People and politics


Askari Raza Malik

THE founder of the nation died. His only sister, the ‘Mother of the Nation’ was not allowed press coverage for two long years. Nothing happened. Liaquat Ali Khan, the ‘leader of the nation’ was killed. Ayub Khan, the then C-in-C, cut his London tour short and rushed to join the nation in mourning. According to him it was a shock to see, ‘business as usual’, a queer calm, in the corridors of power. Then came big events like dismissal of Khawaja Nazimuddin’s government, one of the stalwarts from the Eastern wing, followed by premature demise of Muhammad Ali Bogra’s government, not a leaf stirred.
Much to the grief and shame of his party men, Qyume Khan offered apologies to Ayub Khan to secure his release from the prison. According to him, he was old and sick and could no more bear the hardships of the prison. In those days there were no ACs, no team of medical experts and ‘home made cuisine’ available to the political prisoners. According to the Khan from KPK, the previous day he had led a political rally with its head at Lahore and the tail wagging at Gujranwala. That had led to the President handing over the country to the ‘Valiant Armed Forces’, the first martial law. The next day Khan was driven back in an open jeep, hand coughed and lonely on the same road that had been a witness to his spectacular show of political power. Not one single soul out of the mammoth crowd that had followed him day before had come out to protest, not a rotten tomato, egg or a stone thrown on his captors. With such a passive people, he lamented; he alone could not have suffered any more.
Z A Bhutto was hanged, Mujib murdered in BD and Muhammad Morsi died in captivity in Cairo. Morsi was a hero of the much-trumpeted ‘Arab Spring’. His following had dissipated in the thin air of political passiveness and nonchalance. The history of the Saracens bears a witness to the fact that tragedies, big and small seldom evoked a worthwhile public reaction. The corridors of power were never seriously challenged and the oppression of the masses continued unabated.
The Muslims as a nation, for a long period of history had been bullied into accepting monarchy as the only form of government. They were compelled to accept any person as their ruler who wielded power without ever questioning the legitimacy of his rule or actions, as long as he was a Muslim, even though in name only. They are ruler worshippers and entertain no ambitions about personal freedom and sense of honour. When the Abbasids rose against the Umayyad, they could not muster enough support from within the status quo loving Arabian Peninsula. They had to bring an army from Khurasan to defeat their opponents. They ruled for hundreds of years as the people were being lulled into slumber by the rulers’ handpicked religious scholars propagating patience, predestination and ultimate reward in the hereafter.
Today, woe stricken majority of people of Pakistan suffer from an additional handicap. They are too busy in their struggle for survival to cherish delicacies like freedom, honour and a democracy that at best remains only nebulous. The so-called political leadership chanting democracy in the name of the people who never existed in their real lives seems to be struggling to reoccupy the centres of power recently vacated by them through, what they describe as political manipulations by the Establishment. Their slogans are old, hectic and trite. They seem to be losing their mantra in the noise and din of corruption charges, which seem to have no end. It is extremely difficult to catch a white-collar thief but the accountability wiz kids seem to be coming at the criminals again and again with renewed vigour. Where the whole conundrum is going to end no one can tell. But any thoughts of public agitation, that could force the government out, needs to be thoroughly examined.
The opposition might be able to stage rallies and sit in strikes. But in the present political scenario the opposition has limited capacity to sustain a long-term agitation. It would not be in terms of days or weeks but perhaps months of ‘The Arab Spring’ type outings to produce substantial results. It does not seem to be possible with the prevailing living conditions in Pakistan. A good majority of the abject poor and the rest teetering on the borders of ‘to be or not to be’ have neither leisure nor the inclination to indulge in active politics. For them all rulers are the same. They were born poor and most will die of hunger and or disease. The so-called middle class has only to lose in a political agitation. The rich are too comfortable in their safe niches to stick their neck out. The option of political agitation holds little promise.
Whether the Opposition is united or not, only the time would tell. But its behaviour is definitely ambivalent; part hawks, part doves. Zardari seemingly intends withdrawing from active politics while Bilawal has been launched on a clear warpath. The younger Sharif seems to be toying with the hazy idea of some sort of economic reconciliation with his niece threatening to expose institutions and personalities alike. It seems to be a two pronged strategy. Such an approach has the inherent disadvantage of dilution of effort becoming evident in opposition’s increasing frustration. The opposition has no plan or individual or collective charisma to upstage the government unless outside help comes to their rescue as another Lawrence of Arabia or some Mr Farland landing in Pakistan in the twilight of Z A Bhutto’s rule.
— The writer, a retired Maj Gen, is freelance columnist based in Rawalpindi.

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