THE word “character” is a very common expression that is frequently used by all and sundry. Despite its universally correct usage, there is no unanimously agreed upon definition of character, because of its complicated connotations. Some of the simplest definitions of character are: “character is something indefinable without which no one can ever be great”, “character is the courage to stand by what one considers right, even at the cost of one’s life”, etc. Integrity, truthfulness, steadfastness, moral courage, etc., are considered the essential attributes of a man of character. These expressions are also sometimes used as the synonyms of character, e.g. “lack integrity”, or “lack moral courage” are oftaaen used for a person who is considered, “lacking character”. There is a wise saying; “If you tell truth, you don’t have to remember anything”. What this sagely maxim implies, is; the truthful are consistently consistent, while the untruthful are consistently inconsistent or rarely consistent. If the above definition of character is applied to the politicians, who have been occupying important positions for the last many decades, there may be very few individuals, possessing these character traits. In fact, moral courage, integrity, steadfastness, self-esteem, etc., are among the major disqualifications to survive in this field, which is a full-time risk-free business that requires Machiavellian approach. Most politicians act upon the famous Machiavellian maxim, “end justifies the means”. For the majority of such politicians, the sole end of politics is the survival in this arena through any means for the purpose of gaining power and influence to amass more and more riches.
Soon after becoming the Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appointed landlords as the Governors and Chief Ministers of all the provinces. A few party workers, belonging to poor class, appointed on unimportant positions, had his tacit consent to better the financial plight of their families. When ideological Marxists in Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) showed reservations to such practices, Bhutto, according to Dr Mubashar Hassan, a co-founder of PPP, told them that he required;” one type of team to gain power, and another type of team to retain power”. Team to run the government. The government of ZA Bhutto was toppled by General Muhammad Zia ul Haq, Chief of the Army Staff, on July 5, 1977. After Bhutto’s removal and execution, subsequently on April 4, 1979, only his daughter, Ms Benazir Bhutto, struggled to uphold her father’s political legacy, despite heavy odds during General Zia’s rule that lasted till his death in an air crash on August 17, 1988. Most of Bhutto’s close aides chose to hibernate during Zia’s regime.
Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, one of Bhutto’s self-respecting political aides, shared in an interview on a TV Channel before his death; he left politics solely because he was mentally not ready to accept Benazir Bhutto or anyone else as his leader after Bhutto’s death. Mr Pirzada must be one of the rare politicians who preferred quitting politics over compromising on principles. Unlike Pirzada, some equally important PPP leaders, like Mumtaz Ali Bhutto and Ghulam Mustafa Khar, besides changing half a dozen political parties, did not mind aligning even with the archrival of Bhutto and PPP. The self-proclaimed ideological workers of PPP, like Nazir Nagi, Pervaiz Rashid, Raja Muhammad Anwar, etc. remained politically inactive during Zia’s regime. Their old colleagues, who were fully aware of their real religo-political views, were shocked when they learned that these ideological Marxists had reappeared on the political stage as the staunch supporters of the Sharif Dynasty in early 1990s. A few stalwarts of democracy in PPP, like Raza Rabbani, Aitzaz Ahsan and others, who do not have their own home constituencies, showing remarkable steadfastness to Bhutto’s “Mission”, willingly accepted Asif Ali Zardari (known for all the wrong reasons) as the legitimate and rightful heir of his political legacy and belongings after the assassination of his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, in December 2007. No other options being available to them for their political survival, they look quite comfortable working under the leadership of Zardari’s amateurish son, who became the sole Scion of Bhutto Family, after adopting “Bhutto” as his first surname.
he consistently inconsistent politicians are found in every political party. Mushahid Hussain Syed, a professionally sound journalist, opted to join PML (N) to start a political career, in early 1990s. He left his party during the testing times to become a supporter of Pervaiz Musharraf. Besides serving as a Federal Minister, he held important positions in PML (Q). He rejoined PML (N) before the Senate elections. He was not only accepted, but also nominated as the PML (N) candidate for the Senate elections. Dr Babar Awan filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan pleading to reopen the trial of ZA Bhutto to consolidate his position in PPP. But once sidelined by his party leadership, because of the skilful manoeuvring of his rival group, headed by Aitzaz Ahsan, he left PPP to join Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). PTI and PML (N) have virtually become refurbished PPP and PML (Q), respectively.
Moral courage is also defined as the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and to have the courage to standby what one considers as right, at all cost. Mian Nawaz Sharif idolized General Zia, and vowed to uphold his political legacy for eleven years after his death. But, after the October 12, 1999 coup, Nawaz Sharif started referring to Zia as a military dictator, who had hanged an elected Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif fully supported the Supreme Court judgment against the sitting Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, but when the Supreme Court gave judgment against him in the Panama Case, he started scandalizing the judges of Supreme Court as the facilitators of military dictators. The Assets Declaration Scheme, announced by PTI government on Tuesday, if viewed in the backdrop of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s (a self-proclaimed Champion of U-Turns) comments on the Amnesty Scheme announced by the PML (N) government, he would stand tall among the consistently inconsistent politicians.
— The writer, a retired Brig, is professional educationist based in Islamabad.