By Humayun Gauhar
an affront to God. While our most corrupt villain
of a politician has been let off the hook, our most
honest hero of a politician has been arrested under
the anti-terrorism act.
“It could only happen in Pakistan,”
many would say spontaneously.
I reject this assertion with contempt, for it implies
that we are intrinsically a dishonest people who
cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.
We most certainly can. It is only that our voices
get drowned out by wrongdoers. Right and wrong are
not to be confused with cleverness and foolhardiness.
I have always placed President Musharraf in the
category of people who can differentiate between
right and wrong. What has made him go awry of late
is the mind-boggling pressure of our convoluted
politics and inability to stand up to a hyperpower.
All Musharraf wanted to do was exactly what his
detractors are hypocritically demanding: hold elections
and retire from the army. That is precisely his
What is the problem? It is that power hungry politicians,
who know they will do badly in the elections, and
Pakistan’s American opponents whose real agenda
is not democracy but chaos and castration have deliberately
made such a production out of it that his intent
has got lost in the fog of their diabolical politics.
It has turned the intrinsically democratic Musharraf
who always tried to take the path of least resistance
into an angry fire-spewing dragon. Confusion caused
by the inordinate pressure of a hyperpower has regularly
made our rulers take the wrong path.
Talking of the right path, it means siraat al mustaqeem.
It comes from the Arabic word Sha’r,
which means ‘path that leads to water’,
water being the source of life. Sha’r is the
root of the word Shariah, which has come to mean
law but is actually a code to keep one on the path
that leads to water.
Imran Khan’s arrest on terrorism charges reminds
me of the arrest of the late great Punjabi poet
Ustad Daman by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on terrorism
charges. One of his poems had offended the great
Ustad Daman was charged with keeping grenades in
his house. He lived in a small room in the old city
of Lahore that has seen more history than any other
and more than an American can comprehend. The room
was built next to a well. A window in his room opened
into the well and as the water went up he would
quickly take some from one of the cups and pour
it into his glass of whisky. He laughingly said
that he was lucky that the door to his house was
so small that Bhutto’s goons could only plant
grenades there; else they would have shoved in a
tank or two. Bhutto’s government became the
laughing stock of the Punjab.
The manner of Imran Khan’s arrest was appalling.
Sure, in our filthy politics getting arrested comes
with the turf, which it should not. But being arrested
in this manner, with storm troopers of the Jamaat-e-Islami
posing as students locking him up in a room, manhandling
him and handing him over to the police is totally
unacceptable. It is dreadful. What makes it indefensible,
and therefore unspeakable, is that the authorities
booked him under the anti-terrorism act, handcuffed
him and sent him to jail.
Imran Khan a terrorist? He may be many things, but
terrorist he is not. Hero he already is, being the
best cricketer in our history, the first of our
truly great fast bowlers, one of the greatest all-rounders
of all time, and certainly one of the greatest captains
ever who led us to victory in the World Cup. He
is number eight amongst the all time legends. He
is in everyone’s best Test team from all eras,
and in many he is captain. Britain’s great
opening batsman Geoff Boycott memorably said that
the prime reason why he included Imran in his best
ever team was that “he could control that
mob.” People fondly called Imran “Tiger
of Pakistan.” Imran Khan is a hero to not
only every Pakistani, young and old, he is also
a hero to the cricketing world, a global celebrity
and an international superstar. I know English people
who have named their sons after him.
Actually, that’s where the story begins. Imran
Khan wisely used his celebrity to build a cancer
hospital in Lahore in his mother’s memory.
Everyone said it couldn’t be done. I remember
a dinner we had in Shezan, London, with British
and American doctors of Pakistani extract to discuss
plans and strategies for the hospital. The consensus
was that it was too difficult and expensive a task
and that Imran would fall flat on his face. Even
his family was worried. I was the only one who believed
that Imran could do it because I knew him and his
tunnel vision and the obsessive way in which he
went about achieving an objective. That is not to
say that he does it brilliantly. He makes every
mistake in the book and then invents some more.
But he always gets there in the end because he has
his mother’s prayers with him and because
his intent is selfless. God helped him, and through
him he helped cancer-stricken people. The hospital
got built, Musharraf inaugurated it and said that
he wishes Imran success in his third vocation, politics,
and it is running beautifully.
I know Musharraf too. Both he and Imran are my friends.
Whenever I felt that they were wrong I always told
them so, either verbally or through my writings
or even on television. Neither of them may like
what I am going to say, but they have many things
in common. They both have tunnel vision. Both achieve
their objectives, no matter how many mistakes they
make and how ruthless they may have to be along
the way. Both are attractive to women. And both
have selfless intent. They both want the best for
Pakistan even though they might make a hash of it
getting there. Musharraf’s intent may be right,
but treating Imran in this sordid manner is plain
wrong. So is arresting his sisters or a policeman
shoving his niece into a van. Instead of arresting
Imran with such alacrity, the government should
have booked the Jamiat students first to demonstrate
that they didn’t do this at its behest. It
has actually helped Imran and harmed Musharraf.
It has given Imran an unprecedented political boost
and done Musharraf a grave damage.
I was totally against Imran going into politics.
I wanted him to continue with his social work and
build more cancer hospitals in Pakistan. Politics
is a waste of time. I remember one night Imran,
his sisters Rubina and Aleema, my late father and
I discussed Imran’s entry into politics into
the wee hours of the morning. We all told him not
to and instead concentrate on social work. He said
that he felt frustrated because one could set up
one hospital here and another there, but if one
wanted to do good on a vast scale one had to be
in government to beat bureaucratic red tape and
corrupt political rulers. None of us bought it.
Should Mother Teresa have been in politics, or Edhi?
That is another trait he shares with Musharraf:
both can be obstinate; both learn the hard way.
Imran’s thoughtless arrest and abysmal treatment
has appalled international public opinion and international
celebrity opinion. They are all Imran’s friends
or acquaintances. When they speak, the world listens.
They are icons and role models and mould public
opinion. And they are speaking loudly and demonstrating.
Jemima has taken the lead and just her photograph
standing outside our High Commission gets splashed
all over the world. Worse, Imran’s arrest
has done for the opposition what they were pining
and praying for – genuine public support,
for if students come out in the streets, especially
in Lahore, the cause is eventually won. Well, that
is exactly what is starting to happen. Real students
thrashed up the Jamaat hooligans and had them thrown
out of the university. That is unprecedented. Many
more have demonstrated since, not only in Lahore
but also increasingly in other towns and cities
as well. These demonstrations are in danger of snowballing
into a full-fledged movement. If that happens, its
Musharraf should act now to correct this stupidity
and concentrate on our real problems. Castrator
Negroponte is intent on achieving America’s
real objectives, which are to disable our nuclear
assets, attack our tribal areas and force Dr. A.
Q. Khan to give evidence that nuclear proliferation
was state policy, forgetting that most of it was
done during Benazir’s second government. Installing
Benazir in power would enable them to achieve all
three. If that doesn’t work, break Pakistan.
There is a bumper sticker doing the rounds these
days: “Be nice to America or they will bring