ISLAMABAD: Ghulam Muhammad used to vomit dirty expletives on his staff and officers. As nobody understood his mumbling, his British secretary used to tell his visitors that the governor general was satisfied with their performance. As dictators are obsessed with flattery, some cronies persuaded Ayub Khan to celebrate a decade of development, which proved to be his undoing. Ayub Khan exuded pride when he wrote Friends not Masters but he used to admit that the American embassy is the only diplomatic mission which he recognises. Yahya Khan conducted affairs of the state from his bed — literally — and then had the cheek to blame political leaders for the country’s break-up in 1971.
Pervez Musharraf, like his predecessors, took over to ‘stabilise’ the country through what he touted as enlightened moderation but hobnobbed with extremists to double-cross the nation and the world. All of Pakistan’s dictators have been consigned into the dustbin of history leaving behind a legacy of shame and disgrace.
On the contrary, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto carved a permanent niche in the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. The difference between the character of leaders and dictators of Pakistan is writ large on the wrinkled and poverty-stricken faces of teeming millions of our countrymen.
In this context, it is imperative to assess the legacy which President Asif Ali Zardari is likely to leave behind after he leaves office. I am doing this exercise in comparison with the firm belief that experiences of the past must be applied to the present. If President Zardari continues on his present course, he is not likely to leave a lasting legacy. His tall claims of reconciliation, regional packages, constitutional amendments, completion of parliament’s term, delegation of powers and so on do not appear to cut much ground with ordinary Pakistanis.
The president should know that he will be judged by history not by his cronies who may have their own axe to grind. If he does not change course, he may find himself disgraced on the wrong side of history.
Ambassador (retd) BA Malik
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2013.