Askari Raza Malik
A bus carrying a hundred politicians crashed near a farm. The farmer dug a mass grave and promptly buried them all. The police chief asked him, “were they all dead?” “Some said they were not. But you know the way politicians are”. The quip is purely American. On this side of the seven seas politicians are also perceived to be liars. Some solace. There was a Persian poet by the name of Anwari. One day he heard someone reciting his poems in public. He was amused, “but the poems belong to Anwari”, he intervened. Yes, the man replied, “I am Anwari”. This is subcontinental politics. Bragging knows no bounds. Was Jinnah a typical sub-continental politician? He was not like Gandhi and he was not at all like Nehru. There was no one like him even in his own party. Gandhi and Nehru went to people, worked Khadi, “wore Khadi”, and became one with common man. Jinnah did not seek people. He made them follow him. Calling him a politician was a misnomer. He was a statesman of higher domains. It was his compelling sincerity, unquestionable integrity and above all, acute God Consciousness that guided him to achieve his sacred mission. Mission was holy and blessed as it was assigned to Jinnah by no less a person than Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself, when he was fully awake or He (PBUH) had appeared to him in his dream. “It does not matter” as either way it means the same, says Dr Allan Keislar.
Politicians in Pakistan were a disappointment from day one when Jinnah termed them as “fake coins in my pocket”. Liaqat Ali never seemed to trust them either. That is why perhaps he intentionally delayed the constitution. The draft constitution proposing parliamentary democracy moved by prime minister Muhammad Ali Bogra was angrily rejected by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad. His decision was challenged in the Apex Court. The plea was rejected. The 1956 constitution presented by Ch. Muhammad Ali was a muddled mix of a parliamentary democracy with unprecedented and uncharacteristic powers for the president. It was readily approved. In 1950’s all the big wigs appeared to firmly hold Charles de Gaulle’s view, “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians”. Ghulam Muhammad, the Governor General, Iskandar Mirza, the Defence Minister, the Army Chief, Ayub Khan and even the Chief Justice who had turned down the case of Muhammad Ali Bogra all seemed to be convinced that the politicians needed a check on their activities. That is why the 1956 constitution was considered workable. When Ayub Khan took over he brought in the presidential form. His impression of the politicians’ ruthless, unscrupulous and uncouth behavior in and outside Parliament from his East Pakistan exposure to politics had been disgusting. He abolished the political parties in October 1958, promulgated “Elected Bodies Disqualification Order”, EBDO, in August,1959 and disqualified about 6000 persons half of them from the Eastern Wing. It included at least 75 prominent politicians from both the wings of the country. Zia and Musharraf are recent history.
One can remember the politicians of those days as a bunch of untrustworthy squabbling men and women with no holds barred, ruthlessly in pursuit of power by any means in a cut-throat and pitiless competition. They never had a sense of direction or political purpose except gaining and retaining power by hook or crook. There were some honorable exceptions though, lost in the crowed of a corrupt and mediocre majority. Muslims have produced some great personalities, very few indeed. Their virtues were larger than life. Their faults insignificant by comparison. The historian in reverence for them have refrained from judging them. Pakistan has tried to mimic Islamic history. We have created a good number of holy cows, who had huge faults of primitive nature. Holy they are nevertheless. Try and analyze their doings and undoing and leave your family to regret your blunder. Some of them opposed the very idea of Pakistan. Immediately on independence they assumed its full ownership. This atrocity is now being perceived as the most legitimate claim. Their ‘forefathers had laid untold sacrifices during struggle for independence’, a preposterous claim indeed.
They are others who gained power, but lost half of Pakistan. They died paying for their sins. We call them martyrs. This uncontrollable greed for power also took some more lives, increasing the number of martyrs to commemorate their more imagined than real ideals. Some of them are now legends with their lofty ideologies which are too spurious to be dilated upon publically. Some came to power by door-crashing. We have their names on the honor boards and their portraits filling the national galleries. We never question their method of coming to power. We condone their usurpation and thus become a party to it. The Elections 2018 have done strange things. People fed up with abject poverty and gross injustice have voted for change. Imran Khan has started with stranger ideas. His austerity drive will be hard to swallow even for his own party mates. Hundreds of cars and thousands of servants are being surrendered along with other royal perks. An across the board justice plans to make no distinction between a high cast and lowly thief. The defeated lot is pestering Imran Khan to fulfil his promises immediately. They conveniently forget that the promises made by them and their grandfathers have yet to be fulfilled despite being in power several times. It is time for the politicians of the hackneyed type to put their act together. They should now leave their heavenly niches and come down to earth to face the ground realities. Old mantras including the ‘Charter of Democracy’ (read kleptocracy) have failed them. It only behooves them to learn to act a constructive opposition. IK and party have a Herculean task ahead of leading the nation out of the thick woods. The opposition, in way of asking God’s forgiveness must help them deliver.
— The writer, a retired Maj Gen, is freelance columnist based in Rawalpindi.