain under the carpet for all time to come.

The Baluch Liberation Movement is gaining strength and momentum. That poses one of the gravest dangers to the solidarity of the federation of Pakistan. Tribal belt is in a state of exacerbating turmoil. It is beyond the competence of both provincial and federal governments to douse the flames of rebellion and insurgency in Tribal regions as well as in Swat and Dir valleys. In Punjab that was deemed as a safe haven thus far, Taliban are launching deadly forays to demonstrate their ability to strike anywhere in Pakistan.

While being unquestionably patriotic, Nawaz Sharif, in his two stints as the prime minister of Pakistan, was reckless and intolerant. There is also some good work to his credit? But by virtue of his ego-centric temperament he was an extremist in his likes and dislikes: generous to his friends and punitive to his foes. People generally were hard pressed during his governance also because he had a hatchet man like senator Saif-ur-Rehman who was as vindictive with his inquisitions as a devil. Nawaz Sharif tried to be a kind of caliph with absolute powers. But after a grueling decade of exile he seems to have settled down and now talks like a seasoned and sober politician. In all likelihood, he might desist from his past wrong doings.

Imran Khan is an emotionally charged yet sincere son of the soil. His outpourings reflect his unimpeachable character and earnestness of the purpose behind his political camapgining. He speaks with a strong conviction to see the encompassing rot and mess to be put in order by harsh and uncompromising measures. But despite his absolute sincerity and patriotic exuberance, his party has yet to go a long way to win the elections in order to sit in the government.

The army remains neutral and sits on the fence as long as politicians behave. The burecurats, the business robber barons and the feudal lords being strong pressure groups tilt with the direction of the wind and the way their interests are served. They have no interest whether Pakistan stays or not.

The poor and dispossessed people of Pakistan and the country itself have remained at the mercy of these cut throat, inimical leaders and self serving power groups since independence. A politically viable and economically stable Pakistan has ever remained an elusive dream. The crisis now is at the breaking point which if not arrested might break the country as well. The military intrusion of United States in this region with an anti terrorism agenda puts an unbearable burden on Pakistan. As a result, the very survival and stability of Pakistan is in grave jeopardy. The Indians are waiting for the curtain to fall. Is there some one from among the Pakistani leaders who can stop this calamitous down slide and reverse the dreadful drift?

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