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Opinion

April 4, 2015

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Will history repeat itself?

April 4 is the 36th anniversary of Pakistan’s foremost leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Just when I sat down to write a memorial piece, a fellow writer emailed me the news that Pakistan has told Saudi Arabia that it will consider deploying ‘limited number of its troops’ inside Saudi Arabia if the latter’s territorial integrity comes under threat in the wake of any backlash against its intervention in Yemen. The question that immediately came to my mind was: why do our decision-makers refuse to learn from history?
The horrific events following 9/11 continue to keep the world on tenterhooks. Notwithstanding the seriousness of the currents and crosscurrents rapidly expanding in Middle East, we have now decided all on our own to take enter a suicidal situation.
Our decision-makers have no parallels. They want us to repay with the blood of our valiant soldiers for the oil we received – free or on concession of long-term deferred payment. By not taking parliament into confidence, we have inadvertently conveyed to the powers that be that if they wished they could pack it up for their good.
What is more humiliating is the fact that national consensus too was unanimously opposed to sending troops at a time when our army is already deeply involved in the battle against terrorists for Pakistan’s survival. Despite its successes and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s pledge to the nation that they would not rest in peace until they eliminate terrorists from the country, our arch enemy – the TTP – does not seem to be deterred. Its recent strike fatally targeted a serving colonel of the Pakistan Army in Peshawar.
By getting involved on another front in an altogether hostile terrain in a different country, we are not doing any favour to our brave soldiers and would be a most cruel step in undermining the Pakistan Army as an institution. Not taking the matter to parliament is the government’s contemptuous expression of its lack of confidence in the

elected representatives.
Regretfully, despite being involved in a life and death struggle for our survival, our decision-makers seemed to be determined to open the floodgates of uncertainties. While we continue to pay for the misdeeds of two megalomaniac generals (one dead, one retired), the difficulties they have given us are so enormously lethal that it would be almost impossible firstly to survive them and then to find a sense of the right direction.
It would suffice to say that whatever crimes and follies the two committed against the nation starkly exposed the myth of our independence. Despite the fact that we are bleeding all over, instead of pursuing a proactive foreign policy, ours is tied to the apron string of the super power that has been responsible for the escalation of uncertainties around the world.
To really understand where Pakistan stands today our leaders of all sorts – be they in civvies or jackbooted – to read Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘Myth of independence’. Indeed, Bhutto’s in-depth observations and his conclusions will drag them out of their kindergarten frame of minds and educate them more in the art of how to counter the emerging challenges than will Foreign Office output or the intelligence apparatus.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had an extraordinary penchant for international politics. When he joined the government in 1958 ‘the situation Pakistan found itself was such that every decision of any importance, even as regards matters that ought to have been purely of internal concern, was affected by some aspect, real or imaginary, of international relations especially of commitment to the United States of America’.
Bhutto had a vision to see beyond. In 1967 he had predicted that when use of force is allowed to overwhelm diplomacy, the end result at best could be described as what we have today in Middle East and our part of the world. His assessment came true in 1971 and is threatening to come true now in Yemen. The more we sink in crisis one after the other, the more we mourn his absence. He was one leader who could have skilfully saved Pakistan, nay the Muslim world, from becoming victims of the geostrategic interests of a superpower and its fellow scavengers.
Bhutto’s statesmanship could have saved Pakistan from a conspiracy that gave birth to the hydra-headed monster of terrorism, paving the way for the much touted clash of civilisations to be countered by a sinisterly planned crusade for the acquisition of natural resources to make the rich first world richer and the rest poorer. No doubt post 9/11 George W Bush Jr. made the United States a citadel of security while pushing humankind into a century of terror. Had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto been around, new-born Hitlers would not have succeeded in igniting the inferno from one corner of the Middle East to Afghanistan embroiling countries in between and beyond – including Pakistan.
Despite Praetorian extra-constitutional interventions in the post-1977 period, martial laws, soft and creeping coups and connived judicial fixes, Bhutto’s constitution – a document that manifested the collective wisdom of political leaders of all hues – has proved to be more resilient and more sustainable than the barrel of the gun.
It is the same constitution that sustained the PPP government for the first time ever to enable it to complete its five-year tenure, notwithstanding the machinations, intrigues and conspiracies that kept it on tenterhooks. The elections of 2008 were the outcome of a long-drawn struggle against a dictator who was persistent in not denuding himself of his military uniform. Like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto paid the price with his life for making Pakistan a nuclear state, his equally brave daughter gave her blood to singe the usurper in his den.
It is almost a miracle that we are completing the seventh year of our democratic revival. However, like in the past, now too democracy continues to remain under threat of powers that be. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif backed by former president Zardari and other democratic parties in parliament – except one – have rightly stood shoulder to shoulder against all odds. The Yemen decision is a bad omen for democracy.
Our political leadership needs to learn a lesson from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s conduct of state affairs. Martyred Bhutto rightly believed that in order to make Pakistan invincible, the dream of Quaid-e-Azam to establish an egalitarian order was necessary to be translated into an action plan. He was opposed to making Pakistan – as the Quaid declared before Partition – a haven for the rich to become richer.
He sought to make it a nation-state to be motivated to defend itself physically and ideologically by reverting back to Jinnah’s vision of political and democratic pluralism, freedom of religion – irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender through secular governance. And that – even today – is the only recipe for our survival.
The writer has twice been Pakistan’s high commissioner to the UK.

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