Seeds of rebellion

Look into the seeds of time and you shall get the answers you seek. Pakistan’s history doesn’t lie; our leaders lie. They continue their yarns as the nation of 176 million face death, disintegration and disaster. Chivalrous chatter straddling out of the presidency and the Prime Minister’s House leave us cynically cold. The PPP and ANP information ministers manufacture messy fluff about the Taliban.

Gecko-like their statements take new hue each day. They want us to believe it. Even the words of our army chief and his generals cause small comfort. Rebellion is in the air and our rulers sit in their imperial fortresses playing dumb charades with dozen-a-day foreign interlocutors who come to chastise them. Our land, our space, our national news has been invaded by foreign VIPs and the Taliban alike. The scenes and statements are getting sickeningly repetitive.

And then you have to listen to the baloney of two Baloch emigre singling out Punjab as their enemy. Kill one Punjabi a day shouts Brahamdagh Khan Bugti hiding in Kabul; while Hyrbyair Marri demands an independent Balochistan. Amidst their call to arms and ethnic purging, descends a lady in white with diamonds and Swiss lace. She’s come all the way from Kalat to apprise our prime minister on affairs of Balochistan. How bizarre? Begum Khan of Kalat is photographed in all her majesty briefing all-ears-and-eyes Gilani at the PM House. ‘Sab theek hai’ is the conclusion both must have drawn. Can someone explain the jaw dropping seditious statements from Bugti and Marri? Or should we trash them as talk by two ‘rebels?’

We once had a ‘rebel,’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He too had whipped up angst against the Punjabis just before East Pakistan broke away. I lived in Chittagong then and loved to stroll around New Market looking for pink pearls and kanjeevaram saris. Not only did I stop going when we heard incidents of stabbings at shops, was sent back to Karachi on the next flight out. The Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters) struck terror by kidnapping West Pakistani officers and torturing them to death. It was gruesome. When the PPP swept the polls in 1970 and the battle for power between Sheikh Mujib and Bhutto raged, a team was sent to Dhaka to fly the incarcerated Mujib back to Pindi with clear instructions: eliminate Mujib should India intercept their flight. “Under no condition should Indians get Mujib alive,” was the bottom line.

Forty years today, a senior officer who met Mujib when he was in jail at Dhaka tells me a fact that is bone chilling. “Do me a favour” Mujib told the officer one day, “arrange a 30-minute meeting between Bhutto, Yahya and myself. Let the three of us debate as to who is breaking up Pakistan. You be the judge.” I wait for the officer’s next sentence. Without a blink, he tells me it was not Mujib but Bhutto and Yahya who inflamed the fires of 1971 war that led to the breakup of Pakistan!

“You can give up women; you can give up alcohol; you can give up smoking; you can give up gambling, but the one addiction you can never give up is power. It’s a devi that sits on your lap!” says the officer and quotes the Mughal emperors who imprisoned/killed their fathers/brothers and all other male relatives competing for the throne.

The destiny of Pakistan has been shaped by a claque of megalomaniacs. They have inflicted a thousand cuts on the constitution, economy, foreign policy, civil service, law and order, religion, human rights, health and education. It’s a small miracle that Pakistan has survived. But now with thugs like the Taliban, seditionists like the Baloch emigre, jihadis of south Punjab and militant political parties involved in target killings in Karachi, the state is fast losing its grip. To top this, 18 countries have appointed special envoys for Pakistan. These nosy parkers descend upon us daily to show the mirror to our leaders who perhaps are wearing blinkers and cannot see the writing on the wall. Added to this perversity are newspapers like Washington Post and New York Times shouting ‘disaster ahoy!’ Pakistan is breaking! “The channels here show Pakistan’s invasion of the Taliban all the time,” a Pakistani living in the US tells me.

The American screams get louder. Read April 26’s New York Times editorial which berates Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and General Kayani in one breath. Are then our leaders asleep at the wheel or has the rest of the world gone crazy with worry about Pakistan?

General Kayani spoke and the Taliban left with their tails between their legs in Buner, so we’re told. Does this mean that unless the army chief brandishes his stick in the air, the militants don’t listen to any lesser human? While we wish our soldiers Godspeed, we need to be alert to the criticism creeping out from the west regarding Pakistan’s weakness to fight the extremists. Our army chief has rightly denounced the hand-wringing while the GHQ has castigated America and Britain for casting aspersions on the ISI. But such sentiment is ephemeral, it quickly vanishes. If history has taught us any lesson then we must watch what’s happening around us with eyes wide open. Don’t forget generals Yahya and ‘Tiger’ Niazi. They told us all was well in East Pakistan; the insurgency was under control. Both were intoxicated with power, women and wine. Still we believed them. We also took Bhutto’s words as gospel truth, never questioning his oft-quoted sentence idhar hum, udhar tum. If this is not the seed of sedition, what then is it?

The army and the ISI have been tools in the hands of civilian prime ministers and dictators like Ayub, Zia and Musharraf. Notorious names like Brigadier Imtiaz and Major Amir have sullied the ISI with operations like the ‘Midnight Jackal’. Zardari is said to have offered Major Amir the post of head of Intelligence Bureau (IB). “I told the people, close to President Zardari, that I am comfortable in my own affairs and thanked them for offering me different assignments,” Maj Amir was quoted in this newspaper recently. Our rulers’ fascination and need for such shady characters is bottomless. Still, we always criticise our civilian leadership but give a pass to our faujis. Why? Should one assume that all the army chiefs and the ISI heads have been angels with the exception of Aslam Beg, Hameed Gul and Asad Durrani? The three have received enough brickbats. Leave them alone. What about the rest? What was the ISI doing – given that its headquarters are a stone’s throw – as the clerics at Lal Masjid built a virtual arms depot in the mosque’s premises? Why did one ISI chief — in the early 90s show a ‘soft corner’ for the US at the cost of national interest? One day I saw him with his family at a car showroom buying the most expensive car standing there.

If a journalist like Nazeer Naji acquires another plot or a bureaucrat has one too many plots, the grunts in the media get loud. Not a tweet from the press on the number of homes/plots/farmhouses our military men, air force and navy, own. Why quarantine us?” says a retired defence officer. Instead, the ruling party and its coalition partner in Peshawar fatuously cling to their alter egos, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Bacha Khan, reminding us of the awesome legacy the two parties have inherited. Sure, but let’s talk of today, not yesterday.

If it’s any consolation, let me leave you with a thought: Indira Gandhi whose Congress party may win in India would allegedly receive briefcase full of US dollars from her ministers, including her foreign minister, regularly. More of it another time from my reliable sources.

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international

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