Road to Redemption

Former Ambassador to Italy, Zafar Hilaly, has a column in today’s Tribune that says what a lot of people may not want to admit about the UN report – that it serves as an indictment not only of Musharraf and his cronies in the intelligence, but of how low we had allowed our nation to sink. But despite this embarrassing record of crime and corruption in government, it also opens a new path to redemption. By accepting the truth of our past, we can change our course and finally put our nation back on track.

It confirms what we know in our hearts but are loath to have foreigners say, let alone document, viz, that we are a functioning kleptocracy, a vast criminal enterprise, that lives by no principles or laws and has no concept of right and wrong except that which promotes the interests of those who usurped power either on the point of a gun or by fixing the elections.

It is a sobering thought that all this is contained, in so many words, in a document that will be available to posterity and for anyone wanting to know what Pakistan represented. It contains not only what many know and have prattled about, but rather the findings of the formally designated representatives of the world community about the nature of our establishment, its mores and ethos.


This is something that perhaps we have all known in our hearts, that for too long we have been living under, as Hilaly calls it, “a functioning kleptocracy, a vast criminal enterprise, that lives by no principles or laws and has no concept of right and wrong except that which promotes the interests of those who usurped power either on the point of a gun or by fixing the elections.”

But I think that Hilaly misses the opportunity to point out that this has largely been because we, the people, have not had the ability to do much about it. We have been held captive by political parties that operate as criminal enterprises, not open forums for representation. We have been bullied and threatened by corrupt police and intelligence agencies who work outside the bounds of the law and see no accountability for their actions.

It would be hard to sink lower than the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the whitewash that followed. But sometimes you have to fall hard enough to hit your head and realize that it’s time to face reality, it’s time to turn around and change direction before you destroy yourself completely.

There is a way that we can make amends and that is to let the chief justice lead a criminal investigation and put at his disposal all the resources of the state. We should request the authors of the UN report to attend and, at the conclusion of the enquiry, invite the Security Council to pass a resolution complementing Pakistan for having conducted a thorough investigation into a matter of which the Security Council remains seized.

That way perhaps we can show, albeit belatedly, that we the people can and never will become accomplices to a crime. It was right for President Asif Ali Zardari to call for a UN investigation. Those officials who opposed the investigation were the types that have long advised governments to lie, cheat, obfuscate and hide the truth those who speak the truth but only so that more can be hidden.

They are clerks and word merchants who long ago signed an armistice with the truth. Only such a move could have got the attention that Benazir’s murder deserved. But, more importantly, it now gives Mr Zardari the strength and the moral authority to proceed fearlessly to bring those responsible to justice.

Mr Zardari must not allow anything to stand in his way, neither his job nor his life. He owes his wife a lot, but he owes Pakistan too. How fitting then for him to restore to his countrymen the honour, respect and dignity that many accuse him of squandering. He would truly have made amends. Benazir Bhutto, we know, would be proud of him.

For all of his faults, for all of his mistakes and weaknesses and blunders, Asif Ali Zardari has begun carving a new path for Pakistan. The UN report, the 18th Amendment – all of these things have caused screaming from the entrenched establishment because they know that the man who was never supposed to be President is now using his time in office to turn the country around.

Zardari may be a flawed character, but aren’t all tragic heroes? Ultimately, his actions may destroy him. Certainly there seems to be a never-ending stream of attempts to unseat him from office. Some of this is out of hatred for the man, but how much is out of fear that he is upsetting the old order? That he has begun moving Pakistan onto a new path that will not tolerate kleptocracy, criminal enterprise, and political murders before the kleptocrats-in-waiting have their chance to loot the nation?

We are not required to like Zardari. We do not have to invite him to eat with us or forgive him for any past sins. But we ought to support him when is moving us away from the evils in our past, and changing the order so that a new generation of Hamid Guls and Zia-ul-Haqs will not be able to do to our children what happened to us and our parents before.

So do not tell me that the UN report is worthless. It has opened the gate to a better road, a road to redemption. The question is whether you have the courage to take the first step.


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