Friday, January 25, 2008

The Camaraderie of Tyrants

By Dr. Haider Mehdi

An ancient fable from an ancient time goes as follows: A Wazir (a minister) informed the Raja (state ruler) that a thief had entered the town. The Raja ordered the immediate arrest of all people in the town. The Wazir explained the rationale of the act as “prevention is better than the cure – no people, no possibility of a future theft.” The moral of the story: absolute autocratic rule lacks absolute wisdom.

Another similar story is: a Wazir informed the Raja that a Dunda Chor (a thief with one hand) had entered the state and stolen some royal belongings. The Raja ordered that the right hands of all able-bodied male citizens of the state to be amputated at once. The Wazir explained the logic of the Raja’s act as a collective punishment of the entire citizenry that would teach them that stealing would not be tolerated in the riyasat (the state). The moral of the story: tyrannical rulers employ wickedness and naked force with senseless brutality.

In hindsight, the political behavior of George W. Bush, the American President, and Tony Blair, the British ex-Prime Minister, was very much reminiscent of the poorly conceived ill-wisdom of the past at the time of the 9/11 incident. But then, the two of them symbolize the camaraderie of tyrants. Acting with vicious intents and senseless brutality, the two Western leaders have caused an unprecedented “holocaust” in Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated 1.5 million civilians have been killed in these two countries and an entire civilization has been decimated. All of this human carnage has been taking place (on the orders of Bush-Blair) in retaliation for the alleged attack on the Twin Towers in New York City. And now, there is a global outcry that posits the 9/11 as an inside job orchestrated by the US Vice-President with the help of the CIA, Mossad, and possible involvement of some other countries whose leadership is close and friendly to the US incumbent administration. Pakistan’s leadership and its military intelligence services have been allegedly implicated, rightly or wrongly, by certain political circles in this context.

How many more Muslims will have to die, and how many more “holocausts” in Islamic nations will have to take place to satisfy the blood-lust of the American president and his collaborators of like-minded people to avenge the alleged 9/11? How long will this ill-wisdom and wickedness of the tyrants persist and prevail? How long will it endure and expand? How long will Muslims suffer from the atrocities of the camaraderie of tyrants?

But let us not forget that George W. Bush did not have the benefit of an ancient civilization or history to learn wisdom from ancient fables. Tony Blair, dreaming of a re-insurgence of the British imperial past and a colonial glory for himself, simply transformed himself into “Bush’s poodle” – one could not expect political wisdom from someone with such a skewed world view.

However, the paramount irony of this entire equation of the camaraderie of tyrants is the implicit and willing participation of the Pakistani leadership in this global charade of the 9/11 and its aftermath. It was President Bush who, like the insane Raja, had called for universal collective punishment by blurting out the most lunatic and outrageous political statement at the start of the 21st century: “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” (implying that any nation not with the US is the enemy). How much more absurd can political conduct be?

But the point driven here is: The Pakistani General, the Chief of the Army staff and the Head of State at the time, unlike George W. Bush, had the benefit of an ancient civilization and of an ancient land where various religions, innumerable philosophies, cultural diversities, ethnic and linguistic varieties, and above all, a deeply rooted respect for moral judgments have been cherished endlessly. In an absolute disregard of the historical high moral claims and implicit cultural commitment demanded of the Head of State, the General instantly capitulated and gave away every bit of national pride as well as national sovereignty simply because of a telephone call from General Colin Powell. Think about the enormity of such a national surrender by the Pakistani leader. In the name of Realpolitik, the Pakistani General-cum-Head of the State abandoned national socio-cultural imperatives and rushed in to join the scandalous community and the camaraderie of the tyrants. However, it is not surprising because that is precisely what the successive military dictators have been doing in Pakistan all along – and exactly for these reasons, the military dictatorship must come to an end now.

Tyrants use physical force (military-police) and positional power against the will of the people. Neither history nor a profound understanding of national chaos and its political solutions are relevant to tyrants. Tyrants wish to prevail under all circumstances and in all conditions. Loss of human life and carnage is considered a natural constituent of the political process. Power and the pursuit of power is the fundamental nucleus of the political ideology that drives the tyrant’s thrusts towards omnipotent imposition of political will over an entire citizenry. Political accommodation and dialogue are essentially escape routes when the struggle for power maintenance is shaken from within the tyrant’s own judgmental weakness. Innumerable political episodes and events are testament to the fact that tyrants are known to abandon political compromises at will. Adversaries are exploited, deceived and moved out of the way in pursuit of seeking unyielding power. No wonder then the opposition parties’ political equations in Pakistan vis-à-vis the incumbent president are managed in such a way by the state power that these political equations continue to change on regular intervals and within specified patterns. Now that Benazir Bhutto is out of the political drama, a new paradigm for an invincible power struggle for the incumbent presidency is clearly visible on the political horizons of Pakistan. Isn’t it surprising that the General (retd), instead of seeking popular mandate from within the country (as it should be in a democratic set-up), is now in Brussels to bolster his credibility with the West in the hope of continuing ruling his beleaguered nation indomitably and unilaterally.

A highly respected columnist wrote the following in the context of this emerging scenario in Pakistan: “As Musharraf plans to start a four-day visit to Europe today, and all the attendant publicly blitz that will focus on the unstable Waziristans, an enemy in the Hindukush will be an all too convenient campaign tool for the Republican Party campaign. Do the simplistic Sharifs know the pitfalls of playing this complicated game?”

This is a clear warning to Shahbaz Sharif not to make the same mistake that Benazir Bhutto made. Indeed, the civil society in Pakistan will not abandon the movement for the restoration of judiciary to pre-November 2007 status. Shahbaz Sharif should be mindful that a meaningful transition to democracy in Pakistan will not come with the PML-N sharing power with the incumbent president – the future of democratic restoration in this nation is tied-up with fundamental changes in the present status-quo that prevails today. No question about it – let the Sharif brothers not disappoint the masses!

Another story circulating these days is: A man caught a fish and asked his wife to cook it. She said she could not. “Why not?” the irritated husband inquired. She replied that she did not have atta, oil, electricity or gas. The man took the fish and threw it back into the river. As soon as the fish hit the water, it popped up again and shouted, “Je-yoo Musharraf!” (Long live Musharraf.)

Given the ground realities in the country, I wonder what the entire nation has to thank Musharraf for – Benazir was murdered, streets in Lahore, Islamabad, Wazistan and Balochistan are blood-soaked, judges are under house arrest, the constitution has been repeatedly violated, the Pakistani army is at war with its own citizens – but above all, the majority of Pakistanis have never had it so bad ever before…!

Can we really say “Je-yoo Musharraf”? I guess not… certainly not!

The Nation, January 25, 2008

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