What next for Pakistan?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 30 December 2007
Just like her father, Benazir Bhutto, a towering figure in Pakistani politics has gone. Both became victims of biased and uncontrollable establishment and army dictatorship. Like all popular and great people, both were controversial figures, and would always be remembered in history for good and bad things associated with them.
No human being is perfect and she was not perfect either. She had many faults and her record in government was nothing to be proud off, but despite her not so good past she was still adored by the masses, and considered as last hope for democracy, freedom and the federation of Pakistan. In any case she did not deserve this treatment – she did not deserve to end like this; and what ensued after her tragic killing Pakistan did not deserve it either.
Her termination is a big loss to Pakistan and fury, anger and resentment that erupted after her killing is also a big loss to Pakistan. It showed deep hatred for the rulers and love for her, but according to some experts Pakistan has already lost more than 40 billion rupees as a result of this, not to mention loss of respect and prestige to the country.
Those who are responsible for this loss need to understand that loss to Pakistan is not personal loss to Musharaf, his cohorts, establishment and ‘lotas’ who have helped him to stay in power for so long and weaken Pakistan and its federation. As a result of this destruction, arson and fury ordinary people of Pakistan have lost. It is a body polity of Pakistan that has suffered. It is ordinary people who suffer and continue to suffer.
However as a result of this tragedy Pakistani government once again finds itself in a dock, and doesn’t know which way to go. Its response and actions are similar to those when the government killed Nawab Akbar Bughti, and they had to tell lies and plenty of them. Government Ministers and spokesmen changed story everyday and that exposed them further and further in eyes of the people.
Musharaf has earned himself reputation as a man of crises - a trained commando prepared to surprise people with his actions. His tried and tested method, like some Kashmiri leaders is to create crises, when people complain he commits a bigger blunder and people forget the previous one. He believes in ending crises with more crises- treat poison with poison, and what we have witnessed is a series of blunders since 1999.
In this process he has mastered the art of creating crises and managing them by propaganda, lies and oppression; and still claim that he is great believer of democracy, liberalism and independence of judiciary and media. But there is limit to what he can get away with and what Pakistani society and federation can take. Many Pakistani leaders and commentators say his first priority is not Pakistan as he claims, but power at all costs; and if continues with this policy then Pakistan might not stay as a nation state. But question is does he care?
When he illegally overthrew an elected government in October 1999, he declared seven point agenda and people thought he, unlike previous military rulers, might put Pakistan back on the track. But he with help of his cohorts and ‘lota politicians’ who were deeply involved in corruption and nepotism brought the country to the brink of civil war and disintegration.
In view of some experts on South Asian politics and Pakistan, the country does not have a bright future. They think the process of disintegration was already on the way before the killing of Benazir Bhutto, and her killing has accelerated that process. Many Pakistanis will reject this view and with their emotional thinking call it a conspiracy and declare that Pakistan is here to stay till doomsday.
They need to understand that nations and countries do not become strong or prosper just because people have strong desire or passion for that. They become strong and flourish because rulers carefully plan what is to be done in future. They set certain goals and create a system which helps them to implement that planning and achieve those goals for the benefit for the country. These rulers regard themselves as servants of the people and country, and always regard country’s interest as paramount.
If Pakistani brothers compare that with what has been happening in Pakistan then they will see that in Pakistan there is no system in place, and rulers are like emperors and their personal interest is paramount to everything. Rule of law, fairness and sense of belonging is not there; and moreover the will to become a nation or thrive as a nation is getting weaker day by day.
This process cannot be halted just by some slogans or calling conspiracy or foreign hand after every blunder. In my honest opinion it is still not too late, and ‘melting’ of Pakistan could be halted, but for that the rulers have to be brave and take some decisions which might not be in their personal interest.
But if they continue with the same policies and the same mind - set then nothing can save Pakistan and the country will not survive as a nation state, no matter how loudly people shout Pakistan Zindabad, or say that it was created in name of Islam and Allah will save it.
They need to understand that Allah was also there in 1971, and Pakistan lost East Pakistan not because it was Allah’s wish but because of blunders of Pakistani rulers. If Pakistani rulers commit blunder after blunder, impose their will on society and deprive people of justice and basic human rights; and people instead of challenging their rulers keep on shouting slogans and hope that Allah will help them, then take it from me it won’t happen, because Allah only helps those who help themselves.
In my view the following needs to be done to halt the process of disintegration:
Postpone elections and give new date after month of Moharam;
New care taker or national government which has some credibility;
Allow Nawaz Sharif and his brother to contest elections;
Declaration from Musharaf that he will resign after new Assemblies are elected;
Re instate judiciary the one which was there before Emergency was declared;
Reinstate constitution of 1973, as it existed in October 1999;
Abandon policy of promoting and exporting its ‘ideology’ and ‘Jihad’ to other countries as was the policy in 1980s and 1990s;
Abandon policy of getting more land, and try to secure and consolidate what legally belongs to Pakistan;
As Pakistan’s many problems are directly linked with its obsession to get Kashmir which is not part of Pakistan, it is time to abandon that policy, and accept Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan as separate political entities
Many Pakistani brothers, especially those with little knowledge and foresight, and those who are in government will once again call me ‘anti Pakistan’, without realising that this is the best course forward to save Pakistan. I sincerely want Pakistan to do well and survive as a nation state. I want Pakistan to be a democratic and stable country in peace with itself and its neighbours. Allah forbid if Pakistan disintegrates, with the people of Pakistan we Kashmiris will also suffer; and I sincerely don’t want that to happen.
Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org