Arm-twisting of politicians was started by the first dictator in October 1958 which should now stop for all times to come. Ayub Khan’s Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance (EBDO) knocked out several honest political players from the arena. Those who did not surrender to the will of the usurper were punished. Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy, the ex-Prime Minster and the most able and popular leader of the Eastern Wing, challenged his disqualification. Through his brilliant legal acumen, he avoided conviction but decided to go into self-exile. A few years later he was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a Beirut Hotel. His Awami League was taken over by ordinary workers like Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman who later became Bangla Bandu, the father of Bangladesh.
The era of ‘twisted politicians’
While the four dictators twisted arms of upright politicians, they produced several twisted political leaders who continue to dominate and pollute the political arena of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. To ensure a continuous supply of ‘Twisted Politicans’ (TPs), a production line was established at 33 Davis Road called the Muslim League House. The facility has lived up to its design, and has turned out to be the ‘Freemasons Lodge of Democracy’.
The Chaudhrys of Gujrat, Sharifs of Lahore, Khawajas of Sialkot and Lahore, Tareens of Multan, Dastagirs of Gujranwala, Qureshis of Multan, Wattoos of Okara, the list goes on, were all launched from here. In Lahore there is a special term used for ruffians; “Kan Tuttay” (a category of wrestlers with broken or twisted ear lobes- KT ). Ayub Khan ruled through these TPs till he was forced out of power in March 1969. The first free and fair election that followed in 1970 resulted in cleaning the mess created by the usurper through these KTs.
Pakistan’s shallow democracy
During the Ayub era, the courts did provide some relief to the upright dissenters like Malik Ghulam Jilani, father of the late Asma Jehangir, and Habib Jalib, the poet whose poetry exposed the rulers. When no one could stand up to the might of the dictator, Madar-i-Millat Mohtrama Fatima Jinnah took him on in the presidential elections held in early 1965. A campaign was launched against her from the Muslim League House by the TPs and KTs of the usurper. She was declared a traitor. Arms were twisted of those politicians who stood by her. Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan, one of the founding fathers of Pakistan, was a leading figure of her campaign. He was disgraced and cornered, and as a result he decided to quit politics. His son Sikander Hayat and his nephew the legendary Tariq Ali Khan then started a movement against the unchallenged, authoritative rule of the first dictator. There was so much arm-twisting that Tariq Ali had to flee the country to pursue his socialist ideas. He now resides in London. Sikander Hayat was brutally manhandled by the Police while leading demonstrations against the decade of Ayub’s misrule. Finally the era of exploitation came to an end, and the self-proclaimed Field Marshal had to step down.
The period of democracy was brief (1971 to 1977). During this democratic era the ‘Freemasons Lodge of Democracy’ remained deserted. As elected Prime Minister Zufiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) kept his election promise and shut down the Freemasons Lodge located at 90 Shahrae Quaid-e-Azam, but the one on Davis Road remained to hijack the democratic order. First it was the Majlis-e-Shaura in 1981 headed by Khawaja Safdar of Sialkot, father of Khawaja Asif, and then the partyless elections of 1985 that brought back the ‘Devils of Democracy’ into the corridors of power to restart the era of exploitation and suppression of the masses. Those who opposed were tortured in the dungeons of the Lahore Fort. It was arm-twisting at its peak that dislodged the entire progressive movement in the country. Most Comrades either left the country in disgust or joined NGOs to survive while the TPs and KTs had a field day.
If you can come clean, then why complain?
Can untwisting of the twisted politicians be termed as arm-twisting? Dossiers are full of their misdeeds. When their corruption is pointed out to them, they term it arm-twisting. Those who have held public offices are fully accountable for their wealth. Immoveable assets cannot be hidden, without money trails they are rendered defenceless. In USA it is widely believed that property owners are sitting ducks, answerable and vulnerable at all times.
They have to come clean by presenting their authentic paper work, as was done by Mr Suharwardy in his defence. Till today there are no charges of corrupt practices against Bhutto or any of his cabinet members.
There was a time in the land of the pure when ministers resigned when it was reported that they had misused official telephones or transport. Massive corruption has taken place in the last 40 years. There has to be an account of the plunder of the nation’s meagre resources. Exploiting weaknesses of law or using delaying tactics through expensive lawyers is not the way of the pure. The lawyer of Shahbaz Sharif in the money laundering case did not appear at one recent hearing, resulting in inordinate delay. The same strategy has been adopted by Rana Sanaullah in the narcotics case against him. Khawaja Asif got off the hook from the Supreme Court on the grounds that there is no law against conflict of interest in the country. Asif Ali Zardari, after ruining Bhutto’s party, now uses a similar strategy to prolong the cases against him.
Those who are a byproduct of arm-twisting should not complain about it as the mystery of corruption has to unfold. Business as usual cannot continue through generations of ‘Twisted Politicians’. Unfolding and untwisting is the only way forward to end the ‘Zia Dark Ages’ and the corrupted human resource left behind. The honest and the upright politicians have nothing to fear as their arms are strong and cannot be easily twisted.
By visiting the Bhutto shrines at Ghari Khuda Buksh, Maryam Nawaz has tried to cleanse herself of her past sins against democracy and its crusaders, but considering the Zardari mind, I am hoping against hope that Bilawal does return the disgrace by showing up at Zia’s deserted grave in Islamabad. We live in very interesting times, it seems self-interest have outperformed the Bhutto ideology around which the first real national political party was launched in 1967 at Lahore by the Quaid-e-Awam.
Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished here after making certain changes for which prior permission from the author was taken. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.