An Acute Sense of Longing!
By Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry
Pittsburg. CA

Wishful thinking is a healthy trend, and the people of Pakistan are undoubtedly the most optimistic lot of human segment on this planet. Though mauled and molested ceaselessly by the two-in-one Sardars, Nawabs, Maliks, Khans, Vaderas and Feudal Lords-cum- politicians, and by the incumbents of the government in power, they have steadfastly remained sanguine and smiling. They have always hung on to a sense of longing, a sort of yearning, and like the famous Chief of the Native Americans, Dan George, they have endlessly awaited for a mythical Thunderbird, a Messiah, who would come one day to redeem them and to reprieve them, by pledging and proclaiming loud and clear:
“Let me accept this new culture, and through it rise up and go on,
Like the Thunderbird of old, I shall rise again out of the sea.
I shall grab the instruments of the White man’s success-
His education, his skills,
With these new tools, I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society…
The longing of the Native Americans remained a deferred dream as no Thunderbird (a mythical spirit of lightning and thunder), ever arose from the sea. And today helplessly they appear to be resonating the words of John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts (1750) who once told the white Europeans of the newly established colony at Massachusetts, “We shall be a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world”. Ostensibly, the Native Americans became a by-word, a story and the displaced Europeans settled in America, a City on the Hill.
And also the words of Robert Frost remind us something, “One luminary clock against the sky, proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. I have been one acquainted with the night”. The timings for the people of Pakistan are both in favor as well as not in favor. They have been acquainted with the night of misery and fanaticism too long. Now the choices are lying in utter naked form in front of them. As would say, Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), the famous black American playwright and the author of “A Raisin in the Sun”, “Sometimes I can see the future stretched out in front of me - just as plain as day; the future hanging over there at the edge of my days, just waiting for me”. Who then is the luminary star on the Pakistani horizon to tell them which way to turn to: Musharraf, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Ms. Benazir Bhutto, Mian Nawaz Sharif or Sirdar Akbar Khan Bugti and the mysterious Mustafa Khar.
THE OPPOSITION’S DILEMMA: The opposition is red in tooth and claw with President Musharraf. While he spurns them “as a cur out of my way”, to borrow a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, they like Brutus after Caesar’s blood, are heard shouting, “Stoop, Romans, stoop; and let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood up to the elbows, and besmear our swords. Then walk we forth, even to the marketplace, and moving our red weapons over our heads, let all cry: PEACE, FREEDOM AND LIBERTY”.
A cry for a civil war can never be construed as a call for freedom from oppression. Hatred is “ like the great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more and rise higher and higher till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped the more rapid and might is its course when once it is let loose”, wrote once Jonathan Edwards, the great preacher. Bloody hands won’t bring peace, prosperity and freedom to the people of Pakistan, and suppression like the dammed waters won’t make the governance of Pakistan any easier for President Musharraf. Reach out is the only solution now. But to whom?
Jagirdars and Sirdars are a leftover of the old Indian Princes and Rajahs. Once this specie ruled over 40% of India in some 562 Principalities. Rudyard Kipling once wrote about them, “Providence created the Maharajahs to offer mankind a spectacle” the like of which will never be seen again. Imagine some of them ruling over principalities, like that of Kashmir, Mysore and Hyderabad as big as England itself. Nehru with one stroke of pen in early fifties, and his daughter with another in 1979 turned them into paper-Princes, forcing them to either change or leave. Conversion of former Raj-Mahals into five-star hotels for instance is an indication that the former princes have learnt the art how to survive. We, on the contrary in Pakistan, have assiduously learnt to not only live with them, but also to live in their awe.
Bhutto by any definition was the most intelligent, and the most arrogant ruler that Pakistan ever had. Sher Baz Mazari, himself a Baloch Sirdar, writes in his book “A Journey to Disillusionment” the details of a meeting he had with Bhutto. The President appeared helpless as he told him, “Who should I talk to?” He then pointed out to Ataullah Mangal and said that Mangal openly used the “filthiest of language” against him. It was not just directed at him but “ also on my office, as after all I am the President of Pakistan”. “The Marri Sirdar is so arrogant that when I talk to him, he turns his face away. I find his behavior intolerable”. Mazari further writes that Bhutto kept his worst venom for his last target. He began venting his spleen against his own appointed governor of Baluchistan. In an emotional voice he lashed out at Akbar Bugti and called him “an egomaniac” and a “schizophrenic”. And then the military action followed. Politicians out of power combined with other Sirdars, Maliks, Khans and Vaderas begin making emotional pleas to stop military action and to negotiate with the same very Sirdars, and by doing so they vicariously protect their own fiefdoms, and the cycle goes on. Can President Musharraf play Nehru to these Feudals?
In the words of Hassan Abbas, as expressed by him in his book, “Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism” on p. 236, “It is not for nothing that his, Musharraf’s, government is defined by, and stands arraigned for, a level of incompetence that he could have worked very hard to achieve. He is therefore best defined as a master of half measures and as the poor man’s Ataturk.” In this context, Professor Lawrence Ziring’s advice to president Musharraf is very relevant and cogent, “If he truly wants to reconstruct Pakistan, then he has no choice but to invite the free and open play of all politicians… it is time to accept the failures along with the frailities and to nurture a generation of leaders unencumbered by blind doctrines. A new generation waits off stage in the wings of obscurity. That generation wishes to see the Pakistan of the twenty-first century realize its potential for greatness, not only as a Muslim nation but as a country that represents the better instincts of humanity”. It is, thus, somewhere in the wings of obscurity that a luminary star is lying in waiting to appear one day and with one stroke of pen send these Sirdars, Vaderas, Maliks, Tiwanas and Khans home. Till then the nation can stay contented with the change of Prime Ministers only.
The Economist of January 21, 2006 counts some 10 points of friction between President Musharraf and the Opposition, and writes that “troubles are coming not as single spies but in battalions” for him. The Economist, somewhat unjustly accuses President Musharraf for them. The American rocket attack on a remote mountain village in Bajaur on January 13; army action in Baluchistan against rebellious tribesmen; anonymous threats against foreign aid organizations, forcing them to suspend operations there; Pakistan controlled Kashmir, devastated by an earthquake in October 8; the slow progress in the peace process with India over the Kashmir dispute; a political rebellion in Sindh province over the construction of the Kalabagh Dam issue; the MQM which controls Karachi and the urban areas of Sindh threatening to quit the Sindh government, and throwing an ultimatum to either stop military action in Baluchistan or get ready to face its exit. We can add two more, namely the red-arrest warrant for extradition of Ms Benazir managed through the Interpol, and the mysterious reappearance of Mustafa Khar. To the Economist, the President seems rattled by the opposition he has provoked, and has resorted to bluster. Anybody can see that most of these problems basically highlight the opposition’s desperate search to find a cause to play Brutus to this Pakistani Caesar whom like Caesar they accuse of tyranny and dictatorship. And this they want to do by besmearing their elbows with his blood with a view to crying in the marketplace, “Peace, Freedom and Liberty”. The Economist is right in its analysis only in point, which being: if the Sirdars of Baluchistan had fallen short in humbling the President in total terms, his very own MQM with its dancing workers did the rest of the job in absolute terms. The President and the PM of the country talked to the self-exiled Pir for one hour to get this embarrassment; may be a telephonic talk of the same duration to the Sirdar of Bugti would have delivered some better results. The country is a witness to a strange triangle: Altaf Hussain humbles the President, and Akbar Khan Bugti humbles Altaf Hussain by refusing to see his “90-member fact-finding troupe”. A layman like me is at wits end as to who is more powerful in this triangle?
Emily Dickinson, the great American poet, beautifully defines human urges when she says, “Water is taught by thirst; land by the Oceans passed; Transport, (joy and ecstasy) by throe; Peace by its battles told; Love by memorial mold (cemetery), and birds by the snow. A World Bank study says, “Pakistan is already one of the most water-stressed countries in the world… a situation which is going to degrade into outright water scarcity”. Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, a leader of the opposition, sees no water shortage in Pakistan. Pakistan has only 150 cubic meters of water storage per person as compared with over 5,000 cubic meters in America and Australia and 2,200 in China. Our mainstream leaders, on the contrary, find it highly timely to lay claims and settle that it is “our Indus”, and “our Province”, and, “not yours”.
Any sensible leadership would have rallied around President Musharraf, and would have strengthened his hands in steering Pakistan out of the way of the big landslides that are taking place in and around it. The fallouts of Afghanistan and Iraq are beginning to register their impact on Pakistan, while Iran is offering itself by crying “me too”; our border belt of two Provinces is talking of “Rent-a-son”. In the words of one university professor of the Middle East, “The Al-Qaeda has no place in the ME; the governments as well as the people are singularly united in hunting them out, and they have succeeded to a large extent”. To him, “the biggest hub of the Al-Qaeda now is the South-East Asia” and by this he meant Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even Afghanistan appears to be more clear-headed about the dangerous cult of human-suicidal attacks on the civilians than Pakistan.
The other day a big demonstration in Afghanistan against the suicidal attack which resulted in the loss of many innocent lives hinted at a right step in the right direction, but not so in Pakistan. The suicidal attacks on the PM and the President did not entail a single demonstration against this cult. Loss of innocent lives anywhere in the world is a human tragedy, and those who furnish a cause for such things to happen are themselves a part of the cult. Discretion is not a sign of cowardliness. Sympathy with others should not override national interests, and the earlier it is understood by the opposition the better it would be. Economic prosperity is knocking at our door, and we are not letting it to step in because we are in the mourning mould in sympathy to “our brothers” who are disowned by their own. “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred with their bones”, was well said by Shakespeare, and the people of Pakistan know it by experience.
It is said that President Musharraf’s manner of dealing with the problems of his friends is revolutionary, but when it comes to dealing with the problems of the country, which beg revolutionary solutions, he often supplies conventional applications. This assessment of his person made by Hassan Abbas tends to stick him well. The Baluchistan problem and its handling subscribe to this view. He is also often accused of rolling up his sleeves and gritting his teeth when crossed, and this also seems to carry an element of truth in it when it is applied to his dealing with Mian Nawaz Sharif and Ms. Benazir. It is also opined that he is amiable and is very easy to like, and which he certainly is. Embroiled as he is in the whirlpool of problems, the country demands and the nation wants that he should demonstrate the same amount and quality of magnanimity to the leaders of the two mainstream parties by calling them with the same length of duration as he did in case of Altaf Hussain, a beneficiary who backfired, while the other two have been real losers.
Gen. K. M. Arif in his book “Working with Zia”, recalls Ms. Benazir writing to her brother in March, 1978, “… Khar is a big trickster, but this time you must be the bigger trickster”. Just after the arrest when Gen. Zia took over, he was the first to isolate him from the rest of the PPP leadership; he was the first to see Gen. Zia and make him believe that he can be very useful to him against Bhutto. He was able to trick Gen. Farman and Gen. Chishti making them believe that he would bring some very important documents from the UK, and that he would return to Pakistan whenever required on three days notice. Instead he stayed abroad for 11 years.
Sher Baz Mazari even writes that in 1984 he mustered the support of some junior officers, traveled to India and obtained a supply of weapons for them with a view to toppling the regime of Gen. Zia. Once again he is seen appearing aggressively on the political scene telling the nation that he alone has the key to all problems. Hopefully the nation is not so demented as to suffer from a complete loss of memory. The nation longs that President Musharraf takes a bold step to take both the leaders in exile into confidence; that he takes a revolutionary step with relations to the Zamindars and Sirdars and Khans; that he disposes of those who are lax and incompetent in a quicker manner; that he never sides with those who are fanatical in their views with relation to Islam; that he never compromises on the sovereignty of the country, and finally that he stays firm on the construction of dams in the country.


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