PPP finds itself being squeezed rather tightly lately. Sadly, the squeeze really comes as no surprise. When Pakistan Rangers first raided 90 earlier this year, the writing was already on the wall. Today, PPP leadership is crying foul over being targeted, but in some ways their troubles are a result of their own doing. When it became obvious that Army was going returning to operations against political parties, the PPP took the strategy of trying to cozy up in hopes of weathering the storm. Did they really think that it would work?
Pakistani protestors delivered a strong message in London, but it was perhaps not the message they had hoped for. Promoted as ‘Million March’ for Kashmir, the demonstration was meant to sensitize the world on the tragic issue of Indian occupation of Kashmir. Instead, it only sensitized the world on the acute political polarization among Pakistanis.
PTI may be famous for it’s political rallies, but it was PPP that stunned the nation with its rally on Saturday. No matter whose numbers you want to believe, it is undeniable that the turnout was massive enough to put to bed silly questions about whether the party is ‘finished’. In fact, the question being asked today is whether or not Saturday’s rally – and more specifically Bilawal’s speech – marks a turning point in a national politics that has grown stale and disheartening for so many.
As I’m sure all avid readers are aware, in the past week there have been multiple attacks on Shias, Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus. It seems no one is spared. Just today a christian charity worker was shot dead. In this past month, more than 80 shias alone have been killed, a Hindu temple was destroyed and over hundred Ahmadi graves were desecrated among other incidences of violence. According to a report by Rob Crilly in the Telegraph, human rights campaigners are urging the government to do more in keeping safe the country’s minority Shia population. According to the same report, there have been more than 320 killings in a wave of attacks against the Shias. The same report also mentions that in 2012 more than 100 members of the Shia Hazara community being killed in Baluchistan region as well.
The response to these ongoing attacks against the nation’s minorities has been the almost deafening silence on the part of our elder leaders. It is a handful of young people who are proving to be the real courageous souls. Malala Yousafzai comes to mind, and so does the young 24-year-old Bilawal. In a public response to the recent attacks, Bilawal noted that “our forefathers did not give their lives for an intolerant‚ extremist‚ sectarian and authoritarian Pakistan. I appeal you to rise up to defend Jinnah’s Pakistan and my party will stand by you‚ shoulder to shoulder.”
Compare this to the actions of those who term themselves as self-appointed ‘defenders of Pakistan’. Qazi Hussain Ahmed quickly changed his tune against Taliban violence when he feared for his own safety.
The sad truth is different. We all know that Qazi was threatened by radicals after an interview in which he had criticised the violent policies of the Pakistani Taliban. The Taliban had later issued their rebuttal with a warning of a forthcoming attack on the former Ameer. In that situation, rather than taking the bull by the horns and realising it was time to show courage and resolve, Qazi, a former Senator, has regrettably tried hard to mend his ties with the extremists. Using the anti-American public sentiment and deliberately obfuscating the issue, he has consistently condemned the US for everything that has gone wrong in Pakistan, but has not mustered up the courage to go after the real perpetrators of the attempted assassination of both Malala Yousafzai and himself. In that way, he has stuck to the core ideology of his party where perhaps personal safety is the top priority even when the safety of the nation is compromised. What a shame.
The giants of Pakistani history have never been appeasers. Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah could easily have bowed down under pressure against the formation of Pakistan, but he persisted because he knew that the promise that “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State” was a promise that India could not guarantee but must be kept at all costs. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made the promise that we would not bow down under pressure of an Indian bomb but would defend ourselves at all costs. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto spent years in prison and exiled from her homeland but refused to accept her country in the chains of dictatorship.
Who are today’s giants of Pakistan? Surprisingly they are being found in a 13-year-old school girl and a 24-year-old young man. As we sit quietly while our brothers and sisters are attacked and killed, we must ask whether we deserve these young giants.