Caged Tiger, Angry Dragon
By Humayun Gauhar
Islamabad, Pakistan

What 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 intention.
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 dictator.
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 curtains.
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 you democracy.”


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