Sur­viv­ing March

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Ikram Se­h­gal

THE month of March seems linked with Pak­istan’s des­tiny. March 23 marks the 1940 res­o­lu­tion for the Mus­lims of In­dia as­pir­ing for a sep­a­rate home­land and the fate­ful army ac­tion in Dhaka in 1971 started on the evening of March 25. By early next morn­ing hun­dreds who had lived for over two decades as pa­tri­otic Pak­ista­nis were ly­ing dead in the streets, and were buried as Bangladeshis. March 26 ended the brave and ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­per­i­ment to keep the two ge­o­graph­i­cally apart Mus­lim home­lands as one en­tity. Hun­dreds of thou­sands died be­fore the for­mal sur­gi­cal process was com­plete nearly nine months later.

De­spite al­most a thou­sand miles of hos­tile in­tent in be­tween, the enor­mous good­will gen­er­ated be­tween two peo­ples dis­parate in lan­guage and cul­ture kept them united as one coun­try for al­most a quar­ter of a cen­tury. That by it­self was a mir­a­cle.

A sim­i­lar ex­per­i­ment in na­tion­hood in 1958 among the more con­tigu­ous Arab peo­ples, the United Arab Repub­lic (UAR) com­pris­ing Egypt and Syria barely lasted three years. Like the Bangladeshis, the Syr­i­ans re­sented be­ing treated as sec­ond class ci­ti­zens and dis­crim­i­nated against by the Egyp­tians. Nasser avoided a blood­bath by aban­don­ing plans to send troops to put down the coup that ren­dered the union apart in Septem­ber 1961. An at­tempt in 1963 to re­vive the UAR, which would in­clude Iraq, soon ended in frus­tra­tion.

Dur­ing the first ten­ure of Mu­jib’s sur­viv­ing daugh­ter, Hasina Wa­jid, as PM, re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and Bangladesh im­proved con­sid­er­ably against all ex­pec­ta­tions, the per­sonal chem­istry be­tween her and Mian Nawaz Sharif be­ing ex­cel­lent. But the re­la­tions have de­te­ri­o­rated re­cently by Bangladesh’s ‘war crimes tri­als’. One has to be deaf, dumb and blind not to per­ceive In­dia’s fine hand or­ches­trat­ing the cam­paign for ‘war crimes’ to de­lib­er­ately fan ad­verse feel­ings against Pak­istan, and un­for­tu­nately it is suc­ceed­ing.

Those in­volved in loot, rape and mur­der, Pak­ista­nis and Bangladeshis alike, must be pros­e­cuted and brought to jus­tice. Atroc­i­ties by the lo­cals on the non-Ben­gali pop­u­la­tion were also bru­tal and wide­spread – not any­where on the scale that the eth­nic Ben­galis had to en­dure, but noth­ing to be proud of ei­ther.

It is in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­hon­est and morally bank­rupt to deny this, it is sheer hypocrisy. We can­not ig­nore the bru­tal­ity of war crimes sim­ply be­cause of the time lapsed. The ev­i­dence must be cred­i­ble and pre­sented de­lib­er­ately. If the process is forcefed and flawed, it will cre­ate doubts about jus­tice be­ing con­trived by po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated kan­ga­roo courts, un­der­cut­ting its cred­i­bil­ity and de­mean­ing the me­mory of the vic­tims of th­ese atroc­i­ties. Con­ducted by a gen­uinely neu­tral in­ter­na­tional court, jus­tice must not only be fair and eq­ui­table, it must also be seen to be so.

While feu­dal­ism is alive and well in Pak­istan, it is not so in Bangladesh, In­dia, Nepal or Sri Lanka. Even then the stran­gle­hold of dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics is com­mon to al­most all South Asian coun­tries. The only way to break feu­dal­ism in Pak­istan is to en­sure a trans­par­ent elec­toral process – only pos­si­ble if the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan func­tions as it should.

Bangladesh serves as an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple where an in­de­pen­dent EC car­ried out free and fair elec­tions in such man­ner and mode that no one could chal­lenge the process. One must pre­serve the sanc­tity and spirit of the con­sti­tu­tion, not get bogged down in the le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of its words. The elec­toral process has no cred­i­bil­ity with­out first lo­cal bod­ies polls be­ing con­ducted first, to de­ter­mine the real rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple. Democ­racy must start at the grass­roots level.

To main­tain this lead­er­ship vac­uum at the doorstep of the peo­ple to their ad­van­tage, the feu­dals con­trived to re­verse this process in Pak­istan. No one ques­tions this sleight of hand. With­draw­ing enor­mous amounts of pub­lic of money on their last day in of­fice of the PPP-led coali­tion government, by keep­ing the banks open on a hol­i­day, was prima-fa­cie mala fide. Does the ECP have the courage to la­bel this day­light rob­bery as such? The ECP should take ac­tion against those who vi­o­late the con­sti­tu­tion at will. Jus­tice (r) Wa­ji­hid­din Sid­diqui says Ar­ti­cle 218(3) em­pow­ers the ECP to curb cor­rupt prac­tices dur­ing elec­tion at any and all lev­els.

De­lib­er­ate and sys­tem­atic mis­gov­er­nance poses an im­mense prob­lem. It is im­pos­si­ble for the lead­ers to let go of the reins of power. Some are sim­ply ad­dicted to its trap­pings, many hang onto power be­cause their greed can never be as­suaged. Ar­bi­trary author­ity al­lows en­hance­ment of their own net worth, and they per­pet­u­ate their rule to cor­rupt the sys­tem. Bru­tal use of power is bound to in­vite retri­bu­tion from those who suc­ceed them. Democ­racy and the mind­set that feu­dal­ism in­cul­cates can­not co­ex­ist.

One can­not un­der­stand why the elec­toral process is be­ing so rushed through. What is the hurry, given the stakes in­volved? The process of choos­ing the care­taker PM ex­posed the dis­trust among the po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The dead­lock over the care­taker PM was fi­nally re­solved by the ECP and, as ex­pected, Asif Zar­dari out­smarted the PMLN yet again. Dr Ishrat Hus­sain was used as a bo­gey; Jus­tice Nasir As­lam Zahid and he were eas­ily the best choices for the coun­try. We got win­dow dress­ing in the form of an 84-year old. Any­one bet­ting on Khoso be­ing a hands-on care­taker PM 24/7? Can his age take the strain of 45 days of in­tense high stakes gov­er­nance? The only sav­ing grace is Khoso be­ing from Balochis­tan. Akhtar Men­gal and his party tak­ing part in the elec­tions is very good news for the fed­er­a­tion. If Na­jam Sethi de­liv­ers on his prom­ise to en­sure a fair elec­toral process in vi­tal ground Pun­jab, the re­sults will sur­prise ev­ery­one. Why should he re­sign as care­taker CM Pun­jab if some­one de­mands priv­i­leges? Na­jam should sim­ply tell that per­son off!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.