Jun 152008

By Muhammad Malick

ISLAMABAD: Driving by the deserted site of last nightيs judicial rally, it appeared inconceivable that only a few hours earlier the place had been choked with tens of thousands of people and the venue was reverberating with emotional heart warming slogans.

The stage from where one fiery speaker after another had called for dismantling of the present court structure, itself stood near dismantled.

Civic authority workers could be seen collecting the thousands of empty drinking water bottles left behind by the participants as the only tangible evidence of all that had happened here.

Maybe that is my bottle from last night that this man is picking up, I said to myself and then smiled at the silliness of the thought.

But frankly, anyone who had the good fortune to be here last night left behind something worthless but walked away with a priceless memory. Who knows, maybe even a piece of history.

Oh, what a night it had been! During the course of my journalistic career, I have covered hundreds of rallies but never one like this.

Unlike the others, it was not a homogenous congregation of followers of one particular party, ideology, or one ism. Unlike the rest, neither was it divided on conservative or liberal ideological fault lines.

Never before in a rally had I ever seen jean clad girls shouting slogans standing close to a group of flag waving and equally vociferous Jamaat-e-Islami activists. At around 2 am, I even spotted one young mother with her seven- or eight-year-old child casually strolling around; an anti-Musharraf banner tucked neatly under one arm. You could see families walking around as if attending a local carnival. This was not your typical Pakistani rally by any standard.

It was amazing; it was beautiful. And not just for the cause prompting this convergence of the almost entire cross-section of our society but because it rekindled the hope that maybe we as a people still harboured the potential to ignore our biases, our political stances, our different social values and get together for the sake of a larger issue of national interest and concern. We behaved like members of any civilised society would, and it was a wonderful feeling. After a very long time, I felt as being a part of a nation and not just a mob. It felt good to be there. It felt good to be a Pakistani.

Sadly, the loneliest people in the midst of this massive turnout were genuine political activists of the Pakistan People’s Party, who ironically have over the years sacrificed the most for keeping alive this very political and democratic culture in the country.

And all because their top party leadership had clearly preferred to protect, for their personal interests, the very status quo voted out by the nation on February 18th. And all in the name of this darned warped concept of national reconciliation.

Who would have thought that on one of the hottest days of the year, the only man left out in the cold would be the PPP co-chairman himself? Who could have imagined that in a rally wanting to restore judiciary sacked by an Army general, the PPP would be conspicuous by its absence? Benazir Bhutto’s person may have been assassinated in December but not her persona.

Her legacy suffered its first major blow on this hot and humid Islamabad June night while her own party ruled the roost. Tragically, the blow comes from no one else but from the very keepers of her political legacy. A few more “pragmatic” divorces like these from the popular sentiment and Benazir’s legacy could well be dealt a fatal hand.

As an old African saying goes: “A man does not die when he no longer shares this earth with his people. He only dies when his people no longer share his thoughts.”

A legacy is only as good as its keeper(s), and last night the keeper failed miserably.

And talking of failures, it was most interesting to see Hina Rabbani Khar vent her ire at the miserable performance of the previous Shaukat Aziz government. It is amazing how some of our politicians change their views and loyalties effortlessly in tune with changing times. It was not that long ago that the same Hina Rabbani Khar could be heard praising Shaukat Aziz and his economic genius to no end. Of course at the time, she was sitting on the PML-Q occupied treasury benches. Being a wily Khar after all, she smelled the change in the air and joined the PPP a few weeks prior to the general elections and she is, once again, looking pretty and sitting pretty as always on the treasury benches. On a second thought maybe her politics is constant: that of occupying a treasury bench. Period!

But almost like a scene from the wildly popular star plus soaps, Dr Doonya took it upon her to teach the other lady a lesson or two in political loyalty and posterity. Clearly, she had an intuition about Hina Rabbani Kharيs viewpoints because she even had records of Hina’s past speeches, which showed that Hinaيs past discourses were almost diametrically opposite to her presently-stated views. Hell surely hath no fury like a doctor Doonya scorned.

But to be fair to the former PML-Q loyalist-now-PPP loyalist Hina Khar, she was not the only speaker to indulge in brazen hypocrisy.

The former leader of the opposition–but always a treasury bencher at heart–Maulana Fazlur Rahman also castigated the government of the blue-eyed boy of President Musharraf. Maulana Sahib had the gall to blame the past regime for all the present ills faced by the nation while conveniently forgetting to mention that had it not been for his support then a military ruler would not have been sanctified as a legitimate ruler. But for his cooperation, the Shaukat Aziz dispensation could not have survived for the period which it did. And rest assured, come new power dispensation, you will surely hear Maulana Sahib castigate his present allies as the curse of heavens. Again on a second thought, even Maulana Sahib has been persistent in his politics: To party with the present, and blaming the past.

On a second thought, let us not talk about the in-your-face opportunism of some our parliamentary elite and just savour the amazing flavour of honest commitment, tasted in the gathering of the common citizens of Pakistan last night. It was a rare treat indeed.

Source: The News, 15/6/2008

 Posted by at 8:59 am

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