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Depart gently into the night

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Ahmed Mateen

Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Posts: 144

PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 3:54 pm    Post subject: Depart gently into the night Reply with quote


By Ayaz Amir

AT our first lesson in live grenade-throwing in the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, we were asked a simple question. What if, inadvertently, a live grenade, its pin pulled out and therefore about to explode in a few seconds, fell from somebody’s hand by mistake?

We gave different answers but the correct one was that, sacrificing yourself, you fell on the grenade, covering it with your body, to save the lives of your comrades.

That was more important than trying to save your own life. Capt (later Brigadier) Shahid Aziz, our platoon commander, could have said “…more important than trying to save your miserable little skin.” He did not but his meaning was obvious. Why do soldiers sacrifice their lives in battle? For something called honour, for the sake of country, etc. Whatever name you put on it, it is always for something larger than one’s self.

Consider then a commander-in-chief, a chief of men (with apologies to Cromwell who was called by this title), if his heart and mind are bent only on his self-preservation, the larger good, the collective good, not figuring in his calculation at all. Wouldn’t be considered much of a chief of men, would he?

What does this nation want? A predictable system of government based on the Constitution and the rule of law; a measure of self-respect so that the Pakistani people could take some pride in being Pakistanis; and an end to foreign — for which read American — dictation.

The people of Pakistan have no exaggerated idea of their country’s importance. National megalomania was perhaps once their failing, not any more. Even so, to the extent possible, they want to be their own masters. They want to settle the problems of Waziristan, etc, their own way, not according to how the United States tells them. Indeed, by now they are heartily sick of a government which gyrates to foreign music.

But what does our chief of men want? He wants to be Pakistan’s Hosni Mobarak, or like a ruler of one of the Gulf states, going on and on forever, no matter what the cost to the nation.

Parallel tracks, incompatible aims: the nation’s interest at variance with personal ambition, indeed at war with it. Army House is looking out only for itself. No danger in those hallowed precincts of anyone falling on a primed grenade.

Will this approach work? Consider the nation’s mood which is a long way off from it what it was eight years ago. Across the country (try this out in any bazaar conversation) people no longer evince much patience for the sham called military democracy. They have had enough of it and want to move on, especially now that My Lord the Chief Justice and the lawyers of Pakistan, more power and glory to them, have showed them a different road.

The 13-member Supreme Court bench headed by Lord Justice Ramday (whose name posterity will remember) has served the nation well. At last, after so long, the people of Pakistan have something to be proud of. The promised land is still far away but dictatorship has been dealt a blow, such a blow as it has not received before, and the people of Pakistan are full of hope (without which nothing is possible).

In the process a new iconography has been born. Pakistan’s new heroes are Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Rana Bhagwandas (to whom we owe a lot), Justice Ramday and his fellow judges, their lordships of the Sindh, Peshawar and Lahore High Courts who rallied to the CJ’s defence, judges who resigned in protest, the CJ’s lawyers, Munir Malik, Kurd et al, and Aitzaz. This is the new aristocracy ennobled in the eyes of the Pakistani nation.

Aitzaz, always well known, has risen so much in stature because of his advocacy in this case that his party leader, Benazir Bhutto, is finding it difficult to pronounce his name. Newspaper rumour has it that she is even in two minds about awarding him a party ticket for the forthcoming elections. Oh dear. Apart from women scorned, hell, it seems, also hath no fury like a Mohtarma caught in the coils of envy.

But I digress. As I was saying, the nation is in no mood to put up any longer with Army House-controlled democracy. Speaking for the bar, Munir Malik has already announced that after examining the detailed judgment when it comes, the Supreme Court Bar Association will challenge the general’s ‘re-election’ (when was he elected?) by the present soon-to-expire assemblies.

So the lines are being drawn. What then is to be done?

The judiciary has redeemed its honour, washing away the sins of the last 50 years. What about other institutions? One of the tasks of Hercules was to wash the Augean stables. The army’s stables can also do with some high-powered washing.

Time was when ordinary people respected the army. I say this with a heavy heart: respect has given way to harsher feelings. All because of one man rule which has harmed Pakistan and damaged the army.

How is lost respect to be recovered? By closing the gulf which has opened up between the army and the people. This is possible only if the army learns to respect the Constitution instead of seeing itself put at the service of personal ambition.

In the PMA we were also taught another thing. Honest mistakes, however serious, could always be forgiven (especially if someone owned up to them) but no forgiveness, none whatsoever, could there be for two things: lying and cheating. Before becoming an officer, a cadet had to be a gentleman and a gentleman, we were told, did not lie or cheat.

Officers don’t take an oath to serve one-man rule. Their oath is to defend the country and the Constitution. Lost respect won’t be recovered if this is not kept in mind.

As for the political parties, in the maze of which forest are they lost? Maulana Fazlur Rahman (Maulana Diesel to his fans) while living up to his reputation of being a juggler, is throwing too many balls into the air. At the All Parties Conference in London I don’t know what seized him when he criticised the Chief Justice, saying that he could cut a deal with Musharraf and leave everyone stranded. What a thing to say!

The Maulana was probably looking at his own face in the mirror and judging the Chief Justice by that. And this was the man who kissed the Chief Justice’s hand when he first appeared before the Supreme Judicial Council.

And Benazir Bhutto? The one overriding passion ruling her seems to be to somehow get rid of the money-laundering cases hanging over her head, to achieve which aim she seems ready for anything, even a bargain with the devil, which is what a deal with the powers-that-be in these circumstances amounts to. Does she want this perception to grow? The legacy of Bhutto reduced to this. What a pity.

As for the Sharifs, what’s still keeping them in London is a puzzle waiting to be solved. If they want to seize the moment, they will have to make up their minds soon about returning to Pakistan – whether by plane to Peshawar or by motor launch to Gwadar. Only when their plans are firmed up and they are actually returning to the country should they approach the Supreme Court for protection, not before. Politicians must fight their own battles, as the lawyers fought theirs.

Dictators, even of the tinpot kind, don’t quit just like that. They cling to power until the bitter end hoping for some miracle to save them. How do they change their minds? How do they start thinking of ‘exit strategies’? When the national mood turns ugly and people are roused to action, as lawyers were roused to action by the deposition of the Chief Justice.

By any objective standard, Gen Musharraf has not been much of a leader in war (remember Kargil) or peace (look at the last eight years). But as his time comes to an end, he can do the nation a favour by realising that the play is up and the curtains have come down. Let him not go raging into the night. For once Pakistan can do with a gentle transition.

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Joined: 24 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even if it happens, then no angels are coming, only bigger devils. Just wait.

Sidqi. ca
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even if it happens, then no angels are coming, only bigger devils. Just wait.

Sidqi. ca
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