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Divided, We Shall Fall

The germs of the whole range of present day crisis were really laid about 500 days ago with the failure of Ms Benazir’s first Long March in November 1992, the facts thereafter being so well-known that it serves useful purpose in referring to the salient features only. That was the symbolic high watermark from where we have been reduced to the dire straits that we find ourselves today. It would be macabre humour to put it down to poetic justice that Ms Benazir’s government has to face the present travails affecting the country in the sense that “those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind”. However, Nawaz Sharif’s government must also take its share of blame, having dispersed the Long Marchers Mian Nawaz Sharif did not take heed of the warning signals and made only half-hearted moves for rapprochement with the then Opposition. As this scribe wrote in THE NATION in November 1992, he chose to become like “the wind which cannot read”. While it is true that one must negotiate from a position of strength, once our leaders feel omnipotent their penchant is to shun negotiations. Ms Benazir does not seem to have learnt this lesson. How wise were Rome’s leaders who would place a man at Caesar’s shoulders even while he was triumphantly basking in the accolades of a hero-worshipping crowd, to repeatedly intone, “Remember, thou art mortal”!

On the eve of our 38th Republic Day, most of the wide range of problems we are facing have come to a head in reaching crisis proportions. The foundations of our economic woes were laid by the artificial limbo created by GIK to perpetuate his own rule, he held the nation hostage to his own ambitions. Till November 1992, Pakistan was moving pell mell towards economic emancipation, the flood devastation of Sept-Oct 92 and certain enthusiastic but questionable schemes of the Mian Nawaz Sharif Regime notwithstanding. The death of then COAS, Gen Asif Nawaz, was the first precursor of things to come. In short, by April 1993, the economic gains of the past two years had been brought to a jarring halt. The worsening political climate dampened, the boom climate necessary to attract the continued inflow of the massive input of foreign investment that would keep the economic locomotive humming. There was a virtual hiatus till the Moeen Qureshi Caretaker Administration took over but the Caretaker Government was hamstrung by the limited period of their reign and their non-elected status. The seeds of their non-success, if not failure lay in the public perception that their rule was temporary. Even then, one must commend Moeen Qureshi for a number of initiatives, marred only by his Administration’s studied tilt for the PPP in an election which was to have been played on neutral ground. In an holier-than-thou stance, then acting President Wasim Sajjad did nothing to ensure that the playing field remained even for his party. However, this underdog status suited Mian Nawaz Sharif politically, who by the end of the election campaign had become the first political person in more than two decades to not only stem the PPP floodwaters but give the populace of Pakistan the first genuine political alternative to the Bhuttos, late father, daughter and (now) Prodigal Son.

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