Bleeding-heart democrats are missing the point

July 10,2015

Islamabad diaryNot long ago the big threat to public peace and tranquillity was religion worn, and embroidered, on one’s sleeves. That threat has somewhat abated after the occasional derision to which this tendency was exposed. Holy fathers who come in all shapes and sizes are still a nuisance across the

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Islamabad diary
Not long ago the big threat to public peace and tranquillity was religion worn, and embroidered, on one’s sleeves. That threat has somewhat abated after the occasional derision to which this tendency was exposed.
Holy fathers who come in all shapes and sizes are still a nuisance across the land – to be stoically endured in a setting like ours – but they are also objects of fun. Can anyone keep a straight face when Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman appears on television?
Not on the nation’s sleeves but on the sleeves of the liberati is now worn another fiery emblem: democracy. Take a potshot at the democracy practised in our enlightened spaces and half the liberati will jump out of their sofas while the other half will break into a fit of uncontrolled weeping…tears being the new form of national resistance.
And one is immediately subjected to a crash course in Pakistani history…the evil wrought, the destruction caused, by dictators past and fled. And the names of our Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are trotted out.
It has to be said of Pakistan’s maulanas that they are not without a sense of humour: which no doubt comes from good eating and good sleeping. But Pakistan’s liberati for reasons yet to be adequately explored lacks a sense of humour. Even at his thundering best the typical maulana has a twinkle in his eye, a recognition on his part of the difference between appearance and reality. Pakistan’s democracy enthusiasts start foaming at the mouth at the slightest provocation. They are not to be taken lightly.
But they labour under a misconception. For them everything out of the constitutional norm is a disaster waiting to happen… on the lines of our four horsemen of the apocalypse. They make no distinction between the past and the likely outcome of the future. They deal in black-and-white categories. Democracy as practised here – no matter how chaotic and inefficient and tainted with corruption – is good. Anything else by definition is a catastrophe in the making.
Even a cursory look at history, however, yields slightly more nuanced conclusions. Historical figures don’t just spring out of the ether. They must have a body of achievement to their credit before people start looking in their direction.
Julius Caesar first won his military victories – the conquest of Gaul, the conquest of Britain – before he became master of Rome. Frederick the Great earned his place in history not because of his royal lineage but his battlefield victories. George Washington was military commander and revolutionary leader first and father of his newly-independent nation later. Napoleon distinguished himself in his Italian campaign before he became First Consul.
If Mustafa Kemal had not earned fame as a successful commander on the heights of Gallipoli who would have listened to him when he was rallying his nation in the war of independence? Vichy France, led by the ageing Marshal Petain, collaborated with Hitler. De Gaulle kept French pride alive by leading the Free French, the name of the resistance movement, from exile. This alone gave him the prestige and authority to step to the fore as leader of France in 1958.
Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro – were revolutionary leaders first and leaders of their nations later. This nuance escapes the analysis and fury of Pakistan’s armchair democrats.
In contrast our horsemen, all four of them, were military dunderheads. Ayub was no military commander. Even as a battalion commander on the Burma Front in the Second World War his performance (by all accounts) was mediocre. As president he started a war whose likely consequences he did not fathom.
Yahya could drink anyone under the table and his mistresses were many but what is there to write about him as a war hero?
Zia as a brigadier seconded to Jordan in 1970 crushed the Palestinians. He made it to major general only on sifarish. If he had not been good at ducking and bowing, would Bhutto have made him army chief?
Musharraf conceived that botched-up fiasco called Kargil which he and his crony generals tried to dress up later as a great military opportunity aborted by half-hearted civilians…which of course is nonsense.
Thus the army’s record in war and peace has been singularly poor. Any army man, serving or retired, who has difficulty recognising this deserves a longish stint in some form of purgatory.
But the army today is beginning to look different, as much out of choice as necessity. The army did more than its share of promoting ‘jihadi’ philosophy and in the process playing with the fires and dragons of religious extremism. Now it is on the warpath against the same threat and officers and men are laying down their lives in this struggle. We must judge the army by the standards of today, not yesterday.
The army is taking on the Taliban, with vital help from the PAF (let this always be understood). The army via the Rangers and backed up by the Karachi Corps has taken on Karachi’s multiple mafias – stretching from 90 to Lyari to the ramparts of Bilawal House, which is why we are hearing such howls of outrage from various corners of our largest metropolis. We had two wild frontiers, Fata and Karachi. Both are in the process of being tamed, something barely conceivable just a year ago.
The world of Islam is in turmoil – Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen in the throes of civil war. All these countries are awash with refugees…millions displaced from their homes. Pakistan looked the same a year ago. Today, against the odds, it is a picture of relative stability. Not because some Lincoln or Churchill has arisen from the dumb mass of the political class. It is the new army – the post-Zia, the post-Musharraf army – which has put its shoulder to the wheel.
Take away the army from the picture and the country slides back into chaos. The barbarians will again be at the gates, whether in the northwest or the Deep South. Is this too hard for the champions of democracy, their eyes brimming with tears, to understand?
And what are they afraid of? De Gaulle imposed no dictatorship. Mustafa Kemal founded a republic which is the foundation of Turkish democracy. Pakistan’s problem is that its stables need cleaning. Who is to do this? The political class and the leadership have a vested interest in keeping the stables the way they are.
Zardari has felt the heat and he’s gone to cool his heels in softer climes. The MQM supremo is feeling the heat and even his telephonic addresses have lost their old zing. A friendly National Accountability Bureau – it can’t get friendlier than the present NAB chief – lists a soft reference against the Sharifs and the Khadim-e-Aala begins to protest too much.
Tailpiece: Of course the long outstanding loans have been returned to the banks. But it never pays to under-estimate Butts or Brahmins. These loans were taken circa 1991. In 1998, with the PML-N in power, a bargain was struck: some properties, including Ittefaq Foundry and the substantial land around it, were given to the banks in lieu of the unpaid loans. Justice Qayyum Malik, then virtually a family judge to the ruling family, put his judicial seal on this arrangement. Amidst much chest-thumping full credit was taken for this deal.
A Sharif cousin, however, went to court and got a stay order which remained in force all these years. In Dec 2014 the loans taken in 1991 were returned, with the mark-up, but the earlier deal was redrawn. The Ittefaq land reverted back to the owners.
That land is now worth a hundred times what it was in 1998. Baaqi naam rahe Allah ka.


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