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Friday, January 6, 2012

The Mission Incomprehensible

Original Daily Times Article
Published on: Jan 05, 2012

Memories may have faded,
but this scribe remembers it all very clearly. The ill-fated crash of then President Ziaul Haq was a major shocker. That summer evening brought in grief and a sense of relief at the same time. Grief for a speedy end to Mr Haq, as he deserved a bit more for putting the country through one of the worst martial laws of all times. What I mean here is that the late general should have served time for his illegal coup, which was absolutely uncalled for. This was trumped by relief that we will never get to see his performances of epic proportions on the national stage anymore.

There were a lot of people who were impacted tremendously by such a catastrophe. Barring Azhar Lodhi sahib, who was wailing like an elderly lady on PTV at Zia's funeral, there was his political descendant called Nawaz Sharif who was struck with a major blow. At that point Mr Sharif had vowed that he will fulfil the mission of the last "Mard-e-Momin and Mard-e-Haq".

What was the mission that Mr Sharif was referring to back then? Where did the late general take us that Mr Sharif wanted to continue on that path? When looking at the rear view mirror, and analysing what transpired back then, one has to be honest and realistic. The jingoistic rants that we hear about the current government bending towards the US ought to be re-examined. Undoubtedly, what the US needed back then, was made possible by the late general. The recipient of the benefits was the same US that our overly charged Right wants to vilify to the core at the present time. Yet they hold the late general in the regard generally reserved for saints and the clergy. Reality check anyone?!!

Getting back to the mission, Mr Sharif tried to follow one for sure. This was right after Ms Bhutto was sworn in as the first female prime minister in the Islamic world in 1988. Simply put, it was making her life as a prime minister a 'mission impossible'. Eventually what then President Ishaq Khan did was nothing short of a coup by dismissing the elected government in 1990. Yes, he was not in khaki uniform and yes he may or may not have used the infamous phrase: "Meray aziz hum-watno" (My dear countrymen), coined for the 'only' honest and the 'most reliable institution'. The impact however was the same, as it started a chain reaction of similar presidential coups in the following years. The ostensible reason behind all of those was 'corruption' and 'nepotism'. Amazingly, every time a general takes over, these two things go into a deep hibernation, and somehow resurface with a big bang, as soon as the 'civvies' regain so-called 'control'.

Now fast-forward a few years from there. The same Ms Bhutto made her return in 2007 under what was touted as the 'deal of the century'. Mr Sharif made a landing from London to Lahore, and he was manhandled at the airport. Within hours he was put on a speeding jet bound for London. Our moderately enlightened general and his equally gifted cronies flashed the 'deal' that Mr Sharif had signed in 2000 prior to being dispatched to the holy land for a decade. Mr Sharif denied any such thing, at least in the press. A few months went by and Mr Sharif resurfaced in Lahore along with his illustrious brother and the rest of their family. I am very poor in mathematics, but that would have been seven and not 10 years, but who is keeping track here.

To put it very mildly, one can only speculate that his emergence was perhaps made possible by the same friends who assisted him in his exile at the Suroor Palace. Mr Sharif repeated the same mantra and denied any new deal with his archrival, Mr Musharraf. One can only wonder whether it was possible or not, but as they say a hunch is just a hunch. All of us were looking forward to the elections of 2008. A cold, ruthless and tragic evening in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, changed everything forever.

Mr Sharif made it to the hospital, where Pakistan's two time prime minister succumbed to a brutal gunshot wound. He was distraught and understandably overwhelmed by a sea of emotions. Many of us shared the same state of mind for many days, weeks and months. Shortly after Ms Bhutto's burial, Mr Sharif again vowed to fulfil the unfinished mission of his slain once presumed rival. As they say, time can be quite an enemy or a foe, depending on your circumstances. Here we had another mission that was directly in contrast with the one chalked out by his previous benefactor.

The late general (may his soul rest in eternal peace) is remembered by all and sundry for sowing the seeds of destruction. One can make a compelling argument that an astute politician would have made a better deal with the Americans when the Soviets came knocking in Afghanistan. By resorting to the homegrown jihadi outfits and the slogans of 'Islam is in danger', he bargained something that is practically irreversible. Only a total change of generation and the underlying mindset can alter our fast approaching implosion.

Ms Bhutto, on the other hand, was claiming that she was the perfect answer to those militants and extremists. She was undoubtedly one of a kind. True to the core, to be so vocal in a society totally transformed by the redefined heresy and legacy of her tormentors. She had no idea that she was perhaps cutting a deal with the angel of death. But even in her final hours, she insisted that our predominant national issue was the menace of extremism.

Two diametrically opposite missions, two totally different paths. One has to ask Mr Sharif which path has he chosen. What mission does he want to accomplish and how? So far it sounds like he is on a totally different mission. It strangely reminds us of the mission of the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Perhaps he is waiting for another figure to leave their unfinished mission behind. So Mr Sharif can make another legendary vow to inherit and accomplish it forthwith.

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