Nations are proud of some dates as inerasable landmarks that make them hold their heads high. Such as July 4 when "we the people" formed the United States of America, set the world ablaze with a new momentum to human endeavour, gave new meaning to human liberty and dignity, equality and fraternity and opened floodgates of change globally. However, not many nations can forget some dates that have scarred their lives eternally.
Pakistan is no exception to it. July 5, 1977 was the darkest day in our checkered history when General Ziaul Haq uprooted the nascent sapling of democracy. And that act of high treason committed by him continues to hang like a cursed albatross with all its evil ramifications casting a long shadow of doubt on country's future.
Why I have chosen to write on July 5, 1977 nearly 28 years down the road is its continuing impact, the similarities between General Zia's and Pakistan under General Pervez Musharraf and the fact that military rule than had put Pakistan on the road to destruction and under Musharraf the journey to doom is doing the final run.
Pakistan's 'savior' in 1977 had dug the country's grave; our latest 'saviour' now is all geared up to lay the body to rest.
The Quaid had established Pakistan with hopes of making it a model of a democratic state. While Zia made Mr Jinnah's dream sour, it is Musharraf who has converted it into a horrific nightmare. Zia's greatest disservice to Quaid's Pakistan was to drown his democratic liberal ideological Muslim moorings into an ocean of confusion with the objective of converting it into a Sunni Wahabi state.
I am referring to this issue because of the controversy ignited by Indian BJP leader Mr L. K. Advani. It has finally dawned upon him that Mr Jinnah was a secularist and not a communalist. It is indeed an irony for Mr Jinnah that we in Pakistan have to have a certificate from Mr L.K. Advani to merely assert the truth and nothing but the whole truth what Mr Jinnah was. As early as 1893 Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had made it clear that India was a two-nation state. He based this observation not on ground of religion but on account of economic disparities. He believed that Muslims with the best of education and talent would always be outnumbered by sheer numerical strength of the Hindus when competing for jobs. Nowhere did he assert that Muslims as a religious minority would be at the receiving end. Besides, Muslims at that time were free to go to their mosques, observe their religious festivals and prayers without any hindrance.
It was fear of economic annihilation at the hands of the majority rather than religious domination became the raison d'etre for a separate Muslim homeland. Mr Jinnah's Pakistan was to be essentially an egalitarian state based on the sound principles of Islamic social justice and use of religion was to be forbidden to identity its citizens. They were to be equal, free to go to their mosques, their temples, churches etc., and that religion had nothing to do with the affairs of the state. In short, his idea of Pakistan was to be a modern democracy-with minorities and women enjoying equal rights.
Zia straight jacketed Pakistan into his Sunni-Wahabi-Deobandi mould. His ten years were most abusive for the minorities and oppressive for women.
Remember Nawabpur incident when village women were paraded in the nude, molested, depraved and outraged in public. Ever since then such orgies have become a common feature to the point that now under Musharraf hardly a week passes when a woman or two are not raped, paraded in the nude and their spoilers remain unpunished.
The General instead of going after the criminals has extended to them a license to do it more with pleasure, by putting a ban on the travel of such victims (i.e. Mukhataran Mai case). Now he wants to resolve the issue of the growing incidence of rapes by calling a convention of rape victims to hear their tragic stories. This seems to be a sickening manifestation of a sadist mentality reflected in his desire to hear rape stories. If Dr Freud were alive and had to examine him, he would have surely pronounced such a person as a sex maniac and depraved pervert. Not only the rape cases, in others too his government supports men who disparage womenfolk. Look at the fate of the opposition's legislative bid to outlaw Karo-karo-the so-called honour killings that too have acquired an epidemic form under Musharraf and that have been justified by his King's Party. Besides, to rub salt into the national wounds, the General does not get tired of orchestrating on his enlightened moderation and when it comes to action-be it removal of highly abused blasphemy law, draconian action against rapists or putting his foot down firmly to stop introduction of religious column to discriminately identify Pakistani citizens in the new passports, the General surrenders to the religious extremists as usual.
When I compare Zia's with Musharraf's time, I am reminded of a story of a notorious coffin thief who had made life miserable in a village by stealing coffins from bodies in the graveyard. Villagers took turns to guard the graves. Their vigil did pay off but the moment they relaxed, the devil struck again. Finally Providence heard their prayers and the coffin thief was on his deathbed. He summoned his sons and asked who among them would do something extra-ordinary that would make the villagers remember him kindly. His son in the army promised that he would do something that will force villagers to remember his father kindly. For a few days there was no incident at the graveyard until the coffin thieve's son got back home on leave.
Lo and behold, soon villagers found themselves facing a bigger predicament.
Now some one was not only stealing the coffin but also putting a spear through the body. They gathered in the local mosque to discuss the new problem. Every one among those who spoke on the occasion remembered kindly the deceased coffin thief for respecting the bodies and cursed the new for not only stealing the coffin but also desecrating the dead. The moral of the story is obvious.
(1): Musharraf has definitely made good use of his nearly six years of power by outdoing Zia. No doubt Ayub started it all, Yahya followed him, it was General Zia who laid the foundation and it is Musharraf who as the incarnation of all three has soldered all the dirty tricks of the Praetorian management as the primary weapon of demolishing the civil society beyond reprieve.
(2): All the four military dictators-more so Musharraf-- obtrusively raped the constitutions of the day and trampled with their jackboots those institutional oaths that give meaning to patriotism, loyalty and commitment by all and sundry to serve and protect the country more dearer than their children.
(3): Except Yahya who did not get time-rest of the three dictators had referendums carried out for perpetuating their hold on power. Zia had a referendum on the issue whether people liked Islam or not and by virtue of the seven per cent of the votes cast in favor, declared himself President for all time. Musharraf circumvented the constitutional requirements for presidential election by holding his own referendum to declare himself President. He had 97 % votes cast in his favour of the total seven per cent registered voters who voted in the internationally declared fraudulent referendum.
(4): General Zia had made the judges of superior courts take oath on his provisional constitutional order so did General Musharraf. Both showed the door to those self-respecting judges who refused to join hands- although few and far between-who preferred to stay put at home defending their honor.
(5) Like Zia's various electoral contraptions to keep doors closed on Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf commissioned polls in October 2002 were loaded with Bhutto-specific laws to keep her out of the electoral race, declared by international observers as overly rigged and manipulated before, during and after the votes had been cast-in favor of King's Party and Mullas of MMA in cahoots with his Intelligence apparatus. He has kept the mullahs alive and kicking to blackmail the Americans as well to counter the liberal democratic forces.
(6): Musharraf's Legal Framework Order (LFO) later incorporated in the Constitution of 1973 as part of a sinister deal between him and the MMA-making him an absolute ruler-has been much of distortion, disfigurement and dislocation of a sacrosanct document playing foul with it that amounts to high treason and carries with it death sentence as punishment.
(7): When one refers to political horse-trading during his time, Musharraf wins the race hands down. Bunch of political thugs, co-op swindlers, sunshine politicians-all wanted by his very own National Accountability Bureau for various financial scams running into billions-have been allowed by him to remain scot-free in exchange of political support that he needs to sustain himself. Over and above that they have been given an open licence to convert their ill-gotten millions into trillions. The entire accountability process has become a joke. His minister of Information acknowledged the other day that the country is in the grip of various mafias. Invariably most of the uniformed top guns or their kith and kin are doing full time real estate business. Besides the whole army of white-collar criminals, many of the king pins in his government are history sheeters and killers.
(8): The Constitution of 1973 was the most outstanding achievement of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the post-1971 political leadership. It resolved the tricky issue of the quantum of provincial autonomy to the satisfaction of the elected representatives of the federating units who agreed to its shape and form unanimously. By introducing arbitrary amendments in the 1973 Constitution, he converted it into a handmaid of the President and Praetorian centre to transform it into a garrison state rather than the guarantor of equal distribution of resources, just power sharing, equality in job opportunities to all the citizens of the federation. By pitching one province against the other, fanning of fissiparous tendencies and by letting the Mullas run berserk-he has provided fuel to a process initiated by General Ziaul Haq, that would sooner than later Talibanise Pakistan.
(9): Remember Zia's promise of holding elections in 90 days and his great betrayal. As his obedient follower Musharraf more or less did the same when in December 2003 he pledged that he would give up the post of army chief by December 31, 2004. He is still holding the two offices and the news is that he would keep his uniform until 2012. His uniform is what hair to Samson were-source of all his manly strength and prowess.
(10) Zia demolished Pak-Afghan borders for the American Jihad. Zia kept quiet on Kashmir, Musharraf is about to do a sell-out. He has already surrendered Pakistan's traditional stand. Musharraf has rendered our independence into a myth for Washington's war on terrorism. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave his life to provide nuclear glow to Pakistan, Musharraf is hell bent in extinguishing it. South Waziristan is still under Pakistani military's occupation with American commanders breathing hot air down our necks. There is a civil war on in Baluchistan. Instead of putting balm on their ulcerating wounds, Musharraf wants to hit them hard so hard that they would not know what hit them. The Baluch Liberation Army has been striking with great impunity. Even Chief Minister Jam Yusuf's well-secured residence is not safe and is hit by rockets. Anger from Dr Shazia's rape continues to simmer. It reminds one of General "Tiger" Niazi who used to ask his officers and jawans during the civil war in East Pakistan not how many enemies did they kill but how women did they rape.
This is the story of Pakistan under Musharraf and it began under General Zia on that ill-fated July 5, 1977. Pakistan today is not known for enlightened moderation but because of the outrageous stories of rape like that of Mukhtaran Mia and Musharraf's bid to kill the patient rather than cure the disease by putting a ban on her travel. Zia sowed the seeds of Balkanisation and Talibanizaton, Musharraf's policies have made it a failed state or a failing state that is likely to meet the fate of Yugoslavia under its jackbooted leadership.
If I get down to enumerate in detail what more is common between Zia and Musharraf, I will require many thousand words to do some justice to the topic. Briefly, I will remind the readers to recall the co-op and financial scams of Zia's time and look for the key players in them. They will find them safely ensconced in Musharraf's cabinet or perched in high offices in his King's party. Zia lost Siachen Glacier to India without firing a shot in its defense, Musharraf's Kargil misadventure has had a devastating effect on the morale of the Pakistani jawans-many of whose colleagues were brought dead in the dark of night and post mortemed to discover they had been living on grass while their generals continued to lead "spirited" lives that according to Shakespeare "takes away the performance".
Both Zia and Musharraf sold Pakistan's vital interests by assuming the role of disposables in the service of their foreign masters. President-General Musharraf as the so-called democratic leader of the "most militarized state" in the world has acquired the stamp of legitimacy not from his own people but from outsiders. Zia had laid the foundation of making Pakistani military a business enterprise; Musharraf has erected a whole empire on it. There is a consensus that our generals have pushed Pakistan into a quagmire of problems that pose much more serious a challenge than that of 1971. When they surrendered half of the country to the Indian army (December 16, 1971), the residual Pakistan was fortunate enough to have a dynamic leader like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had the enormous capacity to "pick up the pieces" and re-galvanize them into a proud nation. Unfortunately, with a General fully dressed in army chief's uniform as the President backed to the hilt by "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots" taking the country onto the road to disaster, there is no one within Pakistan who could save the country as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did when the defeated generals handed him over a truncated Pakistan.
There is no doubt that Pakistan today is at a cross- road. There is a big question mark on its future and its very survival as a federal state is in doubt especially when its generals and those politicians in cahoots with them seem to be determined in pushing Quaid's Pakistan it into the dustbin of history. Since we are facing a situation worse than 1971, we have got to go back to the leadership that could emulate Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's foot steps to bring the country back to safety from the edge of the precipice.
The writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK, now living in London