By Wajid Shamsul Hasan, London
Please note: The Writer is Pakistan High Commissioner to UK.
Skies had fallen on me when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed was assassinated. It seemed end of the world. Not that part of my body had died with her. There was much more than that. It was manifested in the abysmal pain that got hold of me—my soul, my heart and my mind. It was something more horrendous—my profound apprehensions regarding the future of Pakistan —predestined to be a failing or a failed state– long before her cold-bloodied murder.
I had always looked at her as the only national leader who had the commitment, rare courage, popularity, determination and dauntless perseverance that could save the country from a widely predicted dénouement and pull Pakistan out of the quicksand of gigantic and inconceivable problems and insurmountable challenges that it had been plunged into by incompetent and insincere rulers who had bartered country’s sovereignty in exchange of legitimacy not from their own people but outside powers.
Her assassination by those that forced her to live in exile for years and who wanted to keep her away from her nation had pushed the country to the edge of precipice. A sheer nudge– from the crying, deeply grieved angry nation—especially in Sindh where the reaction to her dastardly assassination was most pronounced as reflected in the peoples spontaneous outburst that they would not have anything more to do with Pakistan—could have pushed the country in the valley of death and doom but for the timely intervention of her widower Senator Asif Ali Zardari. He was quick and sharp enough to realise the gravity of the situation and stood in time as the most vociferous and impregnable bulwark to save Benazir’s Pakistan from a sure threat of a break up.
He took on the angry and violent elements and conveyed to them that his beloved wife and their leader had laid her life to save Pakistan and not to destroy it as was planned by her enemies. He single-handedly with his grief-stricken son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari standing solidly by his side adding strength to the brave words of his father—re-enforced Benazir Bhutto’s life long philosophy that democracy is the best revenge—stemmed the floodgates of countrywide anger, transformed the populist wrath against the rulers into an electoral triumph for the people to defeat a dictator and his collaborators for the good of the country.
Senator Zardari inspired by the mission of martyred Benazir Bhutto converted his profound grief into unparalleled strength in him to rise beyond expectations to hitherto unknown height of leadership. In deference to her wishes he set himself on the task of translating her dying commitment to the nation that her death should serve as a catalyst. Not a past master in politics whatever he had learnt in the art at the feet of SMBB and from his long suffering incarceration—the manner SAZ has handled the post-SMBB scenario has tuned him out to be the man of destiny. He has done SMBB and the nation proud.
Much in her mould as a politician and stateswoman par excellence, SAZ has out-manoeuvred those who wanted to play games with him and take him for a ride including the former President and even Trojan horses in his party about whom I had briefly mentioned in one of my articles (SAZ—beware of snakes in the grass). He has achieved the much desired change peacefully and without risking the lives of his people what many other senior politicians had been seeking through confrontation.
It was an astounding achievement that SMBB who got the President-general to remove his uniform defanging him totally, creating conditions for general elections including participation of all political parties and leaders in exile with an assurance from the new army chief that his troops would not be allowed to be used in the rigging planned by the ruling party and that she would not have any deal with the former President.
When I returned to Pakistan in late April I found many doubts, suspicions and the country in the grip of a propaganda campaign that SAZ was allegedly in cahoots with the former president. Not only that, many pen-pushers and TV anchors had even crossed all limits by accusing SAZ as more interested in keeping the former President in power while the latter had made up his mind to quit. However, I had felt reassured when SAZ told me that he would stick to the political legacy of SMBB come what may and in his politics too there would be no room for a dictator.
Knowing him as I do, having first hand knowledge of his negotiating skills, I had nothing but contempt for those who thought otherwise and had been accusing him of striking a deal with the former President as opposed to the commitment of SMBB and nation’s aspiration to see the supremacy of the Parliament restored. He successfully sustained the grand coalition, made measured and calculated moves without resorting to rhetoric and bravado that dominated conduct of many of his colleagues and struck when the time was ripe. He was accused of masterly inactivity by the media and various aspersions were cast on him for wasting time without understanding either his game or the wisdom behind his moves.
His critics even accused him of giving the former President unnecessary time to regain what they called his hold on power. They did not understand that the time delay was well-spent in evolving a fool-proof strategy to outmanoeuvre him and his collaborators within and his outside supporters who by virtue of their political system had became lame duck. His singular achievement was MQM’s decision to abstain from voting in Sindh Assembly that made its no-confidence in the former President unanimous.
MQM’s Quaid Altaf Husain has definitely stolen the show by going an extra-mile by taking the historic initiative of unconditionally nominating Senator Asif Ali Zardari as MQM’s candidate for the President even much before the PPP endorsed his candidature followed by other parties. As a result of Mr Husain’s bold initiative Asif Ali Zardari has emerged “as the frontrunner to become the country’s next president after receiving the support of a key opposition party” is the considered view of UK ’s most prestigious newspaper The Financial Times ( London , August 21). Mr Husain believes that Mr Zardari will be the best candidate for the country. “He will keep the federation together and promote harmony as well as national unity.” “The way Mr Zardari handled the issue of [President Pervez Musharraf’s] resignation is really admirable,” said Altaf Husain, in London the other day.
Indeed, MQM decision goes a long way in reasserting the political wisdom of MQM Quaid Altaf Husain. His appreciation of Asif’s role in scotching the “Pakistan Na Khapai” slogan that had risen like a crescendo soon after SMBB’s assassination and Altaf Bhai’s recognition of SAZ as being the rightful heir to SMBB’s legacy and noble mission—are a manifestation of a great mind devoted to the solidarity and integrity of Pakistan . As categorically put by him—in the present circumstances the fractured nation needs a healing touch, spirit of accommodation, a culture of tolerance, peaceful co-existence and harmony among provinces that Asif Zardari is best equipped to provide. Mr Zardari and PPP has rightly acknowledged Mr Husain’s great patriotic and unifying gesture and described it as a happy and landmark augury for the nation.
The unconditional understanding reached between Altaf Bhai and SAZ on account of their positive roles in the presidential impeachment that ended in the ultimate and graceful exit of the President shall be recorded in letters of gold. Sindh having played the lead role for the establishment of Pakistan as compared to the other provinces comprising the country—by its singularity of purpose and unity between the rural and urban populations–has written a new chapter reviving its historic role for preserving the integrity of Pakistan despite heavy odds.
The Financial Times seems to have reaffirmed the inevitability of Senator Zardari’s candidature as President when it conclusively quoted a senior western diplomat in Islamabad that, given the PPP‘s credentials as a liberal political party, Mr Zardari’s presidency would appeal to the US and its European partners.
“Right now, the US is keen to allow a more populist figure to come to take charge” and Zardari as a PPP candidate shall carry with him Benazir Bhutto’s powerful credentials along with PPP’s own image – an image of tolerance and liberal values” is the consensus view in the diplomat enclave of Islamabad. As events unfold, coast seems to be clear for Mr Zardari to play a historic role as Pakistan ’s democratic President replacing a dictator.
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