The Path of a Patriot

Guest post by mhb

Opposing General Pervez Musharraf is not a cause worth endorsing solely by itself.

General Pervez Musharraf is not the man he was when he first usurped the seat of Pakistan’s government. Over time as his political age has advanced, he has undergone a staged metamorphosis: from an amateur idealist, to a practitioner of temperate Realpolitik, and then finally to an outright Machiavellian Prince.

It will be profoundly self-righteous of any single one of us to contend with authority that if exposed to the General’s temptations – the troika of International interests, institutional weaknesses and a manipulatable judiciary – we ourselves would not succumb to a similar fate. Opposing General Pervez Musharraf is therefore akin to focussing on the proverbial symptoms of a malady, and not its root, when in fact ours should be a struggle against the method of perpetuation of our affliction and not its recurring product. We are merely opposing a masque today.

It is high time that we question our motives before treading any further with placards in hand and slogans on tongue. The return to democracy we yearn for today can potentially be a rude awakening since General Pervez Musharraf’s successor in the wake of an all-pardoning National Reconciliation is set to be Ms. Benazir Bhutto. Notwithstanding those forgotten corruption charges of fraudulently amassing roughly $1.5B of the nation’s wealth[1], she is a more vociferous representation of strategic international interests than the General; she is the proverbial soldier of fortune.

This implies that there will undoubtedly be an intensification of tribal conflict leading to increased national destability in the event of her election and subsequent government. Moreover, the tide of extremism in Pakistan is unlikely to be subdued by a satellite government zealously enforcing external decree; if anything, it will fuel the same. Overall, such a fanning of the flames could be a fatal development in a climate where the country’s social fabric is reminiscent of 1971 and international monitors are preparing contingency plans for securing Pakistani nuclear assets. Quite simply the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is a threat to national security Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s ascent must be stopped. This is as crucial as our government’s reversion to democracy and deposition of General Pervez Musharraf; and so we have two objectives to achieve – not just one.

Our struggle at present is predominantly composed of pro-democracy demonstrations marked with an indifference to political positioning. A lot has been said in favor of this strategic non-alignment, and rightly so. However, such apathy is jeopardous on at least one account: the movement is an easy target for political highjack. Even as you read this, the PPP is actively conflating the tide of sentiment in Pakistani youth with its own pressure tactics. And it is no secret that having inherited the devotion of Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s unflappable loyalists, the PPP needs but a small further push to tip the scales completely in its favor. By being non-aligned, we give this party exactly that opportunity. This profound risk should not be overlooked when assessing the true virtue of our neutralism, and its true cost to our future.

We need to elevate our intellectual capital to genuinely understand the crossroads we find ourselves standing at today. In this regard, a study of history can be valuable since there exist patterns in human behavior which accord it a degree of predictability. Our struggle can hence greatly benefit from comparable examples from these archives – hindsight has the latency to impart wisdom no conjecture can provide. And so, the following case is worthy of notice.

There are lessons to be learnt from India. On 25th June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed emergency in the country – precisely two weeks after the High Court in Ahmedabad UP (where she had won parliament elections in 1971) ruled her recent election win void due to election fraud. Soon the prime minister, aided by the promulgation of Presidents Rule, was ruling virtually by decree and thus began the countrys turbulent two-year journey through calculated oppression.

Ms. Gandhi was a proponent of a rather efficient school of oppression management. She administered a generous dose of comprehensive media blackout throughout the land, in effect birthing a communicative quarantine that drove deep schisms through the opposition camp and compartmentalized it into isolated pools. This efficiently dispersed the threat of a backlash. Leaders who took the cause of opposition found their clout limited in the absence of established channels of information flow, and so a unifying figurehead to lead the people of the land in their darkest hour was unable to flourish.

The Indian example can give us a better understanding of our own situation. Firstly, the example illuminates the indispensability of effective communication, without which, the rivers of protest cannot converge to form the ocean of change. Any tyrant understands this modus operandi, and thus does his paramount to disallow it. Secondly, it deconstructs the mechanics of tyranny: a potentially equivalent popular-reaction develops as a direct consequence of oppression, but precipitates only when catalyzed by a unifying leadership structure or disperses ineffectually otherwise.

It is imperative that we truly understand the function of the aforementioned unifying leader. Unlike days of responsible citizenship, in times when the general populace cries “Revolution! the role of a leader is less of a mobilizer and more of a focal point. . He is not required to inspire them into action such impetus already beats within each protesting heart. He chiefly exists as an anti-thesis to the oppressor and gives the separately protesting throngs a locus of confluence. Consequently for such a figurehead to fill the leadership vacuum, the only crucial attribute is universal agreeability for then, like fire-flies, the masses gravitate to him in expression of their dissent.

Therefore, we can realize our dreams for Pakistan by first designating a popular leader and then by empowering him through our voice, our action; our multitude. Such a platform of focussed patriotism has the potential of setting off a chain-reaction through capturing imaginations and stirring feet into vigor anew. And in this struggle, one good tiding is that we are all the progeny of the information age. In the guise of the World Wide Web, and to some extent cellular networks, we command a dissemination instrument which is pervasive and almost unstoppable. General Musharraf’s emergency may have blacked out more conventional forms of media; it cannot restrain our virtual eyes, ears and tongues

When considering the contendership of a unifying leader for our cause, the names of Hon’ble Mr. (Ex) Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Mr. Imran Khan and Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan naturally spring to mind. To my understanding, all three are compelling choices. I am of the view that whereas extremely competent and reasonably charismatic Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan would be nothing short of a grave national risk given his allegiance to Ms. Benazir Bhutto. Unless the good Barrister publicly proclaims his independence from the PPP to eliminate any conflict of interest therein, we should maintain his ineligibility for the position. In between Hon’ble Mr. (Ex) Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Mr. Imran Khan, I would lend my support to the latter, given his hitherto commendable record of public service (the Cancer Hospital), his outspoken patriotism and his public appeal. On the whole, time is of the essence for us to reach a consensus on this choice. Destiny will not forgive, nor forget, our complacency.

The efficacy of our struggle is dependent upon efficient, disciplined micro-management. In this consideration, our foremost duty is that of pervasive information dissemination. And the most effective method of accomplishing this duty is dedicating the greatest amount of time to engaging new, hitherto unaffiliated individuals, instead of repetitively enlightening the enlightened. For we need to significantly expand the pool of our numbers to a critical mass without which our voice would be lost in the tolling bells of suppression. It must not be expected that such a mass-contact campaign would be easy: we would need to nurture ample mental perseverance given the psychological demoralization inherent in laboring to awakening the apathetic, the bigoted and the morally flexible. We would find ourselves out of breath quite often.

We will harvest the uninitiated with the cruciality of our cause, and with our allegiances. We will not hesitate in revealing the true nature of our common enemy to them, leaving no inroad unexplored. We will resort to patriotic discourse where necessary, to sheer rationale where required and to dialectical resilience where needed in order to convince our audience. We will use all communicative means available to us, prioritizing those which can achieve supreme impact in the least amount of time. Those of us possessing the dexterity of the tongue will use that tongue. Those with writing skills will put such skills to comprehensive use. Those with physical stamina will take to the open sky in a spirited show of constitution-bound demonstrating. And those with all three traits will generously indulge in all quarters.

Unity is the only way to success in joint activism and a splinter-group can undermine an entire cause; much like it takes but one traitor to defeat the whole group. Therefore, in our endeavors we will ensure inclusion along the commonality of ideology, and not stated goal for clash of ideologies is seldom reconcilable. Secondly, we will maintain our dignity but curb our egos lest they jeopardize our alliance. Thirdly and most importantly, our integrity will be Jinnahite in its infallibility – we will never bend under pressure, we will never yield to fear, we will never succumb to enticement. These three mantras will form the bedrock of our struggle

The current milieu is a time of flux; like putty it is ripe for molding and shaping. Our founding-fathers have left us with an invaluable blueprint of conflict management, and we are also intellectually well-poised to actualize a popular-reaction. Though we find ourselves outmatched by our opponents’ cache of material resources and their Western patronage, we possess a potent counter in the fact that once in unison, we can resonate the realms. And therefore it is critical that we perceive our responsibility to our country’s future, and then act upon it. Recognition of this responsibility and its concretization through considered steps is the real path to the fruition of our aspirations – the only path a true patriot knows.

[1] A 1999 US Senate sub-committee report using Mr. Asif Ali Zardaris money laundering activities as one of the case studies can be read at: