Democracy, Pakistan and Israel
13 October, 2010
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
During General Zia’s ten years and General Musharraf’s about eight years of ‘good governance’ — both faced turmoil in their last year of rule — politics was in exile. And bureaucracy, army, judiciary, the rich, the tax evaders, the mafias, the cartels and the militants were all together and also on their own. It looks as if this ‘togetherness’ and ‘on their own’ business is a well programmed feature, growth and decline starting simultaneously, of our genesis. This feature is leading us to have, ultimately, an independent Pakistan where ethnic impurities will not exist. Earlier, General Ayub Khan’s and General Yahya’s ‘good governance’ had helped us won independence from Bengalis. If General Musharraf’s or General Zia’s rules had continued for a few years more, we could have won independence also from the Balochis and Sindhis and even from the Pukhtoons.
The political rulers did not fit in the scheme of things. This is why they were taken as a hurdle and some of them were physically removed, some were sent abroad and some were made an example. Presently Asif Ali Zardari and his team is a hurdle and an environment of hate and harassment is being created around him to plan his early departure. While Zardari is likely to stay at least for three more years, none is taking into account how much fatal environment of hate is for stability of Pakistan.
When the World War II was nearing its end, the new imperial power the US planned how to control the world for playing political and economic games with ease. In Asia birth of Israel and Pakistan on the basis of race and religion is to be understood through this planning. Massive migration and bloodshed associated with the efforts of establishing these two new resource-less states meant that their future would depend on how deeply they would remain attached to racial and religious identities and also to the US’s ever changing interests.
The European Jews, persecuted through centuries, had no choice but to accept the new state. For the Indians situation was different. The leadership of Indian Muslims tried their best to keep India united. The British, taking the new imperialism as threat, too were against the division of India. This is why Cabinet Mission Plan was accepted by the Muslim League. The Congress too accepted the plan but soon after rejected it; why, history is silent on it, but the US interference was perhaps the only reason. The Congress leadership knew well about the destructive powers of the US; it preferred a divided India to an ever destabilised united India.
On March 9, 2007, togetherness and waywardness of non-elected institutions and the rich was challenged for the first time from within. The Chief Justice of Pakistan did it. He emerged full of will to resist the continuity of wrongs being done by the generals. These days he is a different person, dejected, hurt and frustrated.
How despaired he is can be seen in the stories that appeared in the newspapers and also on the electronic media. The first story reads, ‘The Supreme Court observed that if the government does not want to implement the judicial orders in letter and spirit, then the courts would be shut down’
On September 9, 2008, Asif Ali Zardari was elected as president of Pakistan. Due to his father’s political background related to ANP he had an awareness of Pakistan’s continuing political decline and that helped him to come up with such a vision which if put to practice would have solved Pakistan’s almost all external and many internal problems. As president, and even before entering into presidency, he talked about India as a country that was never an existentialist threat to Pakistan. He talked about transformation of Madrassahs into mainstream schools. He talked about the US and Afghanistan as friendly countries. He also talked about Kashmir as a problem whose solution needed to be left to time. He also talked about change in the system. Today Zardari, too, is frustrated. He is target of a malicious propaganda that began from the day one of his election as president of Pakistan.
The story of common man is different. On May 26, 2007 an old man stood, sat and walked on Constitution Avenue from morning till night. He was as thin as the stick he carried. When he first appeared, I took him as the one who was seeking help. I was wrong because when I sat besides him he asked when Chaudhry Sahib would start his speech. ‘It will take many hours’. My assessment of time was based on the very very slow pace of a huge procession that was arranged by the lawyers and political parties for the Chief Justice whose residence was hardly five hundred meters away from the avenue of a seminar being held in the Supreme Court premises where the CJ was the chief speaker. The old man and I and a large audience were there to listen to the speeches from outside the Supreme Court premises.
It was a long hot day. There was no water or drinks available, yet every body stood or sat or walked till the seminar ended. For the old man the heat must have been like that of hell, I thought so and conveyed my feeling and fears to him. ‘Do not worry. The vagaries of weather do not bother us. We are men of mountains. I will stay here till Chaudhry Sahib ends his speech, and will walk back to reach home even if it is night.’ After showing his determination to stay, he pointed towards the mountains where his home was, in the Margalla Hills and about a mile of climb away.
The old man told me much more. He was above ninety and had attended Bhutto’s public meetings and to him Bhutto was a hope, and now it was the Chief Justice who would provide leadership. He also talked about the goras (the British) and the Hindus. ‘The goras were great administrators. And the Hindus were a caring lot; they would always help us in our troubled times’. He had worked as a labourer with the British during construction of Golra police station, railway station and dispensary. In pre-partition days most of the shopkeepers in Golra were Hindus who lived in Golra and nearby villages.
I went many times to see him after our first meeting at the Constitution Avenue. I always found his talks interesting and sometimes awesome. He would thank God for Bhutto’s party being in power and Chaudhry Sahib leading the judiciary. Yesterday his messenger told me he is sick and wanted to see me. Though he was in terrible condition, he was alert and hopeful and kept talking. When I asked for leave, he said I urge you to write on why we cannot live as we used to before Pakistan was made, there were Queen, magistrate, and SHO and they never confronted each other.
The old man is a commoner. That he is hopeful is not particular to him. Regardless of what the media tells to its viewers and readers, common people have faith only in democracy. If people are frustrated they do speak and that we saw in the two referendums, of Zia’s and Musharraf’s. People rejected the generals, though it is another story that our civil elites, judiciary, bureaucracy, media and military ignored peoples’ voice.
Pakistan is not an ordinary country; its inhabitants have yet to evolve themselves into a nation. Given our divisions, our prejudices, our ignorance, our overdependence on, and confrontation with the US and the west, our infightings and our rigidity nation making is a very difficult task. Israel too had a troubled genesis but survived and became strong because of its internal strength gained through social democracy and industrialisation. What is required, immediately, in our case is coordination between political and non political institutions. Let us take such decisions that will help bring the divided people of Pakistan closer. Let us take such actions which will end corruption as well as discrimination.
Imagine Balochistan of today, rural and urban Sindh of today, Pukhtoonkhawah of today, our anti-American course and discourse of today, growing religious extremism of today and above all our hate-filled environment that is president Zardari specific and has basis in ethnicity, we are on the verge of disintegration. Derailing or even weakening of democracy this time will mean repeating Pakistan’s history of 1971.