Never Forget, Never Repeat

Pakistan has suffered too much from the acts of dictators who put their personal ideology and power before their country. Even though Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf are gone, though, we feel the effects of their rule still in the ongoing battles about NRO, NAB, constitutional reforms, etc. etc. etc. We should make every effort to undo the destructive policies that were made under dictators, and we commend the democratic government for its efforts. But we must never forget the past so that we may never repeat it.

Kamran Shafi makes this point most excellently in his article for Dawn today, “We must never forget Ziaul Haq.” We need to have a sane point of view, to see our troubles with a sense of historical perspective. The demons we are wrestling with are the result of years of dictatorship and anti-democratic misrule. We finally have a democratically elected government that is working to make some progress.

No, eveything is not perfect. But did we ever believe that free elections would be magical and in one inning win the test? Of course, we are not so naive. So instead of beating up our government for not batting only sixes, why don’t we work together to keep scoring runs and building up a score that can win this test. Otherwise, if we keep treating our politicians like wickets, soon enough it will be us who are all out.

We Must Never Forget Ziaul Haq

We are told that Ziaul Haq, yes the very same Ziaul Haq at whose door the responsibility of unleashing the demons responsible for most of our present travails can and should be placed, is to be excised from the nation’s history by his name being struck off the list of Pakistani presidents.

One has to immediately ask if this act will also take away the spectre of religious extremism that the man gave birth to and nurtured until it became a scourge that we Pakistanis have to face every moment of our lives; or that the baradari (clan) politics he (re-)introduced will simply go away; or that it will automatically rid the country of his horrendous Hudood Ordinances under which tens of poor women have been horribly violated and hundreds of our minority brothers and sisters have been murdered and tortured and jailed?

No, a thousand times no. Instead of removing his name from the squalid history of our poor country, Ziaul Haq’s name must be kept alive so that succeeding generations are reminded of the tyrant and his doings that so completely destroyed Pakistan and its social fabric.

Statues of the dictator, resplendent in his general’s uniform gongs, ribbons, medals, sashes, toshdans and all, should be raised in all the major cities of Pakistan with his crimes against the people inscribed in large letters on marble plaques at the base of the statues.

Rather than forgetting the man, the government should periodically run paid advertisements in the newspapers and on television stations enumerating his acts that have brought the country to near ruin.

Indeed, these ads could be run immediately after another heartrending bombing carried out by the religious terrorists who can rightly be called ‘Zia’s grandchildren’; bombings that kill and maim and terrorise even women and children. No, friends, we must never forget the dictator and what he did to us.

On to other matters; first to the NRO. Enough already, as the Americans say. I was absolutely against the NRO when it was first mooted as a way that would facilitate Benazir’s return to the country, as also the return of others from her party who had been charged with wrongdoing by Musharraf’s dictatorship.

It was akin to throwing the dictator a lifeline I thought, when he was weakened by the lawyers movement against the dismissal of the superior judiciary. In hindsight I was wrong: if there hadn’t been an NRO, Musharraf would still have been sitting at the top of the heap; the political parties would still have been out in the cold, and let alone being restored, the judges would still have been under house arrest.

No NRO, no giving up his uniform (his ‘second skin’, remember?), no political parties; no political parties, no elections; no elections, no parliament; no parliament, no political manoeuvring; no political manoeuvring, no long march; no long march, no restoration of judges, and so on and on and on.

Seriously, does anyone think that Musharraf could have been dislodged by the lawyers backed by a handful of ‘civil society’? On deep reflection, I think not. So, enough already on the NRO. The point has been made that it was a bad law: can we just let go of it now; give elected people the chance to complete their terms and the people the chance to vote them out in the next election? As I have said before, if this government does not complete its term, neither will the next.

And another thing. Will everyone stop hounding the so-called ‘NRO beneficiaries’? Everyone and Charlie’s Aunt knows that in most cases trumped-up charges were made against their detractors by successive Pakistani governments, dictatorships and others.

However, if those who are demanding action now that the NRO has been declared null and void feel they must go on regardless, it is their moral duty to also demand that the armed forces and the judiciary be made accountable under the same accountability laws too. Let us have no holy cows.

Enough already on the Kerry-Lugar Bill, now law, too. Look at it this way: since the army high command which started it all (‘furious’ was a term used to describe the feelings of the brass hats), has just been to Washington D.C. and sued (as in beg for something) for this and that and the other, is it not time that others who thought that the Kerry-Lugar law took away Pakistan’s ‘sovereignty’ stopped criticising it? It is a perfectly worded law, may it live long.

A word on the judicial crisis. The slapping of a senior civil judge (in court, mark) by a lawyer in Faisalabad, and before that the thrashing of journalists and police officials by other lawyers in the Lahore courts, should make it very clear to My Lords of the superior judiciary that the sense of conquering all before them is turning very ugly indeed.

It ought to be realised that lawyers are not storm-troopers, ready to attack all comers, even judges sitting on the bench, at the slightest provocation. This will not happen unless it is realised that lawyers, as also the judiciary, are mortal too, that they are not all-powerful. And this will not happen unless the judiciary sets parameters for itself and says clearly that there are matters of governance that should be left to the elected parliament and the government that comes from parliament.

The judiciary should look back and see the trials and tribulations it has come through, the many ups and downs it has seen, mainly downs. It should look back and see the many episodes that did not exactly paint it in a kindly light, more than anything else the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at the behest of the man we must never forget.

It needs to understand more than anything else that it was only a civilian dispensation that gave it back the freedom so cruelly taken from it by an army dictator. The very best start to this will be My Lord the Chief Justice immediately recusing himself and his office from any committee set up to appoint judges. If he sends the message that parliament, which embodies the peoples will is supreme, he will go down in history as a truly great man.

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