Dr. Farid A Malik |
Nations must learn from history but unfortunately, we do not. Political tangles are once again on the rise. This is not the first time that the entanglement has been carried too far to the extent of tearing the system apart. There is a Persian saying that says; ‘jokes are fun as long as they do not target the beards of the elders’.
In 1977 the PNA (Pakistan National Alliance) movement went too far. Air Marshal Asghar Khan who was otherwise an honest and upright individual grossly miscalculated the situation. He was convinced that General Zia-ul-Haq will hold elections within ninety days and then return to the barracks. Instead he held on for eleven years and two months. When he was blown in mid-year there was a sigh of relief.
Those who fly kites known how deadly tangles are. The masters avoid it at all costs. Being the youngest member of the kite flying team I was always in a support role. It was my duty to keep the thread untangled and ready for ‘peecha’ (cutting contest). After the ‘peecha’ it was my job to pull back the thread and then rewind it. In case of any tangles my father would insist on discarding the used thread while I tried to untangle it for reuse.
During the Rajiv Gandhi era, there were serious charges of corruption in purchase of armaments called ‘Bofors Scandal’. There was tiff between the Prime Minister (PM) and the President Zail Singh.
While I never got a chance to become a master as my elder brother took over this role after my father but the lessons learnt have been lifelong. Tangles cause immeasurable damage to the thread. It is very difficult to untangle them and even then the weakening cannot be identified nor removed. They invariably show up at the critical moment resulting in ‘Bo Kata’ (cutting of the kite).
If ‘Bo Kata’ has to be avoided tangles must be avoided and taken very seriously. General Zia inserted the 8th amendment in the constitution under which the President was empowered to dismiss an elected government and dissolve the assemblies. Zia used it once, Ishaq Khan twice; even the democrat Farooq Leghari used it once to dismiss the government of his own party. In India, though it is a part of the constitution, no President has ever invoked it. Finally, in Pakistan most Zia’s Draconian amendments have been annulled through the 18th amendment, only a few remain that should also be removed to cleanse the sacred document.
Read more: Crossing the line
During the Rajiv Gandhi era, there were serious charges of corruption in purchase of armaments called ‘Bofors Scandal’. There was tiff between the Prime Minister (PM) and the President Zail Singh. On the refusal of the PM to investigate, the President thought of dismissing the government. It was a major tangle. The elders intervened and the ‘peecha’ (contest) was avoided to protect democracy. Both leaders completed their terms and the system was saved.
In USA when President Richard Nixon was being impeached for the ‘Watergate Scandal’, the White House Chief of staff General Alexander Haig advised the President to send the congress packing. As Commander-in-Chief the President had the authority to impose emergency and take complete control. Nixon decided against the recommendation, resigned and went home. It was a test of his leadership. His parting words were, “My mother said it is not bad when people think bad about you, it is bad when you think bad about the people’.
A fresh start has to be made otherwise it will be ‘Bo kata’ once again. Kite flying has suffered enough already, the nation should be spared this time around.
Politics is much more complicated and long drawn as compared to kite flying. Leaders must emerge on solid credentials of service to the people and efforts for common good. Looters cannot lead as they are trained only for loot as we are witnessing today. Instead of coming clean against the charges levied against them, the political leadership is producing tangles after tangles’.
Together with crafty lawyers and some unscrupulous judges the process is being unnecessarily complicated and delayed. Only Khawaja Saad Rafique is talking about the past mistakes of the politicians. In 1958 it propelled Ayub Khan into power; in 1977 it provided an opening to Zia-ul-Haq, in 1999 it paved the way for Musharraf to take over.
Read more: When common good became uncommon
Better sense must prevail in 2019. Imran Khan was elected in a free and fair election in 2018, he is constitutionally bound to go for another electoral exercise in 2023. If the system is made to collapse through tangles the constitutional statue of time will become irrelevant. A fresh start has to be made otherwise it will be ‘Bo kata’ once again. Kite flying has suffered enough already, the nation should be spared this time around.
Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.