By Wajid Shamsul Hasan, London

London, August 14: When I unfurled Pakistani flag on the Independence Day at Pakistan High Commission in London I was overwhelmed by a strange feeling of happiness that I never had before. Every one of us present on the occasion realised that this time Independence Day was being celebrated at the dawn of real democracy in Pakistan.

It was an occasion for retrospection. We were required to remember that our country is unique among the comity of nations. Unlike other nations who waged long armed struggles to free themselves from foreign yokes, Pakistan got its freedom through ballot under the leadership of its founder—Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

And that perhaps was a singular reason that it was predestined to be a liberal, secular, modern democracy—a role model for rest of the Islamic world. Though he had made it clear that Islam provided a complete code of life, in his Pakistan religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state and its citizens shall be equal—irrespective of their caste, creed or colour. His defination of a citizen in Pakistan had earned defiance to him from the obscurantist forces and the clerics who had opposed creation of Pakistan.

After his death Pakistan was put on a chequered course. The struggle and development of democracy was given a roller-coaster existence. And a sinister conspiracy was gradually unleashed to rebrand Pakistan’s liberal, progressive and modern ideology based on socio-economic egalitarianism into a theocratic mould.

Our main challenge today—to free the country from the scourge of terrorism—is to challenge and root out the obscurantist religious ideology superimposed on Quaid’s vision. Indeed we have reached a point of no return. If we would not revert back to Mr Jinnah’s vision of liberal and progressive Pakistan our future will continue to be uncertain and life would remain hostage to terrorism and forces of extremism.

At this juncture emergence of Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in politics was a turning point in Pakistan’s history. As opposed to the power troika Shaheed Bhutto was driven by his romance with democracy and empowerment of the people as envisaged by the Quaid. Having found a place for himself on a platform that was not favourable to politicians, Mr Bhutto chartered himself on a course that would give a new sense of direction to the country and a fresh meaning to politics.

And when destiny put him in a position where he could convert Quaid’s dream into a reality, he gave Pakistan its most workable Constitution and nuclear glow at the cost of his life. He freed Pakistan from being tied with the apron strings of foreign powers. The poor masses were empowered, people, given a voice and converted into a dominant political force. All this could not be tolerated by the Establishment. A coup subverted democracy, the constitution was abrogated and he was thrown into a dungeon by the dictator and then hanged on trumped up charges.

The dictator did not know that the man he had physically eliminated would continue to rule the hearts and minds of his people from his grave. His “Dearest Daughter” Benazir Bhutto picked up the pieces following his execution. Recently martyred Benazir put the entire nation onto a transformation course. She gave the masses renewed hope and confidence in the destiny of Pakistan.

Described as Eik Nahiti Larki by poet Habib Jalib she became the main threat to the obscurantist forces and establishment. She could have taken her father’s revenge by leading the masses to lynch Bhutto’s killer yet she preferred revenge in return of democracy—a legacy left by her to her party and the nation—with the commitment to establish supreme power of the vote against the barrel of the gun and supremacy of the parliament, rule of law. Both father and daughter instilled in their followers the spirit of defiance never to bow to a usurper.Martyred Benazir Bhutto made death look small before her. Her lasting contribution—from where there would not be a turning back—was to make the people and parliament the sole arbiter of power. Now the people will not let any usurper get away with it. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani made it clear in his address to the nation on the Independence Day that no more dictatorship will raise its head again. And the people can rest assured that the coalition government under Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the

PPP under Senator Asif Ali Zardari would complete the mission and agenda left to them by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to eliminate poverty and usher in era of peace, progress and prosperity.PPP under Senator Asif Ali Zardari would complete the mission and agenda left to them by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to eliminate poverty and usher in era of peace, progress and prosperity.

Life in Pakistan has never been the same again following the judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. What followed was nearly three decades of unease, ethnicity, divisiveness, sectarianism, heroin and Kalashnikov culture, rise of religious extremism, terrorism and a struggle for the supremacy of civilian authority between the people and the Praetorian establishment– one insisting that it is its right to rule with the barrel of the gun and the other seeking the supremacy of the vote as the sole arbiter of power. The recent triumph of vote is an outstanding tribute to both Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and martyred Ms Bhutto’s populist politics devoted to the greatest good of the largest number.

The unanimous election of Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister and the subsequent unfolding events of far-reaching consequences–are no doubt recognition of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s sacrifice in blood for the restoration of democracy and the supremacy of the Parliament. And indeed people of Pakistan would not have travelled that far had their path to the glory had not been strewn with the blood of the Bhuttos.

Today we have a democratic government in power but I am sure no student of history or politics can forecast how long defeated forces shall remain in the retreat. No doubt the road to a better and prosperous future is still strewn with thorns and hurdles yet the nation feels confident that notwithstanding the colossal setbacks the democratic vision that noble blood of Benazir Bhutto has rejuvenated shall keep ignited the flame of freedom and democracy.

The masses are now fully conscious that dictatorship has rendered Pakistan into a great hub of duplicity, converted it into a nation of confounding murkiness and transformed its once peaceful land into an epicentre of international terrorism.

More than half of Pakistan’s sixty years have been wasted under dictatorship while rest could not be entirely productively beneficial for the nation since the endeavours of civilian rulers were stinted by the establishment’s behind-the-scene machinations.

Benazir Bhutto gave her life to re-launch a revived and democratic Pakistan. Indeed, she was prophetic when she wrote in her last book that her death would prove to be a catalyst. A big and revolutionary change she forecast and so shall it be seen for the good of the people in the country soon. The grand coalition in power today that PPP under Senator Asif Ali Zardari has worked out in collaboration with PML-N’s Mian Nawaz Sharif, ANP led by Asfandyar Wali and JUI has been painstakingly striving to keep the torch of democratic freedom ignited.

There is a national consensus that there should not be any compromise on the supremacy of the Parliament, rule of law, independence of judiciary and media. Allah willing, the people and their leaders will not fail Pakistan and it would soon become a proud liberal and progressive nation as envisaged by the Quaid, Allama Iqbal, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

No doubt Pakistan is in the eye of the storm. It is under threats from within and outside. Previous rulers have left its economy in shambles, writ of the state is tattered—yet all is still not lost. We are a proud nation and all state institutions including the civil and military—working at cross purposes in the past—have reunited to take the nation and the country forward. Last but not the least, people of Indian-occupied Kashmir should rest assured—as reiterated by PPP Co-Chairman Senator Zardari—that the issue is ingrained in PPP’s birth and it shall not be given up until the aspirations of the people are fulfilled.

Times are no doubt difficult. But there is nothing that can not be surmounted. The motto given to us by the Quaid, “Unity, faith and discipline” shall remain key to our success. Besides that, we need to remember Quaid’s words: “Who lives if Pakistan dies and who dies if Pakistan lives”.

Writer is Pakistan High Commissioner to UK.

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