Emad's Blog (Under Renovation)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pakistan: Trapped Between a Pharoah and a False Prophet

I'm normally fairly selfish about my personal webspace, but the strength of the words of Salman have left me with no choice but to publish this in full-text.

By Salman Ahmad

As the world watches, Pakistan, a nation armed with nuclear weapons, descends into political chaos, much attention has been given to two leaders competing for power – the current dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, and the media-savvy Benazir Bhutto. The White House, for the moment, appears to be backing Musharraf as its best bet in the so-called "war on terror," while the world media and the western liberal elite see Bhutto as a democratic savior for a country mired in Islamic fundamentalism.

Both fail to recognize the core of the problem that plagues Pakistani politics and society.l believe that without a strong and independent judiciary,Pakistan will be forever at the mercy of power grabbing dictators and politicians.Its the lack of oversight and institutional accountability which leads to the coups and counter coups and helps perpetuate a constant state of instability in the country.

As an artist and a social activist I have worked extensively with both Musharraf and Bhutto's governments on peace initiatives and social uplift themes before, and have been disillusioned by their lack of commitment and political will to get any real work done while spending most of their time in consolidating their power bases.

On several occasions after September 11th, I was invited to General Musharraf's house in Islamabad, and was surprised to see him even join me onstage in concert to help support a united national anti-extremist front. I,like many others of my generation,initially believed and supported his commitment to introduce a new era of "enlightened moderation" in Pakistan, a nation that was hijacked by religious fanatics during the American-backed military dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Unfortunately General Musharraf forgot that artists like myself are not seduced by presidential palaces or official praise. We had supported him for his promise of fighting extremism,bringing accountability into politics,opening up a free and independent media and reducing the immoral gap between Pakistan's rich and poor communities.No amount of political song and dance or governmental fear-mongering can make us look the other way while he imposes emergency rule,intimidates the media, dismantles the judiciary and muzzles any form of dissent against his flawed vision of democracy which is doomed to fail without the respect for civil institutions.

And yet Benazir Bhutto is no savior. The queen of hypocrisy and media manipulation, she has managed to hypnotize Western liberal classes with her false claims to represent progressive elements in the Muslim world. Ms. Bhutto is a charlatan and a false prophet of democracy. How can she insist on being a democrat while selfishly appointing herself life chairperson of the Pakistan people's party? Her years as Pakistan's prime minister witnessed staggering levels of corruption and billion-dollar graft that left even the most cynical Pakistanis speechless. Benazir's own niece and sister in law accuse her of conspiring to murder her own brother,Murtaza,who was becoming a thorn for her government and a real challenge to her power during her second term as prime minister.She continues to see Pakistan as her personal feudal fiefdom to be pillaged and plundered at will and threatens to bring back the rule of the gangster rather than the rule of law.

During the late nineties I recorded a song called "Accountability" along with a music video that satirized Pakistani politicians like Bhutto whose corruption scandals were being reported in international publications like The New York Times and Newsweek. Her government's response was to ban the music video and threaten my life. In the years since Bhutto fled the country to escape investigation of her family's corrupt activities, her greed to regain power has blinded her from the genuine struggle being waged by Pakistanis on behalf of true democracy. One of her own party members,the lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who won the case for the restoration of the Chief justice of the supreme court, still languishes in jail along with thousands of others while Benazir attends diplomatic receptions and makes speeches about freedom and liberty. Earlier this year,while lawyers and human rights activists faced injury and death for standing up to Musharraf's authoritarian regime, she was sipping lemonade on the sunny beaches of Dubai waiting for her go ahead from Washington.

So if neither the path of the military strongman nor the path of the feudal democrat serves the needs of Pakistan, what is an alternative model? The answer comes from within the genesis of Pakistan's freedom movement:One needs to only look at Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah's struggle and sacrifice as a clear example of legal and political activism.Jinnah ,belonging to the Muslim middle class of India,was a strict constitutional lawyer,and an exellent blend of both Islamic and Western values of social justice.60 years on, the vast majority of Pakistanis still look back at him as being the best role model for Pakistani politics.Although secular in outlook he quoted his inspiration to be Prophet Muhammad,who he recalled as being the greatest law giver in history.Tenacious and uncorruptible to the core,Jinnah, sacrificed his life and property arguing the case for Pakistan and won independance from the British imperialists.The US and its allies need to unequivocally support civil society:the Pakistani supreme court judges, lawyers,journalists and human rights activists who are fighting to protect the rule of law.That in itself is the best weapon against the extremists and will also provide a safeguard against other adventurous leaders.

Shakespeare warned that the first instinct of a dictator is to "kill the lawyers." He was right. It is the lawyers and the Judiciary who are the hope and the future of Pakistan. Let's stand by their side and not surrender to the Pharoahs and the false prophets, whether they are clothed in a military uniform or a stylish Hermes scarf.

Salman Ahmad is the founder of the Pakistani rock band Junoon

and a UN goodwill ambassador for HIV/AIDS



  • amazing.. beautiful words chosen by salman and well framed to identify the problem and suggest the solution.. very similar on the lines of khan. too bad, im copying it down on my blog too :P

    By Blogger HasaN SheikH, At 18/11/07 02:59  

  • @Hasan: Nothing bad about it. :)

    By Blogger eMad, At 18/11/07 04:19  

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