The Zia Pandemic of 1985 partyless elections may be finally coming to an end by the voluntary resignations of the opposition parties. Please resign as there is no other way to get rid of these ‘political bounty hunters’ who managed to capture the Parliament due to the senseless boycott by Movement for Restoration of Democracy of which the Benazir-led PPP was a major component. As a nation, we have failed to get rid of these unscrupulous politicians despite several attempts. They have escaped conviction due to the weakness of our judicial system. Even accountability has failed to weed them out. Though they have not been vindicated, they have not been convicted either. Now they have decided to call it a day, we must facilitate the process of their exit with a sigh of relief.
I was hoping that the eleven political parties comprising the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), ably misled by the Maulana and Maryam, would make a big announcement at Minar-e-Pakistan on December 13, but the show did not meet expectations. Ever since I attended my first rally with my father at this location in 1971, I have never missed any large gathering there.
It was here that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the undisputed leader of West Pakistan, decided to boycott the Assembly Session called in Dacca. He clearly presented his demands: 1.More time to negotiate with Mujib-ur-Rehman to reach agreement on his six points to keep the federation united. or 2. The deadline to formulate a constitution within 120 days be lifted as differences cannot be bridged in this short period. The message was understood by the large crowd. For my father, the Tehrik-e-Pakistan Gold Medallist, it brought back the memories of the 1940 Lahore Resolution of which he was a part.
Then the rally of 30 October 2011 rekindled hope for the depressed masses, I was there with my children. There was a very charged crowd who were there to listen to their Kaptaan. Then the ‘Caravan of Change’ for ‘Naya Pakistan’ moved to Mazar-e-Quaid. After the gathering on 25 December 2011, a dinner was arranged to forge an alliance between old and the new PTI players. It proved to be the proverbial ‘Last Supper’ for the old who still represent the credible, untainted part of the party.
The first free and fair elections of 1970 were a major milestone in our struggle for people’s sovereignty. The Establishment and its dirty political players were knocked out by the voters. The ‘Freemasons Lodge of Democracy’ located on 33 Davis Road Lahore remained abandoned for years after that. It ushered a new era in politics. People’s power had finally prevailed under two genuine parties, the PPP in West Pakistan and Awami League in the East. Unfortunately, the Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered but real democracy emerged. The focus of the government moved from the classes to the masses as promised by ZAB. Labour, trade and student unions came to the forefront to restore their rights. The democratic era did not last long. By 1977, the anti-democratic forces got together in another alliance of nine political parties called the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA).
Benazir’s heroic struggle against dictatorship finally paid off with a great election victory in 1988 but she was cornered again by regressive forces that came out of the ‘Muslim League House’ or ‘ The Freemasons Lodge of Democracy ‘ that was restored and revived again out of the political wilderness of the 1970s. The ‘Political Circus’ kept going but a new player emerged to taint Bhutto’s party. Asif Ali Zardari the husband of the ‘Daughter of the East’ was impressed more by the Sharifs’ money-making mechanisms than the Bhuttos’ party ideology. Finally, President Farooq Leghari had to dismiss the government of his own party followed by an operation clean-up. He set up the Ehtesab Bureau under Chairmanship of Mr Justice (retd) Mujhadid Mirza with a promise of across-the-board accountability. The Chairman was upbeat and promised to clean up the mess in a short time but little did he know that the task was not that simple. Political influences ran deep, the prosecution was halfhearted with almost no reliable witnesses. Fearing a gang-up of the corrupt the President also caved in and constitutional wavers were given to the corrupt to contest elections.
Nawaz Sharif was elected PM with an absolute majority. He brought in his buddy Saif-ur-Rehman who ran a medical store in Mozang Chungi, to head the Bureau with instructions to go after the opposition. Now both parties had cases of corruption registered against each other, yet they still managed to survive.
Then came the fourth Martial Law and a new more powerful body called the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was created through a Presidential Ordinance. More cases were registered against the loose cannons of both mainstream political parties but they managed to escape conviction again. Benazir went into self-exile while Nawaz Sharif struck a clemency deal to leave the country for ten years. Only Zardari stayed in prison, but managed to win freedom after reaching some understanding with the establishment.
There is a Punjabi proverb Khoti Raee Borh Thalay (The donkey remained under the shade of the tree) The corrupt were neither punished nor exposed. From day one after coming into power the Kaptaan has been trying to move the ‘Donkey of Corruption’ from under the shade that it has been enjoying uninterrupted since 1985. But again it has proven to be a Herculean task. Expensive lawyers can exploit the weaknesses of common law to delay convictions forever. Release on bail does not mean vindication for the well-meaning decent souls, but it does for the ones who entered politics through the back door.
Coming back to the offer to resign, it must be accepted with open arms as the ‘Genie’ has grown so big that it cannot be put back into the bottle through the judicial process. For the PPP which is a genuine political entity not conceived and launched by the ‘ Freemasons of Democracy’, it will not be an easy decision. Benazir always regretted her boycott of elections in 1985. According to ZAB, the political field should never be left open, and to be counted, the players must stay in the arena, willing and able to fight. Timing of the dissolution of the Sindh Assembly can dampen the Senate elections for which PTI should formulate a strategy.
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Overall the resignations of the unscrupulous will prove to be a blessing in disguise, and provide relief of unimaginable proportions. Let us all stand up and applaud this announced, voluntary exit of the 1985 political distortions, and as a nation we should be willing to move on the righteous path of politics as it was in the two brief periods between 1947 to 1958 and 1971 to 1977.
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.