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Forcing The Gates

There can be no approbation strong enough for the demonic act of the cartoons caricaturing our beloved Prophet (Peace Be upon Him (PBUH)).  The muslim reaction is only a reflection of the deep-rooted suspicions that other religions have ganged up in a well-thought out conspiracy, the disrespect for our Prophet (PBUH) meant as a deliberate provocation.   An idiot of an Italian Minister wore the despicable cartoon on a T-Shirt, very correctly (and swiftly) the Italian PM and his cabinet sacked him.  Before enraged protestors could overwhelm and burn the Italian Consulate in Ben Ghazi, Libyan internal security forces killed eleven (including some foreigners among the Libyans).

The crowds mouthing muslim anger all over the world are genuine in their anguish over the desecration. Disparate (and desperate) politicians acting on their own individual agendas have converted what should have been peaceful protest into unrestrained violence, agent provocateurs seizing the opportunity for their own motivated interests. At times the violence was accidental as when a private security guard at a bank branch on the Mall Road in Lahore fired into unruly crowds intent on damaging the premises, and killed two protestors, that bloody sight turned the crowd into an unruly mob, a tiger became a “man eater”. One can understand the mob venting it’s anger at western interests, what about the elements within the crowds acting on their aims and objectives? The seething anger has been intelligently exploited in Pakistan into an anti-government challenge.  Following the mishandling of the protests in Islamabad and Lahore, one expected that Peshawar being MMA territory, the protest would be disciplined and peaceful, that it turned violent was a major surprise.  Credit has to be given to the authorities in Karachi for keeping the protest, except for a few stray incidents, generally peaceful.  If the situation could be handled in a normally volatile city like Karachi without provoking trouble, it could have been so done in other cities as well.  What the government has to do is to realize the gravity of the situation inflaming religious sentiments and keep assorted macho spokesmen, bent on making a prime-time display to the President of their “loyal” commitment to him, from provoking the masses by bravado statements. Regretfully by doing so they are undercutting the foundations of the President’s goodwill among the masses, goodwill built over the years by the many tangible things he has done for Pakistan.  For them it doesn’t really matter, they have served other masters in the past, and barring those very closely identified with Gen Musharraf, will happily (and loyally) serve other masters in the future.

There is uncanny resemblance at places to previous disturbances that have brought down regimes in Pakistan.  A sugar crisis started in 1968 out of nowhere, simultaneous agitation in (then) East Pakistan led by the Awami League fulminated against the concept of the Federation, “Gherao and Jelao” movements affected industrial units throughout (then) West Pakistan. By the beginning of 1969, Ayub Khan had had enough and made no protest when the Martial Law meant to be imposed by him in fact deposed him.  Similarly the April 9, 1977 disturbances on the Mall Road in Lahore fueled the fire that swept through the land that eventually brought down Zulfikar Ali Bhutto less than three months later.  The exploiting of religious sentiment that took place in 1977 (PNA’s Nizam-e-Mustafa movement) is now being repeated in 2006.  As a political animal par-excellence Bhutto recognized the dangers to his PM-ship and backtracked very smartly, almost bringing it off by compromising and entering into an agreement with PNA, the Pakistan Army unfortunately had other plans.  Besides the political reasons, in 1969 and 1977 Pakistan was also immersed in economic problems.  Politically we may need some mending today, economically Pakistan is on a high and the boom is not easing off.  Geo-politically we are in an extremely stable condition, it would be a tragedy if all this thrown is to the wolves.  Make no mistake they are at the doorstep.

No one likes military rule for an extended period, resorted to for the “salvation of the country” it must remain in place for the shortest possible time before giving way to democracy.  This is the norm, unfortunately the norm cannot be applied to Pakistan given the geo-political, political and economic crises we are straight-jacketed in.  Most crises are of the making of our rulers, they usually escape accountability, so do their advisors who continue to mislead the public in semi-retired life on both the print and electronic media.  Have we taken to task those who made money for themselves out of the ill-conceived nationalisation of the early 1970s?  Have we taken those bureaucrats to task who looted the nationalised units after the political govt fell in 1977?  Have we taken to task those who made money out of the privatization of the nationalised units (and other public sector units) after the political forces came back into the seat of power in 1988?

While continued wearing of the uniform does take the shine off and Musharraf’s rule, imperfect may have been, it has been very successful for Pakistan. His successes easily overcome in public perception the known failures.  In Musharraf’s defence these mistakes have not been of intent but compromises made because of “Special Interest Groups” that be-devil any democratic government. His detractors say he does not want to give up power, unfortunately the Nelson Mandelas of the world are few and far between, are in fact a rarity.  Which ruler gives up power voluntarily, particularly a military one?  That aberration aside Musharraf has been very good for Pakistan, particularly when you take into account the mess we had got ourselves into between 1988 and 1999 politically and economically, have people got such short memories?  His has been the most benign of military rules, martial law was never declared and no trappings of military rule have never been flouted.  People have not been dragged off to military courts or subjected to summary punishment by military justice.  His economic performance has been outstanding even if his political initiatives have produced a mixed bag.  His greatest performance has been on the geo-political field, Pakistan now has a place in the sun.  You had to mingle among the world elite in Davos to believe he now comes across as a superstar, and that Pakistan is taken as a major player in the region.

We have our internal travails, the FATA situation keeps on simmering even though it is now mostly under control.  Balochistan cannot be compared to East Pakistan in 1971.  In East Pakistan, the rebellion was widespread and involved the whole of the Province.  In Balochistan, the trouble extends to two districts (out of 26), Bugti’s own tribe is divided.  Well-armed, well-trained hard-core guerilla group have set off bomb blasts far and wide to disrupt the socio-economic infra-structure such as electricity, gas, etc throughout the Province.  One way well ask why is life normal in all the cities of Balochistan if Bugti has widespread support among the Baloch? With lack of public support, how long before they are caught?

There is a saying that those whom the Gods want to destroy they first make them mad, it would be more correct to say that they first make them stone-deaf.  Can anyone among those in authority hear the growing murmur from the streets turning into a roar?  A lot now depends upon the real friends of the President, those who have his ears and can tell him, without losing their heads, that his detractors have taken a religious issue and are intelligently converting it into an anti-Musharraf campaign, helped no end by some on his own team who must qualify   as   morons  for  not  understanding   the  gravity  of  the situation and handling it in an adroit and sophisticated manner.  The situation is presently tailor-made for spinning out of control, the President must act immediately to defuse the situation before it deteriorates further, to his detriment and that of the country.

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