Do not hate me for who I am! —Shahid Ilyas
We are taking too long to understand that Pakistan does not mean Punjab only. It consists of several nationalities, which have very distinct and old languages, cultures and histories. All of them have as much a share in the state of Pakistan as any other
Going by the rhetoric that one comes across from a host of media, including e-mails, the internet, TV shows, blogs and personal conversations, it is very disturbing to see the level of hatred which the youth in Punjab (is it only the youth?) — exceptions notwithstanding — harbour against personalities like President Zardari, President Karzai, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Mahmud Khan Achakzai. On the other hand, a soft corner in their attitudes is discernible for Qazi Hussein Ahmad, Nawaz Sharif, Zaid Hamid, Hamid Gul and Pervez Musharraf — people who subscribe to, some explicitly, others implicitly, the narrative which states that the international forces in Afghanistan are ‘occupying’ forces (do we have any business with who occupies what?), the Taliban are fighting to ‘free’ their country from a foreign occupation while India is an irreconcilable enemy, and so on and so forth. Can a country like Pakistan see stability with the configuration of love and hate on the above patterns?
To begin with, let’s ask what can be the possible reasons for the widespread hostility towards the person of President Zardari? Is it the NRO? But Zardari is not the only person to benefit from it or to allegedly be corrupt. The problem seems much deeper. It has partly to do with the anti-Zardari propaganda on pro-establishment news media. But it has also to do with where he comes from and what he stands for. The continuous and decades-long domination of political power in Pakistan by an overwhelmingly Punjab-based establishment makes it so difficult for them to accept the presence of a non-Punjabi and non-obliging personage in the presidency of the Islamic republic. It is simply too much for them to see the president talk about such ‘irritating’ issues as the rights for the Baloch and Pashtuns, and civilian supremacy over the armed forces. Indeed they have enjoyed so much power and for so long, that they started to take the same for granted.
We are taking too long to understand that Pakistan does not mean Punjab only. It consists of several nationalities, which have very distinct and old languages, cultures and histories. All of them have as much a share in the state of Pakistan as any other. All of them have to be given a chance to reach to the highest slots including the presidency and the prime minister house. Their languages and cultures are as important as any other, and the same has to be granted as much importance — on official level — as the languages of Punjab and Muhajirs. Asif Ali Zardari’s presence in the presidency is not the result of a favour from anyone. He is the president of the Islamic republic because he is duly elected and he represents a group of people, which has equal ownership of the country.
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