Guest contribution: Pakistan’s March trysts with destiny

By Reuters Staff
March 21, 2009

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. Wajid Shamsul Hasan is the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain and a former adviser to the late Benazir Bhutto.

                     By Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan High Commissioner            

March is a landmark month for Pakistan. Notwithstanding the Shakespearean Ides of March, it became a historic month for us as a nation when under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah Muslim representatives from all over the subcontinent decided to seek, strive and achieve a separate homeland. On March 23, 1940, the Pakistan Resolution was adopted in Lahore and in seven years Pakistan was established through the power of the vote.

It was last year in this month – after having been waylaid for nearly a decade by a dictator -democracy was restored and a National Assembly went into operation with a unanimously elected Prime Minister. The road to democracy was strewn with the blood of martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She had ended her self-exile and was forewarned of danger from those who had opposed her populist politics of empowerment of the people and who wanted her out of their way.

Writing in March last year while predicting tough times for the nation including a threat to its integrity, I had expressed apprehensions that many masquerading as champions of democracy would come out of their closet and under one pretext or the other – adopt a parochial and confrontationist line to shake the applecart of democracy.

Though March will be over soon and the controversial judicial issue settled to the satisfaction of the interested and affected parties, we can only look forward to a national turn-around if our leadership adopts singularity of purpose and devotes itself whole-heartedly to solving the problems faced by the common people and mobilises the nation to fight terrorism to save the country from being taken over by barbarians who are on the rampage to destroy Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan and convert it into a theocratic state.

The nation needs to be warned that these warring pagans are after our territory and want to destroy whatever progress we have achieved. They are in fact out there to destabilize Pakistan so that there is excuse good enough for them take over of our vital national assets.

The masses also need to distinguish between those leaders who are committed to the preservation of the federation for which Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and martyred Benazir Bhutto laid down their lives and those who do not get tired of pledging their lives for the country but only seek their survival through parochial slogans. Many similar slogans invoking Punjabi chauvinism were raised recently during the judicial crisis.

In this context what the nation needs to be cautious about is that the President who is the symbol of federal unity – ever since he ushered in an era of reconciliation and politics of consensus as part of the Benazir Bhutto legacy – has been singled out as a target for character-assassination through a media blitzkrieg.

Indeed, no one single political family in modern history has given so many lives to the cause of democracy and people of its country as did the Bhuttos. Indeed, only a woman and a mother as strong as Begum Nusrat Bhutto, though tragically ill, could have survived the judicial murder of her husband, the state-plotted killing of her two sons and cold bloodied  assassination of her most illustrious daughter-all in the prime of their lives.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were committed to reviving the Quaid’s secular, liberal and progressive Pakistan. Now her widower – President Asif Ali Zardari – too is committed to the same goal especially when forces of obscurantism are mortally threatening the very existence of the country. Mr Jinnah’s vision was regretfully distorted by the self-conceited power troika comprising of the military, civil and judicial bureaucracy in league with the clerics who had opposed Mr Jinnah and Pakistan. His liberal ideology was replaced with a so-called Nazaria Pakistan, something akin to making Pakistan a theocratic state. This is the objective of those now attacking our territorial sovereignty and integrity.

The task before the government is onerous. It will have to take certain decisions that shall make or mar Pakistan’s future. Immediately it will have to provide instant relief to the poor who cannot make their sustenance possible because of the past policies making the rich richer and poor poorer. And along with that, it will have to mobilise the nation to fight terrorism through a battle that would mostly require winning the hearts and minds of the people and making the people genuine stake-holders.

Politics is a game of uncertainty especially when egomaniacs are on the loose. Yesterday it was the judicial crisis, tomorrow they will come up with yet another to put the government on tenterhooks.

(The writer is High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain and former adviser to the late Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto)

(Reuters file photo of Benazir Bhutto in 1998)

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