Pakistan shined in the international spotlight today. While our boys were scoring boundaries at Pallekele, President Zardari was hitting sixes at the UN General Assembly in New York City. His speech, delivered early this morning, presented an image of Pakistan as a global leader – one that seeks to bridge the cultural and political divides that agents provocateurs are actively trying to widen. Most importantly, he represented Pakistan on the world stage by directly answering misleading information and offering an authentic message from the Pakistani people.
President Zardari began his speech by getting straight to the heart of recent events and expressing the strongest condemnation of acts of incitement of hate against the faith of billions of Muslims of the world and our beloved prophet, Mohammad (PBUH).
Actually, President Zardari had already conveyed Pakistan’s concerns over the anti-Islam film that sparked protests around the world. But it was before the gathering of world leaders that the president made a difference. After registering Pakistan’s official protest and condemnation of the offensive act, President Zardari did not take a confrontational tone, but a tone of reconciliation.
Pakistan moves the United Nations to immediately address this alarming concern and bridge the widening rift to enable the comity of nations to be one again.
In this statement, President Zardari exemplified the mercy and forgiveness inherent to Islam. He did not condone the offensive act, and neither did he shrink from addressing it directly. But once the issue was addressed, he pointed to a path that could bring the world’s nations back together, defeating the wicked intentions of the filmmaker and the cynical opportunists who sought to profit from it.
While the offensive film has dominated headlines, it is hardly the only issue to be addressed. President Zardari addressed the plight of the Palestinians, the right of the people of Jammu & Kashmir to choose their own destiny. He spoke out about drone strikes and the sacrifices that Pakistan has made in the epic struggle against terrorism.
While doing so, President Zardari gave a full and unapologetic defence of Pakistan, decaring to the gathered world leaders, “I am not here to answer questions about Pakistan.”
The people of Pakistan have already answered them.
The politicians of Pakistan have answered them.
The soldiers of Pakistan have answered them.
We have lost over seven thousand Pakistani soldiers and policemen, and over 37,000 civilians.
We have lost our Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti and my friend Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of our most populous province of Punjab, to the mindset of extremism.
And I need not remind my friends here today, that I bear a personal scar.
On December 27, 2007 knowing her life was under threat from the mindset she had warned the world against, Pakistan’s first elected woman leader and my wife Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred through the bullets and bombs of terrorists.
Terrorism and extremism have destroyed human lives, torn social fabric, and devastated the economy.
Our economy, our lives, our ability to live in the shadow of our Sufi saints and our freedom-loving forefathers have been challenged.
We have responded.
Our soldiers have responded.
So I am not here to answer questions about Pakistan.
The room was stunned by such a powerful address, and many could not help but be reminded of the famous speech delivered by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1971 when President Zardari spoke these words:
To those who say we have not done enough, I say in all humility:
Please do not insult the memory of our dead, and the pain of our living.
Do not ask of my people, what no one has ever asked of any other peoples.
Do not demonize the innocent women, and children of Pakistan.
And please, stop this refrain to do more.
But here was the most amazing part of his speech. As the room filled with the most powerful men and women in the world was finally awoken from their slumber, President Zardari did not take the familiar path of defiance and isolation. He did not repeat George Bush’s mistake of isolating and alienating the nation by blaming and villanising others. Instead, once again, he showed the world that cooperation, connectivity, and mutual respect could find win-win solutions that ‘make us stakeholders in each other’s futures’.
In Pakistan, the lesson we learned, from the last thirty years, is that history cannot be changed.
But the future can — a future that is brighter, more prosperous and more secure, not only for Pakistanis, but for all people of the region, and indeed the world.
Standing before the entire United Nations, President Zardari was the leader showing the world the way to peace.