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Monday, July 15, 2024

Legacy and Choices: The Lives of Pakistan’s Political Leaders

As we approach the present day, the story shifts to Nawaz Sharif, faced with the critical decision of continuing a comfortable life in London or confronting the establishment's challenges and returning to Pakistan's political arena. This narrative uncovers the enduring struggle for influence and the pursuit of a lasting legacy that has shaped Pakistan's history.

Iskander Mirza, the first President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, died in forced exile in London in 1969. Similarly, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, the fifth Prime Minister of Pakistan, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a Beirut hotel in 1963. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the ninth Prime Minister, was executed, and each of these leaders played significant roles in Pakistan’s formative years. Now, it’s Nawaz Sharif’s turn to shape history.

Mirza, as an elected President, conspired with Ayub Khan to abrogate the 1956 constitution, leading to the imposition of Martial Law in October 1958. However, shortly afterward, the Army Chief removed Mirza from power, taking control as Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). Mirza, unlike the Sharif family, did not accumulate wealth during his time in office and lived modestly, running a restaurant until his death in 1963. Due to the continued rule of the first usurper, he could not be buried in his homeland. Instead, he found his final resting place in Tehran, alongside his Iranian wife. As Shakespeare once said, “A man dies when his memory dies,” and sadly, few remember Mirza and Shah today.

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Understanding the matter better

At the time of partition, Suhrawardy was the Prime Minister of United Bengal and oversaw the division of the province upon arrival in Pakistan. Liaquat Ali Khan had already been appointed the first Prime Minister by the time Suhrawardy arrived in Pakistan. Despite leaving his constituency behind, Suhrawardy had a strong local following. When the Muslim League (ML) began seeking support from the establishment, Suhrawardy founded the Awami League (AL), which defeated his former party in local elections in the Eastern Wing. He remained defiant against the Martial Law regime and successfully defended himself against disqualification charges, unlike many other politicians who quietly retreated.

As a brilliant lawyer, he posed a significant threat to the establishment’s dominance. Ultimately, fearing for his life, he chose self-exile in Beirut, where he was later found dead in his hotel room. His legacy lives on, with Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman emerging as the leader of his party. Suhrawardy was buried in a mausoleum in Dhaka, now the capital of Bangladesh, leaving behind a strong legacy as a freedom movement leader and a proponent of democracy and the rule of law.

Following the fall of the first usurper, the Awami League and Bhutto’s People’s Party secured significant victories in the 1970 elections. However, the inability of the two leaders, Mujib and Bhutto, to work together for a united Pakistan led to the events of 1971, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh. Bhutto then took the reins of what remained of Jinnah’s Pakistan and, with the passage of the 1973 unanimous constitution, became the Prime Minister. An era of civilian supremacy began, with Bhutto labeling his regime as the “Awami Hakumat” or “People’s Government.”

However, after the 1977 elections, Bhutto found himself at odds with the establishment. Instead of a peaceful transfer of power, the country fell under military rule once again, sparking a confrontation between Bhutto’s People’s Party and the establishment. Undaunted, Bhutto decided to fight back. He was arrested on charges related to the murder of Ahmed Raza Kasuri’s father but was bailed out by Justice K.M. Samdani of the Lahore High Court (LHC). Subsequently, he was arrested under Martial Law, and his trial commenced under Chief Justice Maulvi Mushtaq. In April 1979, he was executed in Chaklala prison and buried in his village of Naudero. His body was received by his first wife while Nusrat and Benazir were under arrest.

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Now, Nawaz Sharif faces a crucial decision. He can choose to live in London, like Mirza, as a commoner until the end of his days. Alternatively, if he decides to challenge the establishment, as Suhrawardy did, they may come after him. One can run, but hiding for too long is impossible. The politics of resistance is unfamiliar to him and his party, as they often prefer “Muk Muka” (wheeling and dealing) to wait for another chance, which they typically manage.

If he chooses to return, he will face the dual challenges of the law and the ballot. Similar to prisoner 804, he may find himself in Attock Jail, learning to adapt to life there. As per the famous Sufi saying, “Suli tay charna painda ay” (For a cause, one may have to face the gallows). Bhutto made the dignified choice to face the noose for his cause, earning an enduring legacy. Perhaps it is decision time for Nawaz Sharif, and he must choose between struggling for a legacy in Pakistan or leading a peaceful life in London.


The writer is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at  fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.