Pakistan Democracy, martial law, politicians

by Zafar Alam Sarwar

Democracy and politicians are once again topics of discussion among men and women of Islamabad and Rawalpindi joined by friends and relatives from Azad Kashmir, Gujar Khan and Peshawar. Overseas Pakistanis coming home to meet their blood relations also appear keen to take part in a debate on the country’s socio-economic and political system.
People’s comment on the news with crisp headlines — and on divergent views of politicians following a split in the Nawaz-Zardari coalition — is as constructive and suggestive as is a fairly written article or report of a well-informed professional journalist. And that provides food for thought to power-hungry politicians, including the Muslim Leaguers divided into N, Q, F and J groups, and the ones who seem disheartened by the performance of the so-called new democratic dispensation. Nevertheless the latter look optimistically at what is happening in the country.

Presence at small meetings of patriots and patient listening to overseas Pakistanis the other day was heart-warming. Seemingly calm and quiet, youths like Tahira Mahmudah, Sonia and Abdullah Tanvir from the United Kingdom, Tariq Javed, Bushra, Zoha, Nini and Taimur from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Tajamal Hussain from the US turned vocal, but they had substantial ideas to make Pakistan economically viable and defence-wise strong.

Hussain, impassioned but brimmed with patriotism, could not help express his anger over what he described as unhealthy modus operandi of some doctors in treatment of an ageing woman who was rushed by her daughter to emergency ward and admitted to intensive care unit of a well-reputed hospital of the federal capital. He complained ways are not democratic in medical institutions. Once, at Model Town in Lahore, I asked a gentle second-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif: what do you mean by democracy? For a moment he was silent. Pressed and reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s concept of democracy, he spoke up: “All should work together for people’s welfare, and there should be tolerance (among politicians).”

Earlier, at a function when Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto again was the country’s prime minister, I and the then ambassador of Libya wanted to shake hands with Asif Ali Zardari with warm regards and best wishes, but he did not oblige even one per cent. The personal bodyguard also behaved haughtily following in the footsteps of his boss. The diplomat felt disappointed, and what one could gather from his face was an insult.

What a democratic gesture of BB’s spouse! Long live democracy! How hardworking, how intelligent and how foresighted a student was PPP founder-chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who wrote a letter to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah! The sayings of the Quaid, as architect of Pakistan, should be of deep interest, not only to leaders and workers of PPP but also to all politicians who acknowledge their wrongdoings, and assert they now intend to serve masses.

The Quaid, giving an example of democracy, once said: “Very often when I go to a mosque, my chauffeur stands side by side with me; Musalmans believe in fraternity, equality and liberty.” He advocated democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideals and principles, saying to Pakistani Balochs “Our decisions in the affairs of the state shall be guided by discussions and consultations.”

Good government does not mean autocratic government, good government does not mean despotic government; it means a government that is responsible to real representatives of people. Who is despot now? Has any politician or politico-religious leader ever tried to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, Islamic social justice and equality of manhood in the country? Pakistan remained under military rule for about 32 years in various phases of its 61-year history. Army chief General Ayub Khan blamed politicians for imposition of martial law by President Major-General Iskander Mirza and his appointment as chief martial law administrator (CMLA).

Politicians, particularly Muslim Leaguers, and people’s friendly intellectuals, professors and journalists were annoyed. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a minister in General Ayub’s cabinet. The common man examined the new political development from his ‘roti point of view.’ He had in mind social equality and economic justice. Who was right: Ayub Khan or the politician? Journalists did suffer under what were called ‘black laws’ and had to fight for Press freedom.

Today’s young generation is keen to know why former foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan’s father and ex-minister of state for finance Umar Ayub Khan’s grand-father took over the state administration from Mirza (on 27 October in 1958). The answer is relevant. General Ayub, justified the martial law proclamation and told the nation the “drastic and extreme step was taken with the fullest conviction that there was no alternative to it except the disintegration and complete ruination of the country.”

He asserted chaotic conditions had been brought about by self-seekers who, in the garb of political leaders, had ravaged the country or tried to barter it away for personal gains. Attention new President Asif Ali Zardari, son-in-law of Shaheed PPP Chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. . .. One fine evening of September 1999 I had a cup of cold coffee in the company of Dawn’s ZIM and The PT’s Maqbul Sharif. Martial law, in general, was under discussion. Respected Zafar Iqbal Mirza

concluded: Yar! Is martial law good or bad? That is not the point at issue! The question, in fact, is: martial law tera aye ya mera (it’s yours or mine)?

Representative governments and representative institutions are

no doubt good and desirable,

but when some vested interests want to reduce them merely to channels of personal aggrandisement, they not only lose their value but earn a bad name. Men in power must subject their actions to scrutiny and test them with the touch-stone not of personal or party interest but of the good of the state. If that is not done then the masses, who voted them into power, have the right to remove the government from power.

E mail: zasarwar @

Source: The News, 8/9/2008


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