Pakistan and 'The Ides of March'
By Dr. Nazir Khaja
Los Angeles, CA

The Ides of March are understood to be the middle period of the month. In Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar", before the approach of the date, a Soothsayer warns Caesar: "Beware the Ides of March". The mighty Caesar disregards it. On this date as Caesar loftily approaches the Capitol to be crowned, he spots the soothsayer and turning to him in disdain remarks, "The Ides of March have come", meaning that the soothsayer's prophecy regarding his personal vulnerability during this period as predicted by him was false and that undaunted and resolved Caesar was going on to the Capitol to be crowned. The soothsayer however fires back, "Aye Caesar, but not gone". Caesar unheeding marches on and is assassinated.
Reading Shakespeare's plays and the Greek tragedies gives us a good insight into the political dramas that are acted out daily on the world stage.
The above scene from Julius Caesar is very much in front of our eyes in Pakistan. The newly elected National Assembly is being convened during these Ides of March and metaphorically yet another Caesar may be slain, meaning the end of Musharraf. Besides the metaphor's direct connection to Musharraf's political demise, it could also mean that Pakistan the nation itself is being "felled" by "the conspirators".
To believe that Pakistan in its near future is going to be ruled by those who along with Musharraf actually contributed enormously to the present chaos does not augur well for the future of the nation.
In Greek tragedies we know that all of the characters who are mighty and powerful are flawed and suffering from moral ambivalence and yet they all die in the end. Not so in Pakistan's tragedy unfortunately.
Again a line from Julius Caesar, which says: "The evil that men do, lives after them; the good is oft interred with the bones."
In the Pakistani tragedy all are alive and except in rare instance neither they nor their good is interred!!
Judging from the past record of these power-hungry leaders, one cannot hope for a turnaround in Pakistan's mess. Having ridden back into power on mainly an anti-Musharraf sentiment in an election with a voter turnout of only about twenty percent, they neither have the will nor a true mandate from the majority in Pakistan; the majority did not vote because of their own safety and also as an expression of their disgust with Pakistan's politics — "pox on everyone" type of response.
Since he was deemed to be not corrupt some if not many may be willing to forgive Musharraf many of his sins. Two of his sins, which cannot be ignored, are his manhandling of the judiciary and the blanket amnesty offered to all of those who were charged with high crimes against the people of Pakistan and were barred to have any political future. He committed the latter mistake under pressure from outside in the name of "democracy" and "reconciliation", thinking of himself to be a combination of Ataturk and Mandela. Alas for Musharraf — "Out, out damned spot"! the famous words of Lady Macbeth — the "spot" will never wash away!
The National Assembly is convening at a time when terror grips Pakistan with daily explosions. There is generalized unrest. Even Islamabad does not seem to be safe. The worsening impact of all of this on an already fragile economy is fairly obvious. Food prices have sky rocketed and the poor can hardly afford to feed their families.
People are hoping that their leaders will set aside party politics and their personal agendas and attend in earnest to the task of restoring some stability and security. Will the elected leaders be able to set aside their political gamesmanship to give the people of Pakistan some hope? The people need an answer now.


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