Pakistan’s phoenix complex

Army Chief General Raheel Sharif today is our man of the hour

Anjum Niaz September 02, 2015
The writer is a journalist with over 30 years of experience

Wanted is a superhero at all times. Our hero complex is like the Phoenix, a mythical creature that gets burnt but rises from the ashes again and again. It’s an emblem of immortality, rekindling hope and optimism. Pakistanis, the majority of whom are semi-literate, ignorant and poor, have, since their country’s independence, found and lost their Phoenix-like leaders who have cyclically fooled, hoodwinked, cheated and tricked them, only to perish and be reborn with a different name and a different face.

October 12, 1999 arrived with the sacking of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by then army chief General Pervez Musharraf. Then came the famous Referendum of 2002. On a blustery April morning, we went to Pakistan Consulate General in New York to vote ‘Yes’ allowing Musharraf to continue as president for five years. He promised that he would banish the “corrupt duo”, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, forever. We believed him. Musharraf broke his promise.

General Kayani succeeded Musharraf as the chief of army staff a month before Benazir’s assassination. His promotion, direct from ISI chief to army chief, was perhaps a first in the history of the Pakistan Army. We looked to ‘General Clean’ to rid us of the twin menace: corruption and terrorism. This was not to be. Suicide bombings also climaxed during his tenure.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry seized our sympathy after General Musharraf showed him the door. Overnight, he became our crusader against injustice. Enter Aitzaz Ahsan and his elite crew of attorneys — Munir Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Hamid Khan, Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood and Athar Minallah. These smoothies dazzled us with their zealous support for their ‘chief’ whipping up mass agitation bordering on hysteria across Pakistan. Their sweat and toil won the day. “The chief justice is phenomenal. Wait and see what he does,” Imran Khan raved to me in an interview after the restoration of the chief justice. The CJ performed and cancelled the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance). We danced with joy and prayed for his long life!

Indeed, the serotonin-filled chief justice fulfilled his vow before Allah to serve his people with honesty, truth and integrity after his restoration. But the first batch to be disillusioned by the chief justice was his star warriors, the same attorneys who sang his praise day and night. Aitzaz Ahsan & Co, began lining up for TV interviews and in guarded tones hinted at their colossal disappointment in their ‘hero’. Finally, the CJ’s bubble burst with allegations by real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, who claimed to have ‘bribed’ CJ’s son Arsalan Iftikhar. We had to eat crow, as the Americans say, for having been proven wrong about the ‘Phoenix’ we had created in the media. Iftikhar Chaudhry was our biggest letdown.

August 14, 2014 was the day when the destiny of Pakistan was to change forever according to Imran Khan. He vowed to send the present bunch of the ‘corrupt’ packing and bring forth a real democracy. We wished the Kaptaan God speed. He would endow citizens from all strata of life their inalienable rights to life, liberty and happiness. Somewhere along the route, Imran Khan lost his mojo.

Making a cameo appearance in the hall of heroes was Shahid Aziz. Musharraf made him chairman NAB. At last, we had a man who would fumigate the corrupt, spineless, idiotic organisations prostituting for the government of the day. Shahid Aziz had an earnest look in his fiery eyes. He was a fake, alleged some, including senior journalist Zahid Hussain who tore him to pieces by calling him a “hypocrite”. Another who won our trust was General Shuja Pasha. He chased the Memogate scandal like a fox, hunting Husain Haqqani, elevating the shady character Mansoor Ijaz to a Phoenix. But Ijaz turned out to be a mere ringside commentator at naked female wrestling matches called “Stupidisco,” reported the Associated Press.

Army Chief General Raheel Sharif today is our man of the hour. “He comes from a family of shaheeds,” say his admirers, “he will not let Pakistan down.” Amen!

Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd,  2015.

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Mohammad Ali Mahar | 7 years ago | Reply “Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.” - Kahlil Gibran
Azfar Bilal | 7 years ago | Reply The question isn't whether the people we elevate to dizzying heights often turn out to be mediocre in the long run or when push comes to shove they don't stand their ground. While true at so many levels, the concept of heroes is inherently flawed. We, like any normal human being, expect our heroes to mirror the Utopian world we ourselves crave for. This argument that a "perceived hero" can do no wrong is fatalistic. "Man of the moment" concept should be argued as such. Every incident in a nation's history throws up actors on that stage, that they do well for that particular moment in time is what they should be evaluated for. Everything else is wisdom in hind sight. Our mix of ethno-religious cum feudal-caste based political structure does not encourage linear standard of judgement for any mortal. Today it's Genral Raheel, who at least seems to be walking the talk, lets support him, if not as a hero, at least as the "Man of the Moment". He may not be the one on the white horse but he is definitely the one holding the reins.
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