By Kamran Shafi
As a long-time supporter of the complete reversal of the Commando’s actions of Nov 3, 2007, as one who protested (whenever possible) his dismissal alongside the 20, on some days 80, far more dedicated members of civil society and the families of the ‘disappeared’ who too joined the peaceful protests, I have to thank Mr President and his minions for making The Long March successful exactly five days before it even began!
You have to be a special kind of goof to do what this government has done, especially in the days of live TV.
Just think back to the images coming from the Karachi-Hyderabad super highway toll plaza: old men thrashed; screaming women beaten and their dupattas torn from their heads; and the big, beefy louts of the Sindh police literally lifting them off their feet and throwing them into prison vans.
I cannot say how many lawyers and their supporters had got to the toll plaza after many hundreds had been detained in Karachi, but from the government’s panicked reaction it certainly seemed there were thousands of them. That same evening we saw the brave and courageous Ali Ahmad Kurd stage a sit-in on the Balochistan-Sindh border because he and his party had not been allowed entry into Sindh. The next day he was offloaded from his flight to Islamabad, which was also cancelled for good measure. Why was the government so terrified, for heaven’s sake? Would the heavens have fallen if the march had been allowed to go ahead?
Judging from the actions it took, the government certainly thought so. And how much pain those actions gave to ordinary people who bore the brunt of the exercise. In particular, the operators of the container trucks that were randomly commandeered by security czar Rehman Malik and his mindless underlings for use as road-blocks. As many as seven days before the 16th, the day the Long March was to have started from Peshawar and northern Punjab, I saw three containers lying on the side of the road leading from my village of Wah to the motorway.
The drivers had left behind what are known in the trucking world as ‘cleanders’ (‘cleaners’ of course, who double as the drivers’ dogsbodies and understudies all rolled into one) as guards of their cargo-laden containers. I know this because I was curious about these young men dressed in civvies lolling about on the side of the road and stopped to speak to them.
By golly was theirs a tale of woe! No food, no water, no dhaba within miles where they could buy themselves something to eat and drink. One of them had no money either. Another was worried because his refrigerated truck’s generator had run out of petrol and he had a cargo of butter and cream on board! While I knew I might be helping Czar Malik in his reprehensible acts I could not leave the lads hungry and drove to a nearby shop to buy them some provisions. I will not repeat what they had to say about the federal government and those that (ostensibly) run it!
And so Czar Malik goes about his merry ways, the perpetually surprised-turkey look on his face, spreading mayhem and more across the land. I mean just look at the statements he is making about an impending ‘attack’ on Islamabad, and a forcible takeover of the federal government. From what I know of the lawyers’ movement, complete rot and absolute rubbish. Never in the two years that these brave men and women have been on the streets have they thrown a pebble at anyone.
Juxtapose this man immediately with Sherry Rehman, who being the gentlewoman that she is, finally had enough of the shenanigans of Mr President and the coterie that surrounds him and resigned from the cabinet for the reason that the government in another knee-jerk reaction put restrictions on a private TV channel. I salute her; and as someone who in the past has served the great political entity called the Pakistan People’s Party for well on a quarter century, ask if there aren’t more like her who should be up to here with the said shenanigans. Friend Shahnaz Wazir Ali comes straight to mind.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that great gentleman Raza Rabbani with appreciation too. He, too, could no longer accept the complete takeover of his party by interlopers and carpetbaggers. I salute him for resigning his cabinet position and as leader of the house in the Senate, and ask once again if there aren’t more gentlemen in the party who will stand up like him, and say enough is enough. The good Farhatullah Babar comes immediately to mind.
I must hurry to the Long March now, and end with advising those members of the US Congress who want to tie further economic assistance to Pakistan with access to Dr A.Q. Khan to ask for access to those senior generals of the Pakistan Army who were closely associated with our bum project, too. As everybody and Charlie’s aunt knows, Dr Khan couldn’t go to the bathroom without 17 ‘agencies’ knowing exactly where he was, and when, and what he was doing there.
In the end, another heartfelt ‘thank you’ to President Zardari for making the Long March more effective than it ever could have been. By the by, why doesn’t he appoint the well-spoken and comely Firdaus Ashiq Awan, the female Sheikh Rashid of his party, as minister for information instead of the soft-spoken Kaira? She better portrays the New PPP.
The above was written on Sunday the 15th before joining the Long March, just in case one was arrested. The following on Monday the 16th:
So then, sense has finally dawned on Mr President, the Maximum Leader who strikes terror in the hearts of his party men and women. My Lord Chaudhry will be reinstated upon the ‘retirement’ of Dogar, on March 21, 2009. It was only the massive crowd that joined Nawaz Sharif’s caravan to Islamabad that sent the proverbial cat into the New PPP’s dovecote, and several other cats in several other dovecotes too, particularly the one in Gujrat Sharif.
I am not completely sanguine yet, however, and make this request of the Maximum Leader: no more too-clever-by-half tricks, please. The country can’t afford them and neither can you. I should also have liked to suggest that Awan, Rehman, Khosa, Naek and Taseer should reconsider their positions and fall on their respective swords, but does this lot have swords at all? Swords were only carried by honourable warriors such as the Samurai.
Oh, and Mr President, do apologise to Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani and request them nicely to rejoin the PM’s cabinet. They are just the two of them in parliament who do your party proud. This piece will not be complete without appreciating Mr Nawaz Sharif’s congratulating Mr Asif Zardari and the PM for restoring the CJ, and offering to work with them in the future too. What more can democrats in our poor country ask for?