Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 36 | September 5, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  Straight Talk
  Food for Thought
  Special Feature
  One Off
  Star Diary
  Book Review

   SWM Home

One Off

See your not too distant neighbour and learn about the easy way forward!

Aly Zaker

We are the Pakistani generation. Our sense, perception, intelligence or intellect spurted when we had merely reached childhood in that country. Well, then in those days that country used to be here. Here, what is called Bangladesh now. Bangladesh, a country that had dropped on the surface of the mother earth out of nowhere with no past, no antecedents, or even without a raison d'etre! Well we grew up here. Ours has been a mindset that was or is akin to those of the Pakistanis that were. Or that's what seems very pertinent. Therefore, my ranting today is going to be directed at the policy-gofers of today. Though, I suspect that, the younger generation may also share much of what is deliberated upon here.

The founding father of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his first address to the newly found nation had said that, “from today, we should forget that we are Muslims or Hindus or Christians and become Pakistanis”, or some thing to that effect. (I seek apologies if my memory fails in recollecting what we were taught in our schools.) Well, that was quite an egalitarian beginning to an ostensibly religious rancour based state. Though I still cannot figure out why Mr. Jinnah was hell bent upon establishing the so-called 'two-nation' theory. What transpired subsequently is the fact that he was more of a secularist than the devout Muslim that he is painted as by the subsequent Pakistani leaders. In fact, he was perhaps more of a secularist than many of his non-Muslim political counterparts. But he was also a megalomaniac political leader and could not imagine that he'd have to share power with somebody. After he was gone and political squabble for power set in, this most secular; almost non-religious person smiling and wearing a sherwani and, of course, a toupee adorned the hind wall of every Pakistani leader when they addressed the nation. Finally, martial law was proclaimed by General Ayub Khan. And he presented his own constitution calling Pakistan an Islamic Republic. That was a gala occasion and, needless to say, had to be announced through the media by the self proclaimed President of Pakistan and Mr. Jinnah's archetypal portrait still adorned the hind wall.

Ayub had an insurmountable greed and ambition and plundered the country for over a decade. He formed a cabinet of ministers with some henchmen who would be satisfied with crumbs from the prosperity's table sprinkled with a smart coterie of hand picked young western educated cohorts and brilliant bureaucrats with great track record of an anti people past. He made roads, put polish on the feudal edifices of the rural Pakistan, strengthened the class differentiation based on the feudal values of the rich becoming richer and poor poorer, totally decimated the emerging middle class that would become the opinion leaders in the future. In what was known as West Pakistan, the sons and the daughters of the lords and masters, the moneyed business class, the civil and the military bureaucracy, the rich feudal lords ruled and led the vast majority of the marginalised peasants and menial labourthe wretched of the earth. This class was reduced to being zombies, had no opinion and said 'yes' to whatever the 'Sadr' (the president) said. Ayub came to an ignominious end because a young western educated, politically ambitious smart aleck belonging to the same class of the super 'haves' and hand picked by Ayub saw an opportunity in the quasi-civilian opinionated class an unfulfilled ambition of becoming rulers and fanned up a political upheaval. I shall refrain from including East Pakistan in this because that was a different ball game with a different mindset and should best be kept for discussions later. This made Ayub quit. It'd be better to construe that he went with a lot of pain not because there was also a stronger political cataclysm in the East but because his own back yard had become 'betamiz' and was conflagrating with desire for a change. Well, the rest is history.

Yahya's emergence, the national elections, Sheikh Mujib's triumph, creation of Bangladesh et al. But let us see what happened in Pakistan. Subsequently, after the Pakistani forces were routed in East Pakistan, Yahya had to go. And, you guessed it right, Bhutto was popularly chosen Pakistan's new ruler. But subconscious militarism that pervaded the minds of the upper class of Pakistan and the silent submission to that by the down trodden would always ensure that the armed forces bounced back to power. Therefore, we see emergence to power by the hawkish General Ziaul Huq, a bigoted oligarch, who was done to miserable death in an air crash. It is conjectured that he was removed by the same people who brought him to power. And in this, external western hands are not ruled out. However, we see that following this exit of Ziaul Huq politicians came in to fray again and indulged in a rather childish prank of bickering amongst them. A pertinent question here may be, was it the armed forces waiting in the wings that instigated the political jokers to play the game, later to be used as a ploy for their re-emergence? Well, this seems very likely. No one knows what works in the scheming minds of the Pakistani armed forces. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had their stipulated short terms in office before being offloaded by the Pakistan armed forces. General Nawaz Sharif took over first as the Chief Martial Law Administrator and then, as is the normal scenario, became the President of Pakistan. He pursued a course of grater tolerance than Zia.

But just as it is true of all dictators, he became very obstinate towards the end. He had to go because the political situation was heating up. By now Benazir Bhutto was killed in cold blood and the Pakistan Peoples' Party leadership, by proxy, went to Asif Zardari, popularly known as Mr. Ten Percent because of his past corrupt practices. He initially teamed up with Mia Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim league to oust Pervez Musharraf. Now, with General Musharraf out, the two aspirant politicians have embarked upon a fight again. I will not be surprised if yet another martial law is waiting around the corner there. The aggrieved politicians would hasten to run to the barracks with an urge to the armed forces to save 'democracy'. The interesting thing would be to see who the beneficiary of the political infighting would be to be sure of the armed force's blessings. It's really a strange phenomenon that is stalking in the name of political culture in Pakistan. Arrogance and expediency is the order of the day there.

Readers, I took such a long time to narrate the political culture of Pakistan just to ask you if the scenario there seems all too familiar to you. It might. Because twenty-three years of being together should have some rub off on us after all.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008