Of Journalism

March 8, 2009

Mr Prime Minister Think before what you say

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 9:35 am

When Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani was addressing the Formation Commanders at a banquet at the Prime Minister’s House on Thursday, he did not know how close he resembled Ziaul Haq, the bête noire for the PPP. “Pakistan Army, unlike armies of other countries, has double responsibility of protecting not only geographical boundaries of the country, but also its ideological boundaries,” Mr. Gillani told the glittering gathering.

This added responsibility of guarding the so-called ideology of Pakistan was assigned to the army by Ziaul Haq who toppled Z.A. Bhutto in late 70s. Like every military dictator he also promised to have been forced to scuttle democracy, and to hold fair and free elections within stipulated 90 days–a promise he never honoured. To the bad luck of the country the Afghan war started. Since it shares a long porous border with the land-locked Afghanistan, Pakistan became central to the U.S. designs to trap the Soviet Union’s Red Army across the Durand Line. The U.S., the West and Arab countries started pampering the military dictator to make Pakistan the staging post for a protracted war inside Afghanistan, and it came in as a double jeopardy for Pakistan and its people.

To ensconce the armed forces, his only constituency, in the political matrix of Pakistan, Ziaul Haq coined the slogan that our armed forces are the guardians of not only the geographical borders of Pakistan but also of its ideological borders. It raised the stakes of the army in the political structure of Pakistan. Like the much-abused term “national interests”, the ideology of Pakistan is also a vague term which was framed much after the formation of the country in 1947.

Probably, it was during Ayub Khan’s martial law that the term ‘ideology of Pakistan’ was formed. Since we have a very short and blur view of our otherwise short history, people at large owned up this slogan. Thus Pakistani politics, which was very pluralist, was constrained by an ideology. Every political force has to adjust itself to the new reality. Those who tried to oppose were dubbed traitors.

This turn towards ideology bolstered the reactionary a la religious forces. Being the guardians of the ideology the army found its allies in religious outfits like Jama’at-i-Islami and centrist parties like Muslim League which never changes in character; it adds a new letter to its name whenever there is guard of change in the corridors of power. [There is a long list of PML (Q, N, F, J, …)] However, Nawaz Sharif, going through tough moments of his life, has made his faction of the PML into a coherent party.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has a long history of struggle against military dictatorship, always ended up on the wrong side of the establishment. It sacrificed yet another Bhutto on December 27, 2007 when the charismatic Benazir Bhutto fell to the bullets of the assassins at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi after addressing a public meeting. It looked the end of an emerging bonhomie between the PPP and the establishment. But, it was not so.

Prime Minister Gillani put a seal on it while addressing the banquet also attended by among many President Pervaiz Musharraf and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani. Things have changed a lot since the days of Ziaul Haq. Today Pakistan is embroiled in another kind of war which is eating into its vitals. Our social fabric is in tatters. The writ of the state is challenged within the confines of the state–even Islamabad is no exception what to talk of Swat and Waziristan.

All this mayhem visited us when our rulers hugged a narrow ideology only to please a lunatic fringe that has a lot of nuisance value and no vision for a prosper future. It is time to do away with this politics of ideology and focus on building democratic institutions. Democracy is the best ideology if we need any to latch onto. Prime Minister Gillani must weigh words before uttering them in formal gathering, because the powers that be will take him for his words when they strike a blow on democracy.

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