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In defence of Raja Nadir Pervaiz

Adjacent to the Jhang Bazar in Faisalabad lies the Sitaram Temple, this has not been used as a place of worship by the Hindus for some time. Its sanctity is presently in the hands of Christians and Qadianis who live in the vicinity of the temple. On 08 Dec 92, it became one of the many points of focus for the madness that swept the South Asian sub-continent. At about 1:30 p.m, hearing that a crowd of thousands had assembled in the proximity of the temple with murderous intention, Raja Nadir Pervaiz, MNA and a Minister of State in the Nawaz Sharif cabinet, hurried to the spot. Seeing the bloody-minded mood of the assembled mob, he used flamboyant rhetoric to keep them occupied for over an hour, with their frenzy abated in slogans they eventually started to dissipate. In the meantime, the Christian and Qadiani families were evacuated without harm, only a part of the temple had been damaged as the mob vented its anger before Nadir Pervaiz reached the scene. By nightfall, a scant few hours later, the evacuated occupants were back in their places of residence adjacent to the temple. Raja Nadir Pervaiz thus fulfilled his political responsibilities with a mixture of courage, intelligence and discretion.

In stark contrast to the facts, the Indian propaganda machine as well as our esteemed Leader of the opposition, Ms Benazir Bhutto, would have us believe that Nadir Pervaiz personally took a bulldozer to the temple, reducing it to ashes. The shameful bulldozer incident did take place but in Lahore not in Faisalabad and no minister was involved. One may well ask, why has Nadir Pervaiz become the subject of such a vicious campaign of disinformation, one that amounts to character assassination of the worst part?

Raja Nadir Pervaiz may be a political entity today, for the Pakistan Army he is an icon of sorts, a living legend. The Indians have a reason for trying to tarnish Nadir’s reputation, most of it was earned on the battlefield in the service of Pakistan in two wars against India. Captured in East Pakistan in 1971 on the surrender of Eastern Command, he was singled out by the Indians as the “Pride of Pakistan” and repeatedly taunted by his captors to try and make an attempt to escape. That challenge was accepted in due course and in the most glorious tradition of soldiers all over the world, Nadir Pervaiz became one of the gallant few that broke out of Indian bondage. That action was symbolic of the spirit of the Pakistan Army, it cannot be broken.

Escaping from India, Nadir could not live down the humiliation of surrender in East Pakistan. Till the day of the order to lay down their arms, all the units of the Pakistan Army in the then East Pakistan (barring the odd one) continued fighting extremely well against overwhelming odds, remaining intact and with high morale. Like many younger officers, Nadir Pervaiz was convinced, rightly or wrongly, that this humiliation was visited on the country because of the machinations of an unholy cabal of politicians and senior military officers who combined together out of their own personal interest to serve the ambitions of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This had become the subject of heated debate among the “young Turks” in various informal forums, on his return to Pakistan Nadir became a coalescing factor for such argument. This dissent was tailor-made for our intelligence agencies to show their loyalty to Bhutto. In short order, intelligence operatives were infiltrated into the midst of the disaffected young men who were exhorted by the newcomers to stage a coup, thus turning the debate into an act of treason. For various reasons, the group of young men had decided not to pursue this course but by airing dissent they violated a primary principle of army discipline and the civilian government decided to make a sorry example out of them, thus was the Attock Conspiracy case borne, the trial being conducted by then Major General Ziaul Haq. Gen Ziaul Haq endeared himself to the then PM, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, by handing out stiff prison sentences to the recalcitrants in late 1973. A couple of years he was rewarded with the post of COAS in 1975 despite being the junior-most Corps Commander at the time of his elevation to COAS. Nadir and the others along with him remained in various jails, the Jail Manuals amended frequently to discomfit their incarceration. Bhutto was ultimately overthrown by Gen Ziaul Haq. History had come a full circle, what Zia had convicted Nadir Pervaiz for he had himself ultimately committed. For Benazir Bhutto, Zia is rightfully a hated enemy, after all he had hanged her father and no scion can ever accept that fact whatever may be the circumstances. Raja Nadir Pervaiz seems to get an extension of that hate because he symbolizes the young men of the Pakistan Army that first stood up to cast doubt on Bhutto’s sincerity to the nation whenever it came into conflict with his personal ambitions. Since Nadir Pervaiz is held as a symbol of courage and sacrifice of the Pakistan Army, Benazir’s venom against him in parroting the obvious untruths that the Indians were propagating seems to be either an amazing coincidence or coinciding of interests. One may well ask, beneath that veneer of rhetoric, what is Ms Benazir’s real feeling about the Pakistan Army?

In the short NBC programme that sought to disclose Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, Ms Benazir gave an interview that one would never expect any former PM of any country to make. First of all, she seemed to give truth to US and western suspicions that Pakistan had gone nuclear, to compound it further she implied that she had been removed as PM in 1990 because of her opposition to that fact. Again we see that Ms Benazir’s submissions seem to coincide with the thrust of Indian propaganda, blatantly false premises are laid out to be the truth.

Pakistan may indeed have become nuclear, at least that must certainly have been the intention as a reaction to the Indians exploding their “peaceful” bomb in the Rajasthan desert in 1974, fully 18 years ago. The nuclear route was forced on us because of that eventuality. As far back as 1977, US President Carter had cut off all American Aid to Pakistan because of that suspicion. Once a country has nuclear expertise, to put together a bomb is not an insurmountable problem but the actual assembling of such a device is said to give the country a nuclear capability. It would be childish to presume that given such a requirement (in the face of Indian threats) Pakistan would not go past that fail-safe point and opt for that course. However, despite the gravest provocation by India over the years including blatant interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, the use of terrorism and warlike military moves on our borders, Pakistan has remained shy of crossing that Rubicon, mainly because of US and western sensitiveness on the nuclear issue. In plain English, though we have the capability, we have elected to remain short of becoming nuclear. It is unimaginable that as the Pakistani PM from 1988 to 1990, Ms Bhutto should not have known about Pakistani capabilities and given that knowledge, it is astounding that she has waited so long to “disclose” the “real” reasons for her downfall. Her reasons for choosing this particular time is also interesting, since Pakistan as a nation is already under unrelenting pressures from US and western countries for any number of reasons.

Ms Bhutto knows very well that when she talks about Pakistan’s nuclear capability and those that would persevere with it to final culmination of producing a device, she talks about the military hierarchy. Certainly she cannot be talking about Nawaz Sharif when she mentioned that somebody flipped the nuclear switch in the Spring of 1990 leading to her removal since Nawaz Sharif at that time was only Chief Minister of Punjab. Since presently her focus of attack is Nawaz Sharif instead of the President, is she following a two track policy i.e. attacking the President on the US media as the person who opted to go nuclear while reserving for Nawaz Sharif the prime enemy’s slot for the domestic scene? Her father really seemed to believe that his own individual cause was greater than the national interest, that his destiny superseded that of the nation. By implying on prime time US TV that Pakistan has gone nuclear, that the military hierarchy is responsible for this fact and that she was removed per se because of that reason, she emulates her late father in implying any number of reasons but glosses over the actual fact of widespread corruption.

Once upon a time Pakistan was seen by the US as a key country in the anti-communist alliance. The demise of the Soviet Union has changed US perceptions and Pakistan is no longer that important. By seeming to squeal on Pakistan on the nuclear issue Ms Bhutto may endear herself to President-Elect Bill Clinton and her friends among the liberal Democrats in the US but presently their primary interests would be domestic and economic rather than getting embroiled in Pakistani domestic politics.

There was a time when Pakistani Presidents and PMs reached that exalted post only if they got a nod from Washington before assuming office, not so anymore. Moreover, by slandering the Pakistan military establishment, Ms Benazir has not served her own cause at all. The Armed Forces have long memories and will never accept “softness” on India while the Kashmir issue remains unsolved. Ms Bhutto certainly seems to do just that, even to the peril of Pakistan’s crucial interests. To compound her situation, she actively diverted international media attention away from Kashmir at the height of the Kashmir campaign. Even on the Babri Masjid she seems to be ambivalent, seeming to be toeing the Indian line in criticizing the elected Pakistani government.

It is very true that we lost the high moral ground on the Babri Masjid issue in a day of utter insanity when we put a large number of Hindu temples to flame while violating the sanctity of one diplomatic home in Karachi. This is certainly a failure of leadership, both at the national and local level, as also of the civil administration, certainly a matter of shame for us as well as of introspection. However, in no way it can be equated with the enormity of the Indian Government’s culpability on the Babri Masjid issue, that was an act of willing government connivance for achieving a fait accompli.

Nowadays, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is the rage of social circles and as he utters, “Ali, Ali,” the assemblage goes wild with rapture, little do they understand the full implications of what is essentially a Muslim war cry. Raja Nadir Pervaiz belongs to that select group of people who have heard the sound of bullets (fired in anger) whipping past and at them in the service of their country, he stands tall among the few who have had the privilege of serving alongside with many who have died for this country with “Ali, Ali,” on their lips.

Anyone trying to assassinate the character of a national hero serves no other cause but that of the enemy.

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Bravo! Very well written.

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