Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Relations between Pakistan and India have remained on a see-saw mould since their inception as independent states. There have been three wars and in between many war-like situations. Although there is no stand-off, the existing tense Indo-Pakistan relations do not provide any comfort for a better tomorrow. What has added to this grim scenario is the latest report in New York Times that in new assessments it is suggested that India is considering allowing for pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Pakistan’s arsenal in the event of a war.
The New York Times story has made it clear that India has become so desperate that it is planning to use a nuclear option. Its attempts at isolating Pakistan diplomatically have not produced the desired results. Its army has not succeeded in defusing the situation in Kashmir. Neither had it succeeded — as it claims — in stopping Pakistan in its alleged cross border terrorism.
Indeed, disclosure by New York Times provides us an opportunity to pay tribute to the great leader—Zulfikar Ali Bhutto -- who gave Pakistan nuclear teeth and his daughter Benazir Bhutto — who enabled it to have long range nuclear-head carrying missile technology that we so now proudly display on our national day celebrations without mentioning to both of Pakistan’s great leaders and their contribution to make Pakistan invincible. Martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (April 4, 1979) — gave us our nuclear teeth at the cost of his life. His army chief general Ziaul Haq killed him to remain in power and to please his American masters who had warned Bhutto of making an horrible example if he pursued his nuclear agenda.
While India was lucky that it did not lose its founding fathers immediately after partition and they were there for many decades to consolidate the post-partition gains of freedom, Pakistan unfortunately was not. MAJ died after 15 months of its creation. Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, after having survived first attempt at military coup, was assassinated four years later and the hired assassin’s bullets plunged Pakistan into uncertainty that continues to haunt its future to this day.
While India did not, in Pakistan people were denied the role of sole arbiters of power and it remains undecided till today.
While ZAB changed the whole structure of politics in Pakistan — taking it out from the cool comforts of drawing rooms — to the scorching heat in the streets, lanes and by-lanes — he gave the poor and the shackled a voice and made them source of all power. The struggle started by him continues till today. It is yet to be decided as to who is the sole arbiter of power. It was only for a brief period — five years under ZAB — that masses had the taste of power. Ever since his execution in 1979 they are paying the price for having tasted it. Long periods of successive dictators, their oppressive rules, and revival of the vested interest and resurgence of retrogressive religious forces have brought us to such a pass that we now pray for another Bhutto. Only Bhutto could have got the subcontinent 43 years of peace.
No doubt following 2008 elections Pakistan has had some silver linings. First time its elected government completed its tenure and transferred power to another elected government — indeed a land mark achievement. Regretfully cloak and dagger moves by the powers that be through non-state actor s— be they container dharnas or imported saviours — openly looking for the umpire’s finger – stand taken by the parliament to support the prime minister got him through the storm.
The former army chief soon to be in the pay of the foreign masters, postured himself as above board apolitical person, however, throughout his three years it seemed that the government would not complete its tenure. Singling out Sindh for repression in the name of law and order while closing eyes to Punjab that is known to be epicentre of terrorism, it seemed to be a calculated move to weaken the federation that had got a new lease of life due to 18th Amendment. In this context it is interesting and welcome to note new Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s statement that he and the army stand by democracy. It is definitely reassuring for our flagging democracy.
Indeed we would not have travelled this far had the path not been strewn with the blood of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his daughter Benazir Bhutto and thousands of their followers. Theirs were a life long struggle for the empowerment of the people — especially the women and the minorities. After the most ignominious surrender in 1971, ZAB picked up the pieces and gave the nation renewed hope and confidence in its destiny.
The military-civil-judicial troika backed by the vested interest did not allow SZAB or his daughter to complete their missions. The machinations of the known enemies and their quislings within could not destroy SZAB’s or Bibi’s steeled determination to challenge the dictatorship.
It is very difficult to forecast how long this struggle between the people as the sole arbiter of power and the barrel of the gun shall continue. Half of independent years have passed under dictatorship with rest indirectly, have rendered Pakistan into a great hub of duplicity, converted it into a nation of confounding murkiness making life short, brutish and nasty.
ZAB’s advent in politics was a turning point in Pakistan’s history. He was the youngest minister with ideas in an autocratic Ayub government with generals and senior bureaucrats in cahoots to put their claim to political power. Bhutto was driven by his romance with democracy and freedom for the people as envisaged by the Quaid. He accepted to be part of an unelected regime to see how he could move forward to get the country back to MAJ’s vision. Bhutto, as such, chartered himself on a challenging course that would give a new sense of direction to the people and a fresh meaning to politics.
As a dynamic minister Bhutto did wonders whatever portfolios he was assigned. As minister for fuel and power, he opened Pakistan for diverse explorers tapping for our hidden energy resources discovering oil and gas deposits. As minister for science and technology he set Pakistan onto the path to match India’s advancements in the nuclear technology. And had he had his way earlier under Ayub Pakistan would have acquired nuclear capability much before India tested its atomic device in 1974.
ZAB had no match in statesmanship and his skills in international politics. He untied Pakistan from the American apron strings. Pakistan’s independence had been rendered into a myth by Ayub. ZAB salvaged it by consolidating relations with China, European nations and the Third World. And the Islamic Summit that he held in Lahore remains to this day unsurpassed in its glory.
Gen Zia treated Bhutto very shabbily though he was both his benefactor and Pakistan’s savour. He not only retrieved 93,000 PoWs, recovered over 5000 square miles of our prized territory in Sialkot lost in the battle, rearmed and rejuvenated a demoralised army — what hurt him most was that General Zia pushed Pakistan back into dark ages. He ruefully lamented before his execution: “In the process they have robbed the nation of the high ideals and spirit of fraternity the people shared and demonstrated in 1947.”
Massacre in Parachinar at Imam Bargah and the failure of the government to pillory the radical religious elements who are in cahoots with Mulla Fazlullah of TTP does not augur well for a pluralist, liberal and progressive Pakistan. Some people allege that the government is in league with such elements as they are its electoral allies. It does not seem to be far from truth.
One would not expect those who had opposed to support ZAB’s mission to carry forward torch of MAJ’s secular Pakistan. With Shaheed Benazir Bhutto gone, it is now incumbent upon the PPP leadership—AAZ, Bilawal Bhutto, Bakhtawar and Aseefa and its diehard workers to get organised, work on a left of the centre manifesto, carry forward the torch of democratic freedom fueled by the Bhutto blood.
There should not be any compromise on the supremacy of the Parliament, empowerment of the people and equality for all its citizens, irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender, rule of law, independence of judiciary, freedom for media and a firm reiteration that religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state.