Perspectives on Pakistan
Guest contribution:March events ignite hope of change in Pakistan
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is a former High Commissioner of Pakistan and advisor to the late Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan.
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
In his historic play Julius Caesar Shakespeare uses Ides of March to warn the Roman Emperor the tragic fate that was in store for him. And ever since ides of March is used as an appropriate phrase as a precursor to events of far-reaching consequences. In case of Pakistan’s history too this month has great significance on various counts. First and foremost, the Muslims in the sub-continent decided to seek and establish a separate independent homeland through a resolution adopted by All-India Muslim League on March 23, 1940 under the dynamic leadership of its leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah. And it was an astounding achievement-entirely to the credit of Mr Jinnah-that within the short span of seven years Pakistan was carved out of the Indian sub-continent to be a secular Muslim state to ensure freedom and equality to all its citizens-irrespective of their caste, creed or colour.
It is regretfully stated that his vision was distorted by self-conceited power troika comprising of the military, civil and judicial bureaucracy in league with the Mullahs who had opposed Mr Jinnah and Pakistan. His secular ideology was replaced with a so-called Nazaria Pakistan (religioin-based ideology) by which Pakistan was in time to come was to become a theocratic state. Pakistan’s slide today under President Pervez Musharraf has brought the country to such a pass that it has almost become a failed state on the verge of meeting the fate of Yugoslavia.
March has once again placed Pakistan face to face with an opportunity not only save the country but to translate into reality Mr Jinnah’s dream of a democratic and liberal Pakistan. On March 17 the nation proudly witnessed the coming into being of the elected National Assembly historically pitched to uproot the last vestiges of military dictatorship and to usher in people’s democracy amidst stories that the usurper general has decided to run for his life seeking refuge in countries that he had served better than Pakistan. On March 19 Pakistan became yet another first-thanks to Pakistan People’s Party-to elect a woman as the Speaker of the National Assembly.
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had herself set the blaze by becoming the first ever woman prime minister in a Muslim country. And she would have indeed broken the record third time had she been not assassinated late last year. Highly competent and respected Dr Fahmida’s Mirza’s election as National Assembly Speaker is yet another step forward towards empowerment of women-a mission pursued with religious conviction by martyred Benazir Bhutto and her party PPP and its present leadership.
The PPP-PML(N)-ANP-JUI coalition that has been clobbered sagaciously by PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML(N) leader Mian Nawaz Sharif-as a national consensus response– will have to face the insurmountable challenges of the dark legacy of Musharraf’s mismanagement, reign of loot and plunder during his long dictatorship in cahoots with the political scavengers.
The task before the Coalition is onerous. It will have to take certain decisions that shall make or mar Pakistan’s future. Immediately it shall have to provide instant relief to the poor who cannot make their sustenance possible because of Musharraf-Shaukat Aziz pursued economic policies that made the rich richer and poor poorer. And along with that, they shall have to mobilise the nation to fight terrorism through a battle that would mostly require winning the hearts and minds of the tribal people who have been abused by Musharraf as the villain of the piece for blackmailing the Americans and the West that without him they cannot fight the terrorism menace. He has successfully made them believe him that he is solver of the problem and not part of the problem as is perceived by almost the entire nation. Obviously the crucial issue regarding the restoration of judiciary is also important. Hopefully it will be resolved in a manner that it will not only kill the snake but not break the stick–that is– without affecting the power and majesty of the Parliament.
In politics a week is a long time especially when there is a megalomaniac in power who would go to any end for his own survival. Although not much time is left for the transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people, one however feels apprehensive of the proverbial slip between the cup and the lips. Reports are that he is trying his best to re-play 2002 again and break the grand coalition to bring in a gang of power scavengers through the back door. He is at it in raising an old hand as his Quisling in PPP. Unlike 2002 when he was both President and the Army Chief, now denuded of his military uniform–he is a toothless wolf who can only bark but cannot bite. Whatever-one must not under-estimate the enemy. The best response to his machinations is for the Pakistani people, their democratic leaders and civil society to remain united and vigilant to collectively counter all his spanners in the wheels that will move the Pakistani nation onto a road to a sound democratic future.