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Heeding Lessons Learnt

During the years Mian Nawaz Sharif was out of office, one got the distinct impression that he was willingly embarked on a “learning curve”, that in keeping with the fundamental principles of leadership he was taking into account his own mis-steps and failures in order to benefit and not make the same mistakes again. Out in the cold from government he was an interested observer to the full range and complement of Benazir’s misdoings from which to draw lessons from for a possible future tenure of government. For any student of politics, which one should always be before becoming a full-time practitioner, the last decade provided a virtual plethora of instances of bad governance, none so potent as the misrule of the last 3 years. Has Mian Nawaz Sharif really learnt from the mistakes made or is he caught up in the strait-jacket that usually cocoons our leaders in an aura of self-delusion and despite their obvious leadership qualities, drags them into failure at governance, unfortunately at the cost of the country? Field Marshal Slim of Burma’s “Defeat into Victory” is an epic saga of the lessons he drew from his mistakes that led to his drubbing by the Japanese, the analysis of which took his 14th Army to eventual total victory. However, it is his “Unofficial History” that is recommended for every subaltern in the Army to read as an example of learning from one’s own mistakes and the reinforcing of success rather than failure, maybe it should be also made mandatory for our top political leaders before they don the mantle of high office.

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A Chance for Accountability?

Only days after the President of Pakistan issued an Ordinance giving police powers to the para-military Rangers to arrest and prosecute law-breakers, seven of Mir Murtaza Bhutto’s bodyguards armed to the teeth were apprehended by the Rangers near the Jinnah Terminal of the Karachi International Airport for displaying arms in public inspite of Sec 144 which prohibits such public display. A week or so before this incident a half mile radius area around 70 Clifton (The Bhutto family residence) had been cordoned off by about a 150 plus rather aggressive youthful gunmen wielding automatic weapons as a protective measure for the Convention organised by the PM’s brother to convert the splinter faction of the PPP into a separate new party. Since the gunmen were brandishing automatic weapons (claimed to be legal by Murtaza Bhutto) and were stopping/diverting traffic on a public thoroughfare, one expected possible police action at this heaven-sent opportunity to round up some of the militants suspected to be contributing to the bloody mayhem and carnage in Karachi. However it seems that though he is publicly estranged from his PM-sister, Mir Murtaza remains the first brother, with the laws of the land not applicable on the same basis as for other citizens, bureaucracy on the spot deciding that discretion was the better part of duty. A deep sense of frustration pervaded the intelligentsia and the masses at the inaction of the law enforcement agencies (LEAs), the subsequent disarming of Mir Murtaza’s armed escort was thus a significant milestone in the process of accountability, giving the Rangers a boost in credibility that they were sadly lacking in the public perception. It must be said in all fairness that Mir Murtaza does have a major security problem from enemies near and far, a via media establishing a safety measure for him and his family is necessary.

Accountability can only be credit-worthy if the process is fair and transparent with an even application on everyone irrespective of the person’s influence and connections. A moral high ground is necessary for ensuring that the force of authority is totally dependant upon the integrity of the process. Equal justice may be the bedrock of western civilization today, the fact remains that the foundations of Islam were laid solidly on the basis of equality and justice which were sadly lacking in practice in the existing religions at that time, viz. Christianity and Judaism. Both society and religion demand even-handedness, the responsibility for which is clearly incumbent upon the conscience and sense of duty of those meant to implement the law on behalf of society. One cannot equate actions to be directly proportional to the influence commanded by the people who break the law, bend it or circumvent it at their discretion. One cannot say quote, “after all, Murtaza is the PM’s brother”. Any senior law enforcement officer would expect that even at the street level a constable or soldier on duty will apprehend anyone breaking the law, irrespective of the person’s status and connections. Since the Rangers have been given the same powers as the police in apprehending and prosecuting law-breakers, albeit in support of the police, they have an onerous responsibility to ensure that they will exercise their authority with absolute even-handedness. In this process there is no doubt they will have to bear pressure of all types on their person and their institution, some of it can be overbearing in the matter of career and reputation, both of which can be held to blackmail by administrative action or media campaign or a combination of both. To counter such pressure the process must be so transparent that it will elicit mass public approval and support, in a democracy this is supposedly a vital factor as opposed to a dictatorship where the guardians of law care little about public opinion in deference to the whims and caprices of the dictator.

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Back to Sindh’s Future

The PPP’s decisive majority in Sindh is rural-based except for the National Assembly where because of the MQM boycott it shared the MQM’s urban seats with the PML (N). Bouncing back strongly from their strategic blunder which took away their king-maker status at the national level, the MQM took the second largest majority of 27 PA seats, a true reflection of its vote bank among the Mohajir community in the major urban areas.

Compartmentalised into Provincial role, a culmination of the process that started less than two years ago with Operation Clean-up, a sense of deprivation and persecution is endemic among the Mohajir community. Though Operation Clean-up was primarily directed at restoring the rule of law in Sindh in both the urban and major rural areas, their overwhelming urban presence meant that the MQM became the only political party so targeted. In the period pre-Operation Clean-up some of MQM’s militant elements had far exceeded the parameters of civilized behaviour and were openly baiting the army. Having cogent reasons for not being enamoured with the MQM, the Army called their bluff but in their success they need to be magnanimous in the greater interest of national integrity. As seen in their tolerance of the present “democracy”, they can be patient if they have to be. The sins of a handful cannot be visited upon the millions of their innocent kith and kin, Mohajir public opinion is already estranged and getting more bitter by the day.

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The Last Hurrah

Someone should mark 4 Nov 93 as a red letter day in the country’s democratic history. Ms Benazir, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, stood her ground on two points of relentless pressure, viz. (1) from her mother with respect to the arrest of her brother, Murtaza Bhutto, as soon as he stepped on Pakistan soil and (2) the return of GIK to demand support for the Presidential elections on the basis of what he thought to be an encashable IOU. One can be crass and say that she took the cue from Mian Nawaz Sharif who, in his maiden speech as Leader of the Opposition, encouraged her not to succumb to blackmail by smaller parties, independents and what have you (comprising the Establishment) but one should not take credit away from where credit is due, after all it is she who is in the PM’s hot seat with something to lose. For the record, it is the second time this year, a PM of Pakistan has stood his/her ground, “even to the peril of his/her throne”, that is an auspicious occasion for democracy in Pakistan against any scale.

Murtaza Bhutto kept the people of Pakistan guessing about his arrival the whole of Wednesday 3 Nov. Since he is charged with heinous crimes not only against the State but against a virtual plethora of individual Pakistanis who have died (and have been wounded and maimed) due to assassinations, bombs and other violent means at the hands of a terrorist organisation known as Al-Zulfikar, his entry into Pakistan should interest a lot of people, politics or otherwise. After all, he has been indicted many times by the print media (on the basis of confirmed intelligence reports) that he, having been aggrieved at the demise of his late father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had engaged in what he terms as “a genuine movement to overturn dictatorship” but that happens to be behaviour what the State calls anti-State. So we have a contradiction whether the individual is right and all that the intelligence agencies have been claiming is wrong or the individual is what he is labelled to be. However, the bigger paradox arises if the pro-Indian RAW label does not stick to Murtaza, in that case a whole generation of our intelligence hierarchy have been lying through their teeth. On the contrary, if they feel that they have been speaking the truth, then it will become a test of character of various individuals, whether they have the in-built strength and courage to stand for the truth in the face of losing their careers, Murtaza being the brother of the PM. At least, Murtaza has a redeeming feature, knowing that he faced certain arrest and maybe long incarceration, he has had the guts to stand up for his convictions. Not many people have that special courage to face what could turn out to be a fight for his life.

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D Minus 8 and Counting

Going into the final stretch, one is struck by the fact that while positive factors of the two major political groupings may be important for their success, the negative factors would be much more lethal for their failure. This is politics upside down instead of right side up but this is Pakistan 1993, that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s going to be.

Ms Benazir remains a great crowd-puller and if the election gauges were to be calibrated on the volume of the crowds and the number of party flags, the PPP would be a sure thing at Ladbroke’s. However, the only thing that keeps betting shops like Ladbroke’s profitable is that people lose more often than winning. On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif’s performance has been extraordinary for a person whose previous record was largely believed to be propped up by Establishment support. Not only is he matching Ms Benazir crowd for crowd but he is the first non-Sindhi leader who has drawn a segment of support within Sindh during his repeated forays into the interior to deny PPP a complete sweep in the Province.

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The Murtaza Factor

Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Co-Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party, has announced that her self-exiled son Murtaza Bhutto will contest in the October Elections for both the National Assembly and Provincial Assembly from Sindh for several seats. While it is expected that he will return to the country after the Elections, speculation had been rife for some time that Murtaza would return and take his place in the political life of the country. The only deterrent to his immediate comeback being apprehensions about possible arrest for the many allegations of terrorism that have been preferred against him over the years.

Anticipating the worst for the father, the two sons, Murtaza and Shahnawaz were sent out of Pakistan by the family for the sake of their personal safety while barely out of their teens. As the sons of any father should, they vowed vengeance on Gen Zia and his Martial Law Administration for what they perceived to be murder. The terrorism issue surfaced in the early 80s after the PIA hijacking in which Capt (Retd) Tariq Rahim, formerly ADC to late Mr Bhutto, was brutally murdered at Kabul Airport by the hijackers. Since the hijacking was done in the name of Al-Zulfikar and the sons of Mr Bhutto had come to Kabul Airport to meet the hijackers a conclusion was drawn about their collaboration. It may be remembered that Ajmal Khattak of NAP, who was in self-exile in Kabul at that time, was also alleged to be involved. This was more conjecture than direct evidence but it did serve to establish Al-Zulfikar as a terrorist organisation and the “smoking gun” at Kabul associated Bhutto’s sons with the planning and execution of its operations in the 80s decade. There is always a fine line dividing terrorism from a fight against oppression. At various times, Afghan KHAD, the KGB, Libyans, Syrians, Indian RAW, etc have been identified as financing and controlling Al-Zulfikar’s operations. Murtaza and Shahnawaz (till he died) roamed around as international refugees unable to return home. The terrorism charge made it increasingly difficult for them to travel between countries.

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