“Will you kill me or your father if it turns out that your family is at war with ours, in the current struggle for political power?”
“I listened…thinking what it must be like to a termite, forever busy tearing apart, eating into the foundations which others had built.”
from Search, Farah Nuruddin
There is a rage in my mind and heart burning like a fire. There is an uncontrollable anger in my body and soul. There is a tremendous anguish stretching over me like an entire horizon – just the way millions of Pakistani people are feeling these days over the killing of 6 innocent citizens and a policeman (latest report, 11 killed) at the Faizabad Interchange protest.
Why did Zohaib, Jahanzeb, Irfan, Adeel, and other innocent human beings along with a policeman hit in the head by a brick have to die? For what reason? What purpose? And then, we have conveniently granted these innocent lives “martyrdom” so that their souls can ascend to Heaven while their families left behind suffer on this earth where human life exists. Ask a widow, an orphaned child, a father, a mother, a brother or a sister what it is like losing a dear one and enduring endless sorrow for the rest of their lives.
I believe it is about time that our so-called democratic leadership and national managers understand that democratic governance is all about compassion, empathy with the people of the nation, and caring for them. It is about providing safety, security, stability and service to the masses. And in a democratic system of governance, the common people have to be listened to. They are not simply pawns that provide votes to put some shady characters in political power. In the context of the protest, the writ of the government and “ego” of the powerful rulers should have been of secondary importance. The foremost element of a democratic regime is to steadfastly follow the ethical-moral norms that stipulate that the people’s right of “freedom of expression” is not to be responded to with the application of lethal state force when there is a clash of opinion between the political managers and a section of society. There must be a willingness on the part of the state functionaries to negotiate, first and foremost!
The Faizabad episode can be summed up as a dreadful and alarming human failure, a political management incapability and incompetency at the highest level of PMLN government in Islamabad. However, a vital question is: Was the entire episode purposely planned by the incumbent government? Was turning a peaceful and legitimate protest into a national crisis deliberate in order to gain political advantage for the beleaguered PMLN leadership? It is hoped that the Superior Judiciary in Pakistan will get to the bottom of this matter by intensive inquiry through a judicial investigation.
The entire issue could have been resolved amicably in a matter of hours through face-to-face negotiations between the key members of the Prime Minister’s cabinet and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik leadership. It appears that Zahid Hamid, the Law Minister, although a veteran politician for 22 long years, lacks conceptual understanding of the compassionate role of leadership in such a situation – nor does the entire top echelon of the PMLN leadership, including the Prime Minister and Mian Nawaz Sharif as the Chairman of the party. It is reported that while the protestors were being assaulted in Islamabad, the PM and some key members of the Cabinet were in Jati Umra for a 3 ½ hour meeting with Nawaz Sharif – obviously, the decision on how to handle this crisis was being made there.
Hence, tragically, the simplest solution to the crisis was ignored: The Law Minister should have set aside his ego, acted in a statesmanlike manner, which is obviously expected of a veteran leader, and offered his withdrawal from his position. The Prime Minister should have pledged an inquiry into the matter within days. And if the Law Minister was found innocent of the alleged misconduct, he could have been restored to his position, with the real culprits punished in accordance with the law.
Instead, 8500 armed security personnel confronted the protestors. 7 (or more) innocent people lost their valuable lives, their families destroyed. Another 200 people injured. Lives of millions of people disrupted. A protest that continued for 22 days could have, in fact, been resolved in 22 minutes – but the wrong decisions were made.
But why? Why is this absolutely incompetent regime still in political power? But why haven’t the Prime Minister and the Law Minister been indicted for poor political judgement? But why haven’t they been lawfully indicted for the loss of innocent citizens’ lives?
But didn’t the Judiciary have to step in to help resolve this crisis? Is it not an indication that the learned court was convinced that the political managers in Islamabad were incapable of resolving the issue by themselves? And didn’t the military establishment have to invoke a limited “compulsive intervention” to make sure matters were not driven to an even worse crisis if exclusively handled by the political establishment and the leadership of the PMLN?
This crisis exposes the fact that the incumbent regime in Islamabad is too incompetent to hold onto political management of this country. In fact, it is a serious threat to this country’s safety and security and to the appropriate management of the state’s affairs. Enough is enough! The judicious political verdict on the matter is: “Go, PMLN administration in Islamabad, Go!
Conflict resolution management and negotiation strategies require specialized skills to handle a national political crisis such as the one faced by Pakistan in the last 22 days. Unfortunately, it is obvious that no one in the incumbent political regime in Islamabad, including the Prime Minister, the Law Minister, the Interior Minister, nor Mian Nawaz Sharif calling the shots from Jati Umra in Lahore, have ever heard of such sophisticated political managerial strategies in their entire political careers. No wonder then, all of them, it appears, believe that a government can be run by personal whims, irrespective of any rules for constructive engagement with “adversaries.”
So the result was death and destruction with the media barred from broadcasting live images of events and violence as well as improper measures put into effect regarding information dissemination, causing further doubt about the regime as a viable political entity to run this country. The political mismanagement is massive, inexcusable, and damaging to this nation’s image all over the world. Consider the global media carrying pictures of police brutality with young men bleeding profusely and policemen beating up protesters with batons.
How much more should this nation suffer because of its political leaders’ perpetually inept performance? Can’t we find an alternative to this predicament of PMLN misconduct?
It is my considered opinion that the majority of common Pakistani citizens, including myself, did not approve of the protesters’ modus operandi – but the issue, itself, was vitally important. It was Islamabad’s responsibility to act decisively and constructively to end the impasse – but they intentionally did not. I know it and so do you!
Imagine how it all ended: while resigning, the Law Minister said, “In order to restore peace in the country, I have decided to step down from my position.”
How sad! How uncompassionate! How undemocratic! How sickening! My heart and soul is in rage like a fire burning! It is too much! It is inexcusable!
My dear Law Minister, people lost their lives and families were destroyed while you were thinking of “restoring peace in the country.”
And what is the incumbent Prime Minister? An electronic button? Does he not act unless pressed down by someone, remotely controlled? Another sad story in Pakistan’s history to tell future generations.
“Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
Well said, Shakespeare. It even applies to today’s 21st century Pakistan.