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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2732

Not many tears shed, no lessons learnt

By *Wajid Shamsul Hasan - Syndicate Features

December 16 this year as usual passed with not many tears shed with no lessons learnt. And much like the previous Praetorian adventurers who germinated Pakistan’s break up by denying its people genuine democracy based on the sure foundations of true federalism, those in power today are behaving no better.

December 16 has come to be the darkest day in Pakistan’s history. On this day the coterie of generals under Yahya Khan surrendered half of the country to the Indian army. And despite the best efforts of their wired propagandists to forget it many amongst us continue to feel the pain and trauma that led to an otherwise avoidable break up.

As December goes by old wounds of shame get ulcerated profusely again especially when an East Pakistan-like operation in the province of Balochistan and northern Pakistan—is being repeated. Though sparsely populated Balochistan incidentally is the biggest province area-wise and its untapped natural resources give hope of prosperity to its step-motherly-treated people who would like to live a respectable life in a genuine federation. The current oppressive method of treatment is pushing them to the wall and their secular leaders soon will have no other option but to embrace the East Pakistani option.

Since the situation is being described now by many as even worst than that had led to army’s humiliation in December 1971, there is yet another similarity to it. General Yahya and his coterie despite their despicable surrender to the enemy had no inclination to give up power in Islamabad.

I distinctly remember—just when General 'Tiger’ Niazi was signing surrender documents and handing over his arms to the Indian General JS Arora—one of the sub-editors in the newspaper I used to edit brought to me tele-printer copy of the new Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that was being circulated to the media by the official news agency APP (Associated Press of Pakistan).

It had been framed—on the orders of Chief Martial Law Administrator and the President—General Yahya—by late Justice A.R. Cornelius. Not only that, ISPR had alerted us that soon the General would come on the television to officially unfold his scheme to remain in power. Among other things—ironically enough but too late in the day—in his new constitutional dispensation—the General had granted “full provincial autonomy to the province of East Pakistan” just when it had become Bangladesh and had been recognized by India and other countries such as that.

Just imagine how sickening and Nero-like has been the mentality of the generals that they still wanted to devour the cake of power when they had lost half of the country. It is a debatable question that would they have got away with it had they not been confronted with a revolt by the Young Turks in the army and had the junior officers not caught General Hameed Khan (Yahya’s army deputy) by his collar and dragged him out? Looking at the turn of events now—much similar to what happened in General Yahya Khan’s days and nights—and the eventual break up of the country—I don’t have an optimistic opinion to offer.

In today’s Pakistan every national institution stands fractured, the Constitution of 1973 has been disgorged beyond recognition, the superior judiciary has been sacked, federal political leadership marginalised and a Draconian clampdown on the media has been imposed. Despite having pushed the country to a point of no return and caught in a Catch-22 situation both internally and externally—the rulers have the gall to call it success of democracy and civil society. They have no intentions—like Yahya Khan and his coterie—to give it up even if the country breaks up. Of course the possibility of Young Turks hopefully striking once again cannot be ruled out.

While hoping against hope for an eventuality that might go in their favour, as far as the masses are concerned, their best bet is their vote. The January 8 elections are being held not on an even playing field but on a wicket that is made to order to enable the PML-Q’s band of political orphans to romp home by hook or by crook.

PPP leader Benazir Bhutto has being rightly telling the masses that time has come for them to strike back with full force with the power of the ballot and uproot those forces that have brought the country to such a tragic pass when its future has become a question mark and its existence remains under the threat of being declared a failed state. The people can turn the tide against the forces of status quo and revive Quaid’s democratic Pakistan by casting their votes in favour of those who are committed to translating Mr Jinnah’s dream of an egalitarian and secular state into a reality.

Massive rigging has been planned by the known political thugs in the game since long under the direct patronage of their godfather who wants to make the world believe that the polls would be free, fair and transparent while having the results already tailor-made to keep him and his gang in power. Could there be a greater perversion of transparency in polls when one sees the civilian President holding an august office that requires him to be neutral is overly canvassing for the candidates of the political party that he illegitimately gave birth to?

The voters have got to make their resolve that—come what may—they would not be deterred by any machinations and the wheeling-dealings of those who have denied them for so long—the right to exercise their vote freely and transparently to elect their own representatives. And if they are cheated again—they will have to get out and challenge the usurpers by the power of the street so that anti-democratic forces learn a lesson for all times and never raise their head again.

It needs to be underscored here that Pakistan has entered the most crucial phase of its existence just when 2007 is to end. A few weeks from now it will have a general elections described as “battle to save Pakistan” promised to be held freely, fairly and transparently--it is naked to the eye that the polls would be neither free, nor fair or transparent. They will be most brazenly rigged.

Benazir Bhutto had shown the way by wisely opting for participation in elections despite the odds pitched by the usurpers against her and her party. She has taken upon herself the challenge to singe the beard of the toothless lion-- out of his second skin-- in its den. It is a good augury that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif too is back on the track and has joined the battle of the ballot to defeat the jackboots.

It would still be timely if those who have opted for boycott to review their decision and join hands with the bigger parties to turn tables on the establishment and those in cahoots with it to make the January 8 elections as the Waterloo for all the Bonapartists and their soldiers of political opportunism.

*Wajid Shamsul Hasan is a former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain. He lives
in London

- Syndicate Features -

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