The darkest shade of black

A grandson of our former dictator, General Ziaul Haq, had the gall to write an article criticising the legacy of ZAB

Yaqoob Khan Bangash April 16, 2016
The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55. He tweets at @BangashYK

On April 14, 2016, I was simply appalled by an opinion piece published in this very newspaper. A grandson of our former dictator, General Ziaul Haq, had the gall to write an article criticising the legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. I would recommend the gentleman to first study hard at Princeton and think through ideas before sharing them on such a platform.

In this article, the teenager began by wondering why every April 4, Bhutto’s ghastly judicial murder is recounted. This he termed Bhutto’s ‘glorification’. Well, Bhutto is rightly remembered on April 4 as a martyr for democracy since a bloodthirsty dictator unjustly hanged him on a trumped-up charge. If the judicial murder of an elected prime minster of Pakistan is not reason enough to remember and lament such a state of affairs in the country, then I am at a loss to understand what we should remember. Being from the same household that the perpetrator of this horrendous crime belonged to, Mr Adnan should have already been aware of how this tragedy transpired and how shameful it was.

In every age and in every country, the development of personality cults is very common. The Kennedys have a cultic persona in the US, Margaret Thatcher had one in the UK, Gandhi and Nehru had it in India and so on. This cultic following means that oftentimes their good deeds are projected more than their bad ones. However, this does not mean that their wrong decisions are forgotten or are unrecognised. Even in Pakistan, there are as many books lauding the thought of Bhutto as they are criticising it. Of course, if the writer had bothered to look through writings on Bhutto in Pakistan and abroad before using criticism of him as a backdoor attempt to rehabilitate his grandfather, he would have realised another side.

One thing that Mr Adnan has noted rightly is that there are generally no non-chrome colours in history; everyone perhaps is a shade of grey. However, in noting so he should also remember that people should not judge people in the past with the precepts of the present. This is not only ridiculous, it is silly to expect people in the past to know and realise principles we have only just accepted after decades of debate. Take for instance, the recent debate over gay marriage in the US — this debate took more than a decade, and even now is simmering in some places. The debate in Princeton, even though taking place in one of the best universities of the world, is being hijacked by people who just want to become relevant and gain some political mileage. Sense is millions miles away from them. Similar is the extreme hypocrisy of people at Oxford — my own alma mater — who after receiving and enjoying the largesse of Cecil Rhodes’s benefaction turned on him and wanted his statue removed from a rather innocuous building.

All said, there are shades and there are shades. Woodrow Wilson and Bhutto might be some shade of grey, but General Ziaul Haq is certainly a very dark shade of black — the least this eager undergraduate from Princeton must learn. Zia was singlehandedly responsible for the tearing apart of our social fabric, the thrusting of Pakistan back to the Stone Age, the advent of drugs and guns, and the political, ideological and cultural instability we currently face. Of course, there was a good side of Zia too, some decent things also happened. But then Hitler was also not simply a megalomaniac, he also did some rather remarkable things.

Mr Adnan does not live in Pakistan, but if he did, I am sure he would have realised that some shades are certainly darker than others and that we must not confuse them.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2016.

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gp65 | 8 years ago | Reply @Saad: @Dipak: Many of Bhutto's decisions are questionable. This includes nationalization policy including nationalizing many educational institutions, passing 2nd amendment criminalizing Ahmadi worship and many more.It transpires that he never said the Idhar Hum Udhar Tum statement that was ascribed to him. But even if he HAD said it, was he in charge to decide not to hand over power to Mujib? No it was the decision of army under Yahya. Was it his decision to make the nasl badal denge statement and actually execute it? Nope that would be Tiger Niazi - again a Pakistani general. @Ali Ayaz: In an earlier article, Zia Adnan had tried to present his grandfather's legacy in a very positive light. He got extremely negative feedback on that and hence has tried a different tack this time of trying to diminish Bhutto's legacy. The point is no matter how flawed Bhutto's legacy, it cannot justify overthrowing an elected PM and then his judicial murder. Remembering Bhutto on the day he was murdered on trumped up charges does not mean that people do not see anything wrong in his legacy. @Motiwala: I do not disagree with either Mr. Bangash or you about Zia's terrible impact on Pakistan. My comment on the original article should make that evident. Having said that, I disagree with Mr. Bangash (and you, if you agree with Bangash) that ZIa's grandson does not have the right to express his opinion, however wrong headed it is.
Pakistani | 8 years ago | Reply @motiwala: there couldn't be a better response that yours... For the rest, both articles are just as Adnan rightfully pointed out that there were many things ZAB did that can be deemed as dark shades and so did Yaqoob as yes it was a judicial murder and an open fact what Zia did with ZAB. What needs to be done is keep our minds and heart open for everyone's opinion and stop personally sledging each other for things that are piece of history now. We are a thriving nation and we have to look forward rather than moaning on what damage has already been done to this country,
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