It is so easy to follow the popular mood of the country. But it is so morally wrong to do so, if one knows it is based on a lie. That was my dilemma last week. Having heard plenty of evidence corroborating Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s alleged links to CIA and al Qaeda, from all those who had held important and relevant posts then and now, it became incumbent on me not to follow the herd. It became necessary for me to call a spade a spade and for that reason I was not part of the National Assembly walkout in her favour. Having said that, I have always maintained that she should be brought back to Pakistan and be tried here because she is a Pakistani, even though there are doubts that she may now have American nationality. Her trial in the US was far from fair with many human rights violations against her, but till allegations against her dangerous links are proven wrong she could not be called ‘qaum ki beti’. I also added that real leadership did not ‘cash in’ on wrong popular moods.
In the process I was targeted by certain vultures inside and outside my political party. I was the victim of a character assassination campaign and it reminded me of McCarthyism. This was the kind of bullying that scares most people. But I held my ground. I noticed that even though many people had not taken part in the walkout no one wanted to challenge the popular mood since they feared a public outcry. Each one of those vultures wanted to ‘use’ Dr Aafia to earn votes. The kind of labels that were tagged on me for those couple of days were unbelievable. Why? Simply because I challenged a cashing in strategy based on lies.
What is Pakistan losing as a result of this McCarthyism? It is losing the liberalist agenda to the jihadists. It is losing focus of what the real issues are — it is now clear that every single political party inside and outside parliament would rather take the popular course of action rather than the correct one. And that to me is the most distasteful truth of the current Pakistani political set-up. It means that we don’t have leaders. We have users.
Pakistan spent a key week holding rallies in support of Dr Aafia. During that time I didn’t see any huge rallies for real causes such as in support of the incredible new Kashmiri intifada standing up to human rights violations in Indian Kashmir. In the process we lost out on focusing on the miseries of flood victims.
The point is, do we set the agenda on haq or do we follow the wrong agenda? Pakistanis today have a choice. They can truly kick out the cowards and users and rally behind those fighting for haq. If not, then the future options for fixing the problems in Pakistan will be bleak. And yes, it takes courage to do correct agenda setting. But it is Pakistan’s only salvation. I am not in for a popularity contest. I am after ‘haq’, in which it is important to accept that certain choices made in the past may have been wrong. It is better to fix the wrong course of direction rather than to follow it for political expediency. That is the difference between ‘new politics’ and old politics.
Published in The Express Tribune October 6th, 2010.