So What Should We Do?
By Hafizur Rahman

One marvels at the brazen audacity with which our twice-deposed prime ministers, or their representatives in the country, set afloat reports of their impending return to Pakistan. Reading such statements it seems as if their return is now a matter of days, and then Pakistan’s fate will turn a fresh new leaf.
While Mian Nawaz Sharif is himself “wordless in Gaza” and allows his associates to say what they like on the subject, Ms Benazir Bhutto loves to talk about it from wherever she is and also argues about her husband’s innocence. Both the former PMs are said to be intensely eager to get back home.
Of course the possibility is remote, and the common man does not seem to miss them. In the case of Mian Sahib even if the government of Saudi Arabia has a change of heart and does no more want to be his host, the military regime is not likely to accept him, and will probably say, “Goods once lifted will not be taken back” or words to that effect.
On the other hand, the poor BB has no Arab ruler to plead her safe return and she can only come back to stay in prison. She has already been found guilty of corruption in a few cases, and I doubt if her appeals to higher courts will yield a favorable verdict. So what is this “See you soon” addressed to?
But their partymen continue to campaign about their return in a manner similar to the advertising of home appliances. Their persistence sounds so full of confidence that even Syed Jamil Shah gets worried sometimes. He is an old friend who was once man-about-town in Karachi and is now a reclusive project consultant in Islamabad. I am mentioning about him in this context because he has made a solemn vow. He says that as soon as either BB or Nawaz Sharif lands in Pakistan he will leave this country.

His argument is that this is all that a self-respecting citizen can do when overwhelmed with the dire straits to which these two leaders reduced Pakistan, one in his obsessive lust for personal power (apart from other things) and the other in her blatantly immodest defense of her ill-reputed life partner (apart from other things). In Jamil Shah’s opinion there is no other way out, for it is not possible for decent people to fight, or even effectively protest against, all-encompassing political evil.
Jamil Shah has a dear friend in the United States, a well-known Pakistani painter. Apparently the man is terribly bored among the denizens of that country and is yearning to let Jamil Shah amuse him and entertain him in Punjabi, something that my friend does extremely well when he is in the mood. Since Jamil Shah determinedly refuses to veer from the pledge that he has made to himself, I can hardly say anything in the matter, except to hope and pray that I don’t have to give you the news of his departure for self-exile in near future.
But what a misfortune that sensitive, highly educated and enlightened people have to think in terms of leaving the country rather than wait and see what happens after the return of the political leaders. A greater misfortune is that these leaders are elected by the people, and by all canons of democracy they have the right to do to it what they like. I have never been able to understand our people. They will reject certain leaders but when election time comes, they vote them into power again.
What a great pity that both the former PMs were twice removed by extracurricular methods; military or quasi-military. One shudders to think what would have happened if they had been allowed to complete their constitutional tenure. Both have their defenders but, as it is, you can’t form a good opinion of such people.
During the last fifteen years the only prime minister who was able to earn the respect of the people of Pakistan was Muhammad Khan Junejo but he held the office in the days of General Ziaul Haq who played dirty with him because he refused to believe that the general had been ordained by the Almighty to convert Pakistan into a fortress of Islam. Had Mr Junejo been allowed to stay on he might have set good traditions for others to follow, but that was not to be. This was another misfortune.
The only clean periods that the country has seen were when the three interim (caretaker) prime ministers ruled over its destiny. They were Meraj Khalid, Moeen Qureshi and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. You can point out many faults in their administration but you can’t accuse them of having treated Pakistan as their personal fief.
Though I must tell you (if you do not know it already) that Mr Jatoi, intimidated at first by the grim presence of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, let himself go in the end, and in the last two or three days of his rule, allotted more than a hundred prime plots in Islamabad and Karachi to his favorites, most of whom, incidentally, were ladies.
Then we had a military government in Pakistan, another comparatively clean period. We all wanted the soldiers to go back to their barracks but our bane is the basic trauma that besets us whenever we start thinking of alternatives. The regime that has followed is not too bad, though it is not properly democratic. Being democrats at heart, though still struggling to find our feet, we genuinely want democratic ways to prevail among us, but the thought of elected leaders coming in to rule gives us the creeps. So what should we do? (Courtesy Dawn)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.