It’s a rare coincidence to see a daughter graduate on her mother’s birthday. I wish martyred Benazir Bhutto (born 21st June 1953) was around in Oxford today. She would have been the most happy and proud mother to see her youngest daughter—Aseefa Bhutto Zardari—do that. With pounding hearts we all set there in the majestic auditorium—her father former President Asif Ali Zardari, her elder brother Bilawal and sister Bakhtawar with selected near ones—all gathered to see her receive her degree.
All three siblings and their father have committed their lives to protect and serve the ideals of freedom, democracy, equality and whatever pristine values of humankind that Quaid-i-Azam, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and martyred Benazir Bhutto stood far. Not undermining my affection for both Bilawal and Bakhtawar and their respective blossoming talents, I see Aseefa a replica of her iconic mother—the only larger than life leader Pakistan ever had.
With my heartiest congratulations for “my dearest Aseefa” I do not find myself fully at it as I cannot conceive how Pakistan would shape up with the passage of time for the future generations. I remember her mother had warned President George W.Bush Sr that in Taliban he was creating a Frankenstein that would be impossible to put back in the bottle. Now what she predicted is coming home to roost. Perhaps that Frankenstein was created by design to play havoc with our existence. And also, to take away Benazir Bhutto at the behest of the “monster” who was opposed to her coming back home to lead the country onto richer democratic pastures.
I have reproduced the word “monster” from her email dated 2nd January 2006 to me in response to my new year message and I quote: “ I pray that by the will of Allah 2006 marks the end of the period that began a decade a go…Our people deserve better, as does our Nation, than an unelected monster imposing one man rule through the power of the gun who bends over backwards to lick the boots of his foreign masters and has no respect for his own people…Pakistan as a nation state is endangered by his myopic vision”.
Today the same “monster” is one of the main factors causing the rocking democratic boat while the “illegitimate children” of his foreign mentors have imposed most evil war on us that the valiant armed forces have to fight and the nation to face its consequences.
The “monster” was in cahoots with them for the elimination of Benazir Bhutto until their coming almost 80 miles away from Islamabad getting ready to capture it. Had the “monster” not gone, had there been no PPP government under President Zardari and translation into action plan Benazir Bhutto’s policy of national reconciliation, had not PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif co-operated in thwarting all machinations for derailing democracy—it would have been all over.
Despite orchestrated campaigning against PPP government made to live moment to moment until it defied all the doomsayers and completed its five years with landmark constitutional achievements and leaving behind a legacy of democratic survival kit. It was definitely wisdom of Zardari and patience for his turn shown by PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif that made the dauntless Pakistanis waddle through rivers of blood, mayhems, and wide spread Taliban terrorism to see transfer of power from one democratic government to another through elections.
No doubt Taliban and other non-state elements did their utmost to subvert the elections. Political parties with liberal and progressive ideological credentials had been singled out as their targets. Killing of progressive politicians meant support to those who were opposed to their droning.
Once again PPP by supporting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a time when he is under attack from all sides—has shown how faithful the party is to the democratic legacy of Benazir Bhutto. Just one year in power all those who are masquerading as democrats—although one time or the other they were in cahoots with the “monster” are ganging up against him. Mysterious killings, law and order situation and other problems making life nasty, brutish and short donot seem to augur well for our fragile democratic dispensation.
The military operation in North Waziristan now launched at much larger scale and much more seriously should be end all. For people like us it is more of an ideological war—a war between progressive forces and those who want to Talibanise Pakistan. More so it is also a battle between liberal forces that want to revert to Quaid-e-Azam’s egalitarian Pakistan to save it from those extremists who want to capture it and convert it into a Talibanised state of their own.
While one can understand the predicament of the liberal forces that had suffered enormously but bravely the increasing bloody onslaught on them to wipe them out both by Taliban and other state and non-state actors in cahoots with them, it is high time for the electronic media who had for long benefited by running with the democratic hare while hunting with the Taliban hounds. Their war of rating has brought them to a pass in which bold journalists like Hamid Mir get attacked, channels are castrated or pruned.
We have seen end result of talks with Taliban. There is no relation between war and dialogue. One cannot have both at the same time. Not many have yet understood the end game of the Taliban. It is their war against those who oppose them ideologically and they want to capture the state of Pakistan first by defeating liberal and secular elements then to move on to take on the armed forces of Pakistan. Their preference has always been to have pliable political elements in power who could pave way for them to attain their ultimate goal of converting Pakistan into Talibanistan.
One may have political and other differences but one must remember that to live decently and be part of comity of civilised nations as well defend Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan from being hijacked into getting converted into an obscurantist state of blood-thirsty bigots we must—whatever our vocation— get united.
Unfortunately looking at the war between channels and also elsewhere in politics I am forced to remind every one about the fatal predicament of famous German Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public enemy of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, despite his ardent nationalism. And I quote Niemöller’s perhaps best quote for posterity and our leaders, jouranalists and others who matter on both sides of the divide to learn a lesson from:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Indecisiveness on our part—especially at the political and other levels—made Taliban take it for granted that we can bark but not bite. It is good now that we are out there to teach them a lesson that the state of Pakistan is not toothless and they can not bulldoze their regressive ideology and impose it on us as an alternative to democracy. Surely we are in a battle for now or never and as things get tough we as a nation shall have to get tougher.
The author is the longest serving former high commissioner of Pakistan to the UK
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