Articles of the year 2009

The Defining Moment
Published on March 14th, 2009

Today the PPP is facing a threat to its very existence, and the party that has the widest following, built with decades of sacrifices by the rank and file, including the murder of its founder the charismatic Zulfikar Ali, and his equally charismatic daughter Benazir, who took her inheritance and crafted it into a formidable political force that today has the largest vote bank in Pakistan. These achievements were hard won and eventually cost her life, at a time when she was poised to remove a military dictator as a crowning achievement. In a short space of thirteen months the party chairman, has dropped to his lowest ratings since the demise of Benazir.

The first mistake that Zardari made was to immediately remove the Benazir loyalists, and replace them with his own men. This was his choice, but he was confident that the fear of being ousted from the party would be enough to keep them quiet and in line. Then the business of reneging on promises did not go down well with the politicos, and word spread that he was not to be trusted. This was picked up by the foreigners, and his attitude gave an irresponsible impression all round. The Wall Street Journal also played up reports of his treatment of his subordinates, even Cabinet members, were treated with contempt.

His position today, as the President of Pakistan is fraught with danger, having been misled into the Punjab disaster, whose timing as a curtain raiser to the long march has served to highlight the looming crisis. Yet his hawks are saying that it is but a storm in a teacup, and not to be taken seriously. 'A few days in the cooler should do the job.' And so the TV shots of the marchers, lawyers, being thrashed with lathis, being shown live on all 38 channels make for very disturbing footage, and are being repeated on CNN and BBC, giving international exposure to Pakistan's warts. The foreign investors who were shocked away by the Lahore massacre are being treated to more reasons to avoid Pakistan.The rumours of a band hit-men having crossed into Punjab is adding to the already volatile mix, so that the future of the government - any government, under the circumstances looks bleak.

The only hope is for the prime minister to take the reins and assert himself. He has already hinted that he can restore the CJ - which he should do now, in the interests of the nation to diffuse the long marchers. This must be done before they get into Islamabad. No amount of hamfisted behavior by the Interior Ministry, or promises by the governor Punjab should be entertained, their advice and plans have brought the country to this precipice. The British were not stupid when they limited the persons under section 144 to only 4. They realised long ago that 4 persons would stretch their manpower. Beyond 4 people could be a threat to any government. They were right.

The prime minister is a gentle being, and his demeanor is bereft of any arrogance. (Surprising for a Punjabi prime minister.) He must immediately resolve this issue, and the CJ should be restored forthwith, the whole nation demands it, and to see hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis marching peacefully - is true democracy. Far better than Maulana Sufi, and Maulana Radio who got their way with Ak47s and Rocket launchers.

Prime Minister, you are no doubt more aware than any Pakistani of the real threats facing Pakistan, and have enough reason to halt this madness. This is your time in history, for on this page will be written your contribution to the well-being of our nation. This is the greatest challenge to our peoples. Your statesmanship in this moment will define the future of our nation. It is for you to save the country from the madness that seems to have been unleashed. The world and we are watching you, for in your hands today is the immediate remedy. The militant forces on the sidelines are watching and could unleash a bloodbath which is too horrible to contemplate. You can and must stop it immediately. Prime Minister, you took an oath to protect and preserve the integrity of your office. This is now your greatest challenge, for the threat is to the very state itself, and you hold the key.

Rise now, you will find the party and the people are with you. No one can challenge your writ in this decision. It is seldom that one man gets an opportunity to single-handedly alter the course of a nation's history. You are in that position today. Prime Minister - just do it.