Two very different people, at very different stages of their lives, at the end of their careers in very different ways, gave one hope for the future of Pakistan. While people celebrate one and mourn the other, I would like to hail them both as beacons of light.
The first is General Raheel Sharif, who not only achieved a lot during his career but set a precedent for ending the career that would force those to come to follow in his footsteps. He took the battle against “the enemy within” to their doorstep and began the process of ridding our poor country of this menace. Though many have paid lip service to the cause, none went boldly forward to do what needed to be done. They say that “Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. In Pakistan, as Chief of Army Staff, absolute power was his for the taking, but he declined to go near it and went on to declare that he would take no extension of his term. Despite popular sentiment, when thrice offered “the kingly crown, He did thrice refuse” (Shakespeare: Julius Caeser). While others criticised him for his steadfast refusal, for me he had passed the ultimate test of a true patriot, seeing not only the need of the present but what it would lead to in the future, following the spirit of the precept that “The ends of today are the means of tomorrow”. When he left, he set a new precedent for our country of willingly and proudly passing the baton on to his successor. If his career was laudable, the ending of that career is doubly so. And Pakistan was blessed by this ending of an illustrious career. Our heroes have ever tried to cling to the centre of the stage till they ceased to be heroes and had to be dragged away. Our hats off to General Raheel Sharif, and our thanks to him, for providing a hero who remains a hero.
I never knew General Raheel Sharif but for the second beacon of light, I go to someone I knew well. He was the younger son of my friend, Professor Faiz Ahmed (for whose marriage, his cousin and I took the proposal), Osama Ahmed Waraich. When he was deciding on the line of work he should take, among others he talked to me. He was thinking of attempting the CSS exam to join the DMG Group, I advised him strongly against it because it is riddled with corruption and he would soon lose his idealism; either becoming dishonest, or be ousted by the system. If not, he would be frustrated in his attempts to improve things and would be posted to the back of beyond on a go-slow in a career leading nowhere. He ignored my advice and went ahead and joined the DMG Group. And did he ever prove me wrong! He rose to be Assistant Commissioner (AC) while doing all the right things. As AC (Peshawar), he took direct action against influential people and encroachers and initiated and implemented plans for improvement. At the extraordinarily young age of 30, he was appointed Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Chitral. Within a year he had established an unparalleled reputation for himself. The Chitralis said that for the first time they had a DC who treated them as humans. I was wrong on each count of my advice and I am delighted to be proved wrong. Osama’s promising career ended in an air crash coming home to his parents. One mourns his demise but he has lit a candle that can never be extinguished and provides the rays of hope for us who have learned to be cynical in a country where corruption and sycophancy are so rampant that people are ashamed to admit their honesty. At the end of a very short career he, too, has provided a hero who will remain a hero. Though Osama is dead, the hero lives on.
Let no one give pessimistic advice to young idealists, as I did. I ignored such advice when it was given to me and I am glad that Osama ignored it when I (of all people) gave him that advice. Pakistan is twice blessed to have produced two such people. Two knights whose shining armour will never tarnish. They leave for us a lesson that we must never give up hope. In the worst of situations there arise the best of people, who rise above themselves to re-open the path that leads forward. We need more Osamas and Raheels. By their actions and the ends of their careers, they have opened the path for the new ones to follow.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2017.