Apr 182008

I was already apprehensive about him. When Asif Zardari was having consultations with his party deputies to develop ‘consensus’ on the name of next prime minister, someone from the media asked Makhdoom Yousaf Raza Gilani to confirm if his name had already been finalized for the post of prime minister. Gilani’s reply was: there is only a small distance between the Prime Minister House and Adiala Jail. His dress and body language said that he was already behaving like a prime minister yet he had been able to imply otherwise without telling a lie. The media persons present on the scene thought that his answer was quite funny and they did have a laugh too. But, my sixth sense said that he was too clever a man to be caught by his questioners. The young man, who is certainly older than Rehmat Shah Afridi serving a prison sentence like Gilani for the offences which he never committed, was nominated as prime minister on March 22 and was elected as prime minister on March 24 with a thumping majority of 264 to 42 in a house of 342. He was sworn in as Prime Minister on March 25 by his captor who kept him in captivity in Adiala Jail for over five years from February 11, 2001 to October 7, 2006. The manner in which he exchanged customaries with President Musharraf after his swearing in ceremony showed that he was clearly being officious without being rude. He repeated the same posture when he met Musharraf again on March 31 at the time of swearing in ceremony of his cabinet. There was a deadlock in the presidency on March 31. For PMLN ministers, their swearing in by President Musharraf was nothing more than a disgrace or even something more serious. Therefore, they were determined not to take oath without registering their protests which they wore on their sleeves in the form of black bands. President Musharraf and his loyalists did their best to disarm the PMLN’s stalwarts. Because of the deadlock between the President and the PMLN ministers, the oath-taking ritual was delayed by one and a half hour. At this time, the PPP Prime Minister stood with the PMLN ministers and ‘advised’ the President to administer them oath ignoring their black bands. Musharraf complied with the advice because he understood that the prime minister’s advice was binding on him in terms of article 48 of the Constitution and he could not afford to breach the Constitution yet another time in the changed circumstances. The President and the Prime Minister were together again on April 10 when Musharraf was to depart to China on a six-day visit and Gilani went to Chaklala Air Base to see him off with so many wishes, good or bad, in his heart of hearts. hose who watched the scene must have observed Musharraf embracing all the state functionaries but when he attempted to embrace Gilani, the young man just shunned him away in an apparent bid to restrict himself to the ‘smaller sin’ of shaking hand. This is in clear contrast with Gilani’s ‘Japphi’ with Mian Nawaz Sharif at Jati Umra in Raiwind on April 16. Before proceeding to Raiwind, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani visited Bushra’s house in Lahore. This is when my apprehensions became true and I became sure that Gilani was definitely an ‘abnormal’ man. That also explained why he stopped using the title of ‘Makhdoom’ and why he insisted that he was Khadim not Makhdoom or subject not object. Bushra is a Quranic word meaning ‘good news’. Her parents gave her this name hoping that she will bring good news for them. The good news in the context of a poor man can only mean prosperity in material terms. Therefore, Bushra’s parents must have believed that they would get enough food to survive after her birth but what they got in return was more of poverty and hunger. Bushra’s parents married her to a labourer who worked as a welder, playing with his unprotected eyes. Like every Pakistani girl hailing from poverty-ridden families engaged in child-marriages to lessen their economic burdens, Bushra must have thought that her miseries would end with her marriage. But that was not to be. She had starved a lot as a child and a young woman but could not see her own children starving. Therefore, a few days before the doomsday, she wrote in her child’s homework book: “This world is full of sorrows. Nobody loves anyone here. The kids have too many desires which are too difficult to fulfil. I have no answers to their innocent questions. For God’s sake, forgive me.” Bushra’s writing showed her agony. She was starving not only for food but also for love, a typical scene of every poor family in our rich country. But she refused to surrender and pass on her poverty to her children. Therefore, she took her 5 year old Zubair and 4 year old Saima with her and jumped in front of an express train near Makka Colony which is situated in the suburbs of Gulberg offering a clear contrast between the haves and haven’ts of Pakistan. Bushra’s body, as that of her two children, was minced into pieces. Her children must be smiling before this dreadful scene. She must have promised them to show them the train or may be to take them to the visit of zoo in another land. Within minutes, nay moments, all the three of them had travelled trillions of miles from this world to the other world. Prime Minister Gilani says that he reads a dozen newspapers everyday. That is how he learnt about Bushra’s suicide. He felt genuine grief for her and decided to pay her homage by visiting her house, if it can be termed so, personally. He could have simply ignored the news or would have at the most issued a ‘made up’ statement expressing his profound grief. But he decided otherwise. He too was abnormal like Bushra. Therefore, before leaving for Raiwind, he left for Makka Colony on a pilgrimage trip to breathe in the air where Bushra breathed her last. I don’t know how Gilani would have felt on this pilgrimage. All that I know is that he gave a cheque of two hundred thousand rupees to the bereaved family and promised Bushra’s parents to bear all expenses of her two sisters’ marriages. I am sure Bushra’s, and her two innocent children’s, soul must be very pleased with Gilani’s visit for the economic relief that this visit had brought for the family. She had achieved through her suicide what she could not achieve with her life. Indeed, she had accomplished her mission. But, for her remaining family members it was a routine activity. They shed a few tears, remembered her and thanked the Prime Minister for his generosity. Bushra’s death must have explained to the Prime Minister why people become suicide-bombers and why they kill themselves and others to accomplish their missions like Bushra did it in her own way. Caliph Omar (RA) once said that Almighty Allah will hold him responsible if even a dog living as far as river Farat starved to death during his caliphate. If Caliph Omar (RA) can be held responsible for a dog’s death why Prime Minister Gilani cannot be held accountable for Bushra’s death? Therefore, Bushra’s death must have shocked and shaken Gilani. More shocking and shaking news, however, is that according to our Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s statement almost one third of our population is living below the poverty line in our holy land. The World Food Programme’s recent report however put these figures at 77 million which is almost fifty percent of 160 million population of Pakistan. In other words, every second Pakistani is a potential suicider. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani faces a gigantic task of converting all these suiciders into a nation-building force. Unless he creates a dedicated and committed team comprising of non-bureaucrats to meet this challenge he will not be able to stop the flood of suiciders which may destroy our society sooner than later. The time that he has got is too little and the challenges he faces are too many. By the way, did the ‘abnormal’ Prime Minister, who claims to read a dozen newspapers everyday, read my ‘Open Letter’ addressed to him that was published in the Frontier Post on Monday April 14, 2008? If he did read it, why Rehmat Shah Afridi is still perishing in prison and why…? dr.chishti@hotmail.com

Courtesy: The Frontier Post, 18/4/2008

 Posted by at 6:06 pm

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