The insidious deficit in this Islamic Republic between the recognition of what is right or wrong, proper or improper, should amaze, but it does not. So low are the national standards set that when any official, high or low, actually does what he should do it is taken naturally as an exception to the rule and is given much eloquent waxing.
Of late, some of our most hard-core pessimists of the ‘liberal’ (that contentious word) variety, who have for years bemoaned, justifiably, the state of the nation and the quality of leadership have spotted in the words and actions of the third time prime minister and his powerful ruling party, and the ruler and legislators of the dominant province, several magical rays of light. That the Mian of Raiwind actually uttered the word ‘liberal’ in the context of where Pakistan should be headed has been both lauded and slammed — such is the state of the national unity. One interpretation was that it applied to the economy only as Sharif had used the word, in relation to giving Pakistan ‘an economically vibrant future’, his own particular ‘labour of love.’
But then came the bombshell of his own provincial assembly passing the Women’s Protection Bill. Why is this considered as something extraordinary, as some form of amazing liberalisation? Is it not something that should and must be done in a country renowned (amongst many others) for its ignominious attitude towards the female sex? The Hudood Ordinances remain on the statute books — why? And the viewing of the Oscar-winning film on premeditated murder (quaintly termed ‘honour killings’) was another feather in the prime ministerial cap. But what can he do on that score? Since his vow to act, we have almost daily press reports on the murder of women who have allegedly sinned. The lawful execution of a high-profile murderer — one of the over 350 to have been hanged in a period of 18 months — was another bright spot. It was not expected that the views of the street-powerful religiosity imbued lot would be challenged.
These rays of light are only seen by a select few, for far too many they are violations of sacred rights and traditions. The latter can all relax as the gap between the passing of laws and their implementation is so vast that the present majority attitudes towards human rights in general, women, the blasphemy laws and other religious matters that are very much the business of the state are unlikely to be changed. Anyhow, it was all a good but momentary PR exercise for international viewing.
A bit of a dimmer has been the Pervez Musharraf solution. But seriously, was it expected by the sane and pragmatic that the government, with history and facts staring them in the face, would get anywhere by going to the courts? It was always misconceived and a non-starter from day one. All the entire exercise has done is to provide news items galore, waste the time of the overloaded underperforming courts and waste the money of the pathetically few taxpayers. What the Mian should have done is to revisit his actions on October 12, 1999, remember his sheer recklessness towards an aircraft load of men, women and children, his farcical retirement of one army chief and failed appointment of another, which all led to his practically handing over the country to the generals on a gilded platter (of which, no doubt, he possesses many). As for the constitution, there was little new. It’s been done in the past and now it remains littered and rendered almost unintelligible by the remnants of the 8th Amendment, imposed by Sharif’s maker and mentor, Ziaul Haq.
Reverting to right and wrong, General Raheel Sharif intends to do what is right, but there we go, there are a goodly number urging him on to do wrong. If he is the man we think he is, he will hold his course. Our decades old politicians would do well to learn from him that there comes a point when it is right to bend to time.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2016.
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