Zardari calls for democratic, progressive and liberal Pakistan

Warns against resurrection of banned organizations

Islamabad August 13, 2018: Felicitating the people on the Independence Day on Tuesday former President Asif Ali Zardari today pledged to make Pakistan a democratic, progressive, liberal and welfare oriented country.

If Pakistan has to progress as a modern state it must be driven by welfare of the people and not haunted by a sense of fear and paranoid, he said in a statement today.

On this day we reject once again those who seek to turn Pakistan into a theocratic state. “Pakistan was never meant to be nor will be allowed to degenerate into a theocratic state”.

On this occasion we also pay homage to the countless people who sacrificed their lives and endured hardships to make the dream of Pakistan come true.

“The resurrection of banned militant organizations under other names is a fundamental threat to a democratic and progressive Pakistan”, the former President warned and asked the people to fight the militants and religious bigots to the finish.

Our thoughts also go out to those heroes and heroines of the country who have laid down their lives and suffered grievously in fighting militancy and for the cause of democracy and rule of law, he said.

Freedom and opportunity to all are the defining values of our nation and, on this occasion, we pledge our commitment to these values, Mr. Zardari said.

Benazir’s dismissal on Guy Fawkes night

In Islamabad it was Guy Fawkes night (Nov 5th) twenty one years ago a handpicked president Farooq Leghari, considered trustworthy, dismissed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government on usual cooked up charges. In 1605 Gunpowder Plot in England failed but in Pakistan powers that be succeed in subverting democracy once again.

My wife Zarina and I were with the prime minister late that night. We had long chat about ongoing rumours besides my briefing to her on the visit of Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary late Robin Cook who had arrived earlier on 3-day visit—first by him to Pakistan. Around midnight we left her for Islamabad Club where we were staying.

As soon l entered the room came the fateful call. ADC Misbah asked me to come on land line, prime minister wanted to speak to me. Calm as usual Bibi said: “Wajid Bhai, Farooq has dismissed the government. You immediately go back to London. Asif has been arrested from Punjab Governor House and taken to some unidentified place. You must be next.”

I was shocked and wondered why me? I told Bibi that I am not going anywhere. I have not done anything wrong, why should I run away. It will give the impression as if I was guilty of something. Moreover, how could I leave her in the weird situation with Asif already arrested? She insisted — “Farooq is vicious and timid person and he will come after you since you are close to me.” Then the line went dead.

I discussed the gravity of the situation with my wife and we agreed I must stay on. My teenage son Zulfikaur was alone in London and Zarina as Fair Chair of Commonwealth Countries League had to be present on November 6th for the Fair that was to be graced by the Royalty. She was already booked on PIA’s morning flight. I took her to the Islamabad Airport and checked her in. However, at the immigration, the officer in charge told us that neither you nor your wife can board the plane. When I argued with him he referred me to an agency official.

There was an argument between us. I told him I wanted to talk to the agency chief since Zarina’s absence as Chair of the CCL Fair would be bad for Pakistan and her absence would be a diplomatic embracement. He went inside and came out after a little while. He got clearance from his higher ups and Zarina was allowed to leave.

After seeing her off I rushed to the house of our dear lawyers Amna Paracha and late Barrister Zulfiqar Khan — close friends of Bhuttos. Everyone was flabbergasted on Legari’s unconstitutional action especially when the PPP had selected him as its official candidate. Both Bibi and Asif had gone out of the way and laboured painstakingly to get him elected as head of the state when there were many better candidates available. We were worried about Bibi as Prime Minister House had been surrounded by the military and she had been totally incommunicado.

By the evening of 5th November she was allowed to see a limited number of visiters on clearance of the military. She had been told to vacate the Prime Minister House for the interim prime minister Malik Maraj Khalid — yet another old PPP stalwart. Bashir Riaz, Amna, Salim and I were among the few who had gathered to see if she was OK. She was hardly given any time to pack up. Seeing me she again advised me to go back to London. There was no news where and how Asif Zardari was kept.

In her makeshift residence though under close watch of spooks, we could, however, meet her. When alone we discussed what could possibly be in store for her. I found her hurt over Farooq’s anti-democratic step. Looking back I was of the view that it was a colossal misjudgement to make him president. I reminded her that he had given a glimpse of his shaky loyalty-though an important office-bearer of PPP—he had become totally inactive after Bhutto Sahib’s arrest by General Ziaul Haq. She agreed. She should have suspected him when the then spy agency chief very strongly recommended his candidature. I believe—especially in Pakistan—that intelligence agencies have their Quislings and Trojan horses in every political party to use them at a critical juncture when they want to subvert a government from within.

Being a prime minister from Sindh like her father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the shabby treatment given to her following her ouster in 1990—I naturally had serious apprehension for her. I told her “instead of making arrangements for me to leave the country, you should think of yourself too”. Brave lady that she was, she shrugged her shoulders—“Wajid Bhai, we have to face what has to come. We can’t leave Quaid and Bhutto Shaheed’s democratic mission half way”.

As suspected by her I was arrested in mid November and tortured for months to force me to commit perjury. FIA failed and I remained steadfast. Nawaz Sharif won election and as prime minister one expected he would be fair. Instead his Gestapo Chief Saifur Rehman-besides keeping me in and torturing me worst than before-went after Bibi and Asif like blood thirsty hounds to the extent a senior judge was forced to convict both in April 1999. She wanted to go back but we stopped her. She could fight her battle better from London and Dubai.

I don’t remember the number of red warrants issued against her by Saifur Rehman and later equally vicious dictator. Eight years is a long time in exile and to keep the struggle on for democracy relentlessly only a leader of her grit, determination and courage could sustain. It was a do and die battle. And she gave her life for it. Notwithstanding what MNS did or did not do, this piece is to remind him of Quislings and Trojan horses within and also acts of divine retributions. One has to pay for one’s sins somehow.

I remember how Bibi appointed Justice Sajjad Ali Shah CJP believing him to be strong supporter of democracy. His judgment upholding Bibi’s dismissal by Leghari on charges of corruption published in newspapers—taken by CJP as gospel truth in the absence of hard evidence and his announcement of the court decision just on the eve of elections—was a clear message as to who dictated the judgment. PPP candidates and supporters hardly participated in elections. They knew their defeat has already been written. MNS may have appointed many favourites as judges, but they too knew well Mao’s saying that all power flows from the barrel of the gun.

Leghari too as president and Supreme Commander of armed forces–misconceived himself to be a victor with an assured long innings in the Presidency. With powers under 58-2-B he had decided to play games with the new prime minister too. He did not realise that he was used by the invisible players. He wanted Nawaz to have simple majority, they got him two/third. After browbeating CJP home, MNS removed 8th Amendment and forced Farooq to resign on threat of impeachment. Soon came Shariah Bill, Kargil misadventure and GPM’s sack that rebounded on him by yet another institutional decision, taking him lock and stock and barrel to comforts of Saroor Palace only to return him home, courtesy Benazir Bhutto.

Written by


Wajid Shamsul Hasan


Freelancer HH Zaidi in his effort to over rate PML-N as a democratic party has made Benazir Bhutto’s painful long struggle for the restoration of democracy as one of usual things that happen (Prisoner’s Dilemma, News Nov 11) and her election as Prime Minister in 1988 as not much too significant when internationally it was acknowledged historic landmark—first female Muslim Prime Minister ever in history. Most importantly, it overnight changed the image of Pakistan from beastly bearing of the ugly dictator to blossoming face of democratic Benazir Bhutto—bold, brave and beautiful.

‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ is reflective of Ziaist mindset. It shows no consideration for Benazir’s long incarcerations, torture and sacrifices in blood as well her father, mother and thousands of PPP workers and supporters who went through hell under General Zia’s overly oppressive regime. His public flogging of the political activists was to castrate their political will to fight back and resist his dictatorship.

Conveniently is forgotten the fact that General Zia—master of “engineering” had “engineered” Mian Nawaz Sharif as his civilian portage through General Jeelani when he appointed him Punjab’s Finance Minister. Three-years before his divine fall from the skies he had “engineered” Muslim League and party-less election as a vehicle to sustain his legacy. His successors— Acting President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Army Chief General Aslam Beg and ISI’s DG General Hameed Gul-were no lovers of democracy.

Benazir’s return from exile in April 1986 to an unprecedented welcome in Lahore had established her massive strength and her popularity. It sent message, firm and clear, to Zia and his constituency that sooner than later, things shall not remain the same. GIK and the army chief could not play tricks since there was global wind for change in support of democracy. So they were back to the “engineering” table. ISI DG Hameed Gul “engineered” IJI and propped MNS into a politician larger than his puny size. Through rigging in 1988 election, Benazir’s imminent landslide was reduced into simple majority and made MNS majority leader in Punjab.

In his election campaign MNS stooped to the lowest and unethical gender-related methods, posters with fabricated pictures of Bhutto ladies were airdropped. When dirty-picture campaigns did not impact the voters in Punjab, he raised the provincial slogan—“Jaag Punjab Jag”. If any leader of smaller provinces had raised this secessionist slogan—he would have been debarred from elections and politics for life and even tried for treason. As chief minister he would not receive Prime Minister Benazir in Punjab, nor accept federal government’s appointees as Chief Secretary and IGP. On way to UDI he had established Punjab Bank and was about to set up Punjab TV & Broadcasting Corporation when GIK dismissed Benazir government after MNS had failed to topple her through vote of no-confidence. Incidentally, there have been reports that allege that he also received big money from OBL who was opposed to woman as prime minister of a Muslim country.

Much more severe “engineering” was done in 1990 elections. Receiving intelligence reports that Benazir would be elected to power again with a bang if not stopped, the Establishment “engineered” the polls in favour of IJI. He out maneuvered its leader and became PM himself. Veteran leader Asghar Khan went to the Supreme Court against ISI’s “engineering” role in politics. Thank God, retired ISI DG General Asad Durrani gave an affidavit before the Supreme Court putting on record that COAS General Aslam Beg ordered him to fund Nawaz Sharif, Leader of IJI Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and scores of others opposed to Benazir. Record of this case can be found in the Supreme Court collecting dust, without clouding the “engineering” that brought MNS in as Prime Minister for the first time.

MNS wanted absolute power but GIK would not without his pound of flesh and the partnership collapsed. A tug of war ensued and GIK dismissed MNS on charges of corruption. However, the Supreme Court did not consider corruption as valid charge then and restored MNS. Judge from Sindh Justice Sajjad Ali Shah dissented with the majority judgment on ground that in an earlier judgment in Benazir’s appeal against her sacking in 1990, the Supreme Court had upheld similar corruption charges as valid ground for dismissal. As such it was not PPP that accused the court of a biased approach but a judge of the Supreme Court.

Interim Prime Minister Dr Moen Qureshi held polls in October 1993 and once again Benazir staged a come back only to be sacked three years later on corruption charges by President Farooq Leghari—a beneficiary from PPP all through his political career. Her dismissal was once again upheld by the judiciary through an “engineered” judgment by the powers that be.

Leghari too as president and Supreme Commander of armed forces–misconceived himself to be a victor with an assured long innings in the Presidency. With powers under 58-2-B he had decided to play games with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif too. He did not realise that he was used by the Nawaz’s old “engineers”. FL wanted MNS to have simple majority, the “engineers” got him two/third. After browbeating CJP home, MNS removed 8th Amendment and forced FL to resign on threat of impeachment. Soon came Shariah Bill, Kargil misadventure and GPM’s sack that rebounded on MNS by yet another institutional decision, taking him lock and stock and barrel to comforts of Saroor Palace only to return him home, courtesy Benazir Bhutto.

Last but not the least, while MNS was enjoying comforts of  Saroor Palace and doing big business, Benazir was fighting her cases instituted against her by MNS and his hatchet man Saifur Rehman continued by General Musharraf with her husband languishing in jail for years. Please remember her conviction by Justice Qayum on the orders of the prime minister and also dozens of Red Warrents threatening her. While being persecuted to her end, she had been running around Western capitals to force them to withdraw their support to the dictator.

PPP had negotiated NRO for the return of democracy, free and fair elections and to enable return of all political leaders –mind you not PPP alone — in exile with no restriction on them to contest elections. While thousands gained re-entry, its main beneficiary was MNS. One must recall when he tried to return without the cover of NRO, GPM had him handcuffed to aircraft’s seat and sent him back to Saudi Arabia since he had violated ten-year agreement with them not to return to Pakistan and participate in politics. Though MNS denied it, the then Saudi Interior Minister Prince Muqrin (now dead) flew into Islamabad and waved the agreement signed by MNS at a press conference. If there had been no NRO, GPM would not have been denuded of his uniform, no elections would have been held, democracy not restored and MNS would perhaps still be in Saudi Arabia making money.

His existential drama pertains to himself only. He dug his own grave in 1999 and now too he is responsible for giving space to institutions other than parliament, especially those that have mastered “engineering” art. PPP saved him time and again-whether it were PTI’s dharnas “engineered” by the umpire’s finger. Zardari maintains his principled stand that he would support PML-N to complete five years, but he has refused to be part of his ‘make-or-break’ relationship either against the judiciary or the Establishment. Anyone who defends him must remember the factor of divine justice. I end with my favourite quote from Shakespeare – “Heaven is above all yet there sits a judge, that no king can corrupt.”

This article was published by The News International. 

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan .

PPP versus PML-N — I

In his article ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ Husain H Zaidi (News, Nov 11) has taken a mighty swipe at PPP’s game of real politik. In a tainted observation PPP has been accused of war of words with PM-N and that by not siding with it in its ‘make-or-break relationship, PPP is said to have stabbed it in the back. I feel PPP is right in not bailing out Nawaz after his disqualification by the Supreme Court on charges of corruption. It has been betrayed often and enough of being dubbed as friendly opposition. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s diatribe against judiciary is not for saving democracy but himself.

PPP’s decision to support MNS when he was under attack of PTI’s dharnas and umpire’s finger, was not to rescue self-serving ruling party but to save edifice of democracy it had sustained for five years against Establishment’s machinations and PML-N’s intrigues to unseat it. Later, as the writer puts it, PPP leadership, indeed, realised that “once off the hook, a ‘thankless’ Nawaz Sharif” did not pay heed to its “genuine concerns” and “turned his back”.

It is wrong to allege PPP of changing its stance when sweet became sour for MNS. PPP’s Asif Zardari, by helping him in Parliament in touch and go period made it clear to him that his strength was in the Parliament and not in his cabinet of cronies. And when the PanamaLeaks exposed his mega corruption, PPP’s advice was to present his case before the house and disclose sources of income allegedly beyond means.

He did not care for wisdom but opted for buffoonery. He preferred to give space to other institutions including judiciary and passed the initiative. PPP did not switch gears to settle scores with him. From the beginning of his tenure as third time PM, PPP kept pressing MNS, please don’t undermine the Parliament, show respect to it by attending it regularly like PPP Prime Ministers and make his ministers take it seriously too instead of them participating in it as clowns on the side lines of a circus.

PPP had nothing to do with his disqualification, it were lies and more lies. PPP hailed the decision keeping its tradition of respect for the judiciary, while the judges must have been haunted by the traumatising memory of PML-N organised attack on SC by its goons including ministers in 1997. PPP took ruling party’s “conspiracy theory” as merely flimsy defence of its misdeeds.

His unceremonious exit was not an event of singular significance. The resignation of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was. Gilani was punished for contempt by the Nawaz-backed chief justice for defending the Head of the State. He’s was a historic precedence in showing respect to the Supreme Court—however questionable. When TV channels replayed Nawaz‘s old clips now shouting: “Prime Minister Gilani, Supreme Court has convicted you, step down, go home. ” I am reminded of divine retribution.

Equally ironic is TV clip doing the rounds showing Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif threatening ex- president Zardari to drag him by his hair in the streets of Punjab while now the Sharif clan wants his support. Despite being a convict MNS continues to be treated as de fecto PM, he travels freely in security cavalcades in the country and goes abroad whenever he wants while the two PPP’s ex-prime ministers, not convicted yet, are on ECL not free to travel abroad.

PPP has been an anti-establishment party from the day of its inception. Its track record speaks for itself. Its unflinching commitment to democracy is manifested in its long catalogue of sufferings—its leadership’s frequent incarcerations, untold sacrifices by its workers and supporters who bravely bared their backs to be whipped and walk to the gallows head high during General Zia’s reign of terror.

In his snide comments on Bhutto Sahib, the author takes his inspiration from the text book of character assassination of Bhuttos by psywar experts. Young Zulfikar Ali Bhutto joined Ayub government when Jinah Sahib’s sister —Madre Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah had welcomed his take over. He separated from Ayub when he had seen his machinations against democracy and national interests. Rigging in the Presidential elections opened his eyes and he opposed Ayub. He formed PPP to uproot forces of status quo and as harbinger of change.

From his experience as Ayub’s minister he had an inkling of intrigues inside. He had learnt about the conversation between Ayub and Law Minister Justice Muneer suggesting East Pakistan’s secession (See “Jinnah To Zia” banned by Zia). ZAB was aware that Ayub had assigned Information Secretary Altaf Gauhar to draft Mujib’s Six Points. It was Gauhar’s Ministry of Information that hosted Mujib’s trip to West Pakistan to announce Six Points. Gauhar also instructed newspapers not to critize him. And when Bhutto challanged Mujib to publicly debate Six Points in Paltan Maidan Ayub did not allow him to travel to East Pakistan. ZAB was no ordinary individual. He had a sharp eye and sharper brain and he could foresee the future.

In “Prisoner’s dilemma’ it is ignored it was Gen Yahya and not Bhutto who had taken over power from Ayub and it was Yahya’s commitment to hand over power to the majority party. It was incumbent upon him-if he wished- and not Bhutto to hand power over to Awami League-irrespective of PPP and what other parties said. As leader of one of the many West Pakistani parties, ZAB could not stop Yahya in transfer of power.

There is no mystery about Bhutto’s role in the 1971. Popular vote had established him as the leader of Pakistan’s second largest province, bastion of its military and bureaucratic power. Punjab had a vested interest larger than the state and wished it to be protected as such Bhutto was given a solid mandate. As a shrewd politician it was imperative upon ZAB to ensure that no intrigue derails the federation as already planned in Ayub’s close quarters i.e. break-up of Pakistan. Bhutto just wanted to negotiate with Mujib a better deal in a constitutional arrangement—to alley fears in West Pakistan. Not Bhutto, only Yahya could have saved the country by surrendering to the will of the majority. But he had ambitions to remain President for ever.

Bhutto’s ascendancy to power after surrender was a necessity for the country. It had lost 12,000 kilometers of land on the western front; 93,000 of its personnel were in Indian prisoner camps. Pakistan needed a leader to secure its future from further disintegration and to negotiate with India release of PoWs and withdrawal from its territory. It had nothing to do with any itch. It was Bhutto’s statesmanship that recovered Pakistan’s battle-lost land on the negotiating table. Simla was his master stroke of diplomacy that he negotiated an agreement not as a leader of a vanquished nation but on equal terms, with respect and honour.

It was realised by all that leader of Bhutto’s calibre could revive and rejuvenate the soldiers and get lost territory and troops back from Indians. His killer General Ziaul Haq openly accepted in 1976 in Quetta Staff College that ZAB did so much for the Pakistan army that was not even done in totality of the first quarter of the century. He equipped Pakistan’s armed forces with new and latest equipment plus made its invincible with the nuclear glow. Once the army was back in its full stride, same Gen Zia who used to eat out of his hand, staged a coup against him and hanged him to please his American masters who had promised to make him a ‘horrible example’ for his defiance in nuclear field. (To be continued)

This article was published originally at The News International 

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Sleeping with the enemy!

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart. O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Run up to 2018 elections would be exciting and challenging times. Though Pakistan is full of soothsayers, none however can predict what is likely to happen from now to the polls. Ever since Panama leaks surfaced many heads have rolled for corruption in civilized countries. In Pakistan instead of bowing to the irrefutable charges of financial misdemeanors and quitting politics, those accused in Panama leaks continue to offer tough resistance to the judiciary.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified along with his daughter and sons from politics. Cases are hanging like Damocles sword on the head of PTI chief Imran Khan and his party MNA Jehangir Tareen also accused of hiding his assets by non-declaration. Element of obduracy and brazen defiance in accepting what is glaring—seem to have become a challenge for the highest judiciary. One does not know what course this tug of war would ultimately lead to; there are many more serious threats to the existence of Pakistan.

As a student of social sciences one had believed in the power of morality in character. Indeed, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was prophetic in his observation when he said: “All is lost when character is lost”. And this was reflected in his politics. Had he dithered in the defence of his secular ideology and commitment to liberal and democratic Pakistan, all those ‘ulema’ who opposed him would have jumped on his bandwagon. Once a Sindh Muslim League leader wrote to MAJ about a particular assembly seat that he thought Muslim League could easily win if it were to have the support of the main Khatib of the area mosque and that Khatib was willing to support Muslim League candidate in exchange of One lac of rupees. Quaid’s minced no words and responded: “We would rather lose the seat then bribe the Maulvi in winning it.”

Unfortunately Pakistani politics has come to be something like supping with the ideological enemy. Alliances are made and broken for various considerations. Now has emerged the new concept of engineering in politics. In 2014 one heard a great deal of ‘umpire’s finger’ that failed to go up to boost IK’s dharna politics. In NA-120 bye-election one saw the emergence of Laibaik Party and Milli Muslim League. And their performance in the bye-elections caused lot of apprehensive ripples. General Pervez Musharraf-engineered Mutehda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA in 2002) too is trying to get out of political cemetery. Why should he be left mind with over millions of facebookwallas waiting to join his 23-part alliance to “save Pakistan”. Less said the better about the abortive engineering by the Establishment to merge MQM-P with PSP. Its one outcome is worth appreciating—it let the “engineering” cat out of the beg and now people know what does Establishment and powers that be stand for.

In the midst of this confusion came the news that Maulana Samiul Haq, leader of Jamayat Ulema-e-Islam — (JUI-S) and PTI’s Imran Khan have agreed to ‘politically sandwich’ each other in a ‘joint strategy’ for the upcoming elections. More often the two leaders would meet to chalk out their common strategy for contesting 2018 election supporting each other. This development-whatever is its worth– has come at a time when ‘engineering’ of political groups is in full swing. It seems that the objective of the engineers is to ensure that there should not be anything better than a hung parliament allowing it enough space to have its puppet as a prime minister.

Notwithstanding the fact that IK has made a name for himself as a cricketer par excellence, his Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital is a colossal symbol of his love for his mother and in the service of cancer patients. However, his trajectory in politics—though full of sound fury—needs a re-think on his ideological commitment. So far it seems to be much more of the same hue as oft repeated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as his ideology. Both see themselves in the spitting political image of MAJ though they look different in mirror. They sleep in different beds, yet they are comfortable in dreaming about a sandwich position with either Taliban, Mulla Fazlul Haq more popularly known as Mullah Radio, Maulvi Samilul Haq, Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Aziz of Red Mosque and all those who had cavalcaded in the funeral procession of Mumtaz Qadri and lately in their protest dharna at Faizabad Chowk.

Times has come to stop giving benefit of doubt to either coco-nut politicians who are white from inside and brown from outside until they categorically denounce bigotry as an act of blasphemy and rededicate themselves to Quaid’s ideology or his Pakistan where religion would have to be a private affair. The exceptional treatment by the government extended to internationally declared terrorists like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Ludhyanvis, Maulana Abdul Aziz and others who laid siege to Islamabad or earlier its reluctance to take effective action against extremist organizations such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, LeT, Jhanghvis, JuD and their headquarters in Muridke besides what its critics call—payment of crores of rupees protection money to them by the government—one does not need any evidence to conclusively say that they are in cahoots with each other.

Good thing about Imran Khan is that he does not hide his sleeping with the enemy. He supported the Taliban and TTP and opposed military operation against them. He even wanted the ‘proclaimed father of Taliban’ Maulvi Samilul Haq to broker a deal with them to delay military operation. His past professions do not hide his love for them and to join hands in a politically sandwich position with Maulana Samiul Haq is in keeping with the urges of both. Please don’t forget PTI-KP’s government’s grant of Rs 300m to Sami-ul-Haq’s seminary Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania. Incidentally this seminary was funded enormously by the Americans during CIA’s Afghan Jehad and it is alleged to have provided rent a killer for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto who the then dictator President General Musharraf thought as the main stumbling block in his way to life presidency.

Pakistan is standing at a critical juncture. It is facing an existential threat. It has lost over 70,000 civilians and over 7000 members of law enforcing agency of all ranks and file. Only the other day yet another brave, handsome and smiling 28-year old Major Ishaq laid down his life in defence of the country and its people. By joining hands with such extremists we would be negating the huge sacrifices given by or security forces and civilians. It won’t give extremists acceptability, it would rather expose those political elements supporting them or joining them in alliances as birds of the same despicable feathers.

This piece was originally published by The News International.

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Democracy and Begum Bhutto

Pakistani politics—nay way of life itself—is outrageously discriminatory against women. Pakistan’s founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah much before Pakistan came into being had time and again warned the nation that without women standing shoulder to shoulder with men—there could be no progress.

No doubt our women despite enormous hurdles in the way to empowerment—have achieved much but still they have a long way to go. They have to demolish anti-feminine taboos, distorted religious inhibitions imposed by bigotry of the powerful mullacracy and restrictions embedded and imposed by feudalistic customs that continue to straightjacket space for progress of rural women while their urban counterparts have been competing with men in education and every other field of socio-economic endeavour.

For whatever freedom Pakistani women are exercising today they should be thankful to their pioneering seniors especially those great women who can be counted on finger tips. Indeed, Pakistan’s history would not be complete without mention of those women who played a lead role in struggle for Pakistan. One cannot forget Bi Amma, widow of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar who in recognition of her contribution to the freedom movement, was given a place of equality as member of All India Muslim League Working Committee—virtually Politburo of the party led by MAJ.

Although there were many more that had deep impact, but one cannot undermine four or five of them on top of the ladder who proved to be catalyst–namely Madre Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah—sister of founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and among current leaders one can think of Asma Jehangir. Each one has contributed immensely for the emancipation and empowerment of women in Pakistan.

Ms Jinnah’s was a life devoted to taking care of her iconic brother who was consigned by Providence to create history single-handedly through a democratic struggle to establish Pakistan by vote—a state that would guarantee equality to all-irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender and where religion shall be essentially a private affair as Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa recently reminded us.

During the life of MAJ Ms Jinnah had nothing to do with politics but she learnt her basics of it in close companionship with him. She knew well why her brother had chosen a democratic, secular and progressive future for his country. And when she realised that President Ayub Khan was out there destroying her brother’s vision, she challenged the military dictator. Her decision was timely.

Combined opposition parties could not fund a strong male candidate to take the bull by the horn in the presidential elections. Had she not challenged the military dictator, course of Pakistan’s history would not have changed after 1965. I remember how Ayub Khan’s third rate cronies threw to wind all norms of decency. Two of his ministers Abdul Waheed Khan and Ahmed Saeed Kirmani (perhaps related to current PML-N leader) stooped to the lowest to question Ms Jinnah’s title of being Madre Millat (Mother of the Nation).

In the later years twice another fragile woman—Begum Nusrat Bhutto—took on two military dictators, one more ferocious than the previous, when her husband Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was incarcerated by them for his opposition to military dictatorship. She led Pakistan People’s Party – that ZAB had sprung in the national political arena in the face of strongest opposition by the forces of status. PPP sounded its death knell.

Nusrat Khanum was chosen by destiny to play the role of a crusader like her ancestor Salahuddin Ayubi. Her date of birth March 23 (1929) was not just coincidental. When she was eleven years old Lahore Resolution was adopted in Lahore on March 23, 1940 for seeking the political rights of Muslims of India.

It was again a strange coincidence that General ‘Tiger’ Niazi laid down his arms to Indian General Arora on December 16, 1971 in the city where in 1906 All India Muslim League was established. On the same day in 1977—Begum Nusrat Bhutto was brutally injured by General Ziaul Haq’s storm troopers during a Test match at Gaddafi Stadium. On seeing Begum Bhutto in their midst the teeming crowd broke into a deafening crescendo of “Bhutto Zindabad!

General Zia was not content by spilling her blood only. She was arrested and dragged out of hospital while her head wound was getting stitched. Six footer cops pulled her out of the hospital bed and despite resistance by doctors frisked her away. Her unattended wound had permanent impact on her, causing loss of memory later in life.

Bhutto Sahib’s mock trial and later judicial murder on the orders of four judges as against his acquittal by three judges — continues to hang like an albatross around the neck of Pakistan’s superior judiciary that is now trying to wash its sins of omission and commission committed during the last 70 years of misjudgments and justifying military and extra-constitutional interventions.

In the limited space here one cannot do justice to the life of struggle, blood, toil and tears of Begum Bhutto. It is a small tribute to her on her death anniversary (October 23) and to honour Pakistani women who stood by her when most of the male leaders of her party had preferred to indulge in the pleasures of life and new wives when politics had become a Herculean challenge to pursue under Zia.

Begum Bhutto kept ignited the populist aspirations of her husband and his devoted followers by keeping aloft the flag of defiance against the dictator. Initially in this fight she was alone but later Bhutto Sahib’s “Dearest Daughter” joined her. And that is when the team of mother-daughter served as the catalyst that transformed their peaceful efforts into ultimate return of democracy that has been rendered now once again into a mess by male leadership.

Begum Bhutto’s most outstanding contribution was towards formation of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against Zia’s dictatorship. She did not make it a matter of personal ego but for the larger interest of democracy she even forgave those in the opposition who had opposed Bhutto Sahib either on their own or in cahoots with Gen Zia’s conspiracy. Only a woman of big heart could sit with such people. But then for all the Bhuttos it is the cause that matters and not persons or personal egos. It was MRD’s resistance led by Bhutto ladies and unparalleled sacrifices by the masses especially in Sindh where Gen Zia let lose a reign of terror and resorted to scotch-earth policy—that grounds were laid first for non-party elections in 1985 and then party based elections in 1988 that brought Benazir Bhutto in power (twice) as prime minister—first ever Muslim and youngest too with Begum Bhutto –though fast declining in health—by her side.

Democracy once again is under duress and there is uncertainty about it too. Moves and countermoves are being made on the chessboard of power politics. PPP played itself well during its five years, sustained democracy by checkmating every move by powers that be to dislodge its government. Regretfully, while its successors got themselves busy in piling up ill-gotten wealth to fill up their own coffers and to counter the resources of the Establishment—it ominously seems time for its nemesis has come although PPPP President Asif Ali Zardari believes that the government must complete its five year tenure. This could possibly be the best homage to Begum Bhutto for her sacrifices for the langri-lolli democracy that we have today. Save it and move forward.

This piece was originally published by The News International 

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

PPP 50 years on

Lahore not only has immense historic significance due to Lahore Resolution of 1940 that set the course for an independent liberal state for the Muslims in Indian sub-continent, it is also privileged to have given birth to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 50 years ago. In 1967 he collected assortment of left-of-the centre and like minded genre of people who could collectively put in order a political party that could be a vehicle of change replacing fossilised, inordinate and fractured into factions Muslim League.
Being a follower of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah from his school days, his advent into politics and formation of PPP had only one aim to translate MAJ’s dream into an action plan for establishing a society based on egalitarianism as manifested by MAJ and him as Islamic socialism. Like MAJ he too would not have a Pakistan in which rich were to become richer, poor to become poorer, women treated like chattels, minorities subjugated, less privileged exploited as voiceless slaves.
He was just 30 years old, highly educated and privileged to have an easy access into corridors of power through family connections to become a federal minister at that age. Was it just an act of opportunism or a young man’s urge to learn statecraft from within the system-was a question that I sought an answer as his ardent admirer later in sixties before he formed PPP. Apparently there seemed to be a contradiction. He became a minister in a military regime, his class bearing was feudal and yet here was in him a soul that had great feeling inside him for the poor, who believed in democracy, rule of law, free expression—all to be a means for the greatest good of the largest number.
Bhutto had rare penchant for international politics. And he acquitted himself superbly well when assigned Foreign Ministry by President Ayub Khan. He had a Talleyrand in him, interest of Pakistan were first for him. His parting of ways with Ayub Khan came on the

surface when he had visible differences with him over Tashkent Agreement with India brokered by the Soviet Union. As foreign minister he refused to take American diktats and later he wrote in his treatise on foreign affairs-“Myth of Independence”-how much strongly tied Pakistan was to American apron strings that they would tell which section officer was to be appointed to a particular post.
As the first leader who appeared on Pakistan’s much clouded political horizon as harbinger of change, Bhutto’s initial manifesto: “Islam is our faith, democracy is our polity, socialism is our creed—all power to the people—” continue to this day as gospel of rules for PPP. It got tempered by crossing rivers of blood, walk to the gallows, long periods of incarceration, intimidations, persecution and prosecution—with no parallel in the history of sub-continent. Without its leaders—Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Begum Nusrat Bhutto and their daughter Benazir Bhutto—Pakistan’s claim to be a democracy would have been mentioned in the foot notes of history.
Pakistan came into being through vote, PPP sought its survival and consolidation through ballot after the fall of Dhaka when there was nothing left but deluge. During its 50 years of inception PPP has weathered one storm after the other much severe than the previous and yet credit goes to its resilience that starting as a romantic dream of ZAB, it now braces itself under the leadership of Bilawal Bhutto to pragmatically move forward to achieving the socialistic goals as earmarked by the founding father and later PPP’s founding Chairman, martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
No doubt too many extra-constitutional interventions by Bonaprtist generals over the years and also born-again democrats— though resisted tooth and nail by democratic forces spearheaded by the Bhuttos and PPP, have stymied progress towards a dynamic and truly representative government. Notwithstanding what has been happening currently in Pakistan, unseating of prime minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of corruption, lately emergence of dharna politics of the religious radicals and earlier by PTI—all are recriminatory manifestations of the forces of status in their last bid to way lay democracy from moving forward.
PPP’s leadership and its workers must look retrospectively what they need to do to dispel growing perception of it drawing too much on its past laurels without doing enough to move forward. It needs to revive its left-of-the-centre ideological moorings, its populist politics over and above the delectable, PPP slogan of seventies “Roti, Kapra, Makkan” is as good now as it was then. It would forever remain a bind stronger than religion. It should not only revive its socialistic programme but should be seen to be pursuing it.
Anti-democratic engineering of political parties by the powers that be since the advent of Pakistan is now seem to going in top gear. We have seen how Bhutto Sahib was eliminated by General Zia, we have seen how he implanted his prototypes in politics in the eighties, how the military establishment denied martyred Benazir Bhutto landslide victories in successive party-based election since 1988 and how the judiciary played balls with them to keep PPP out of power.
The game played by the powers that be has been not to let any single political party have its federal roots and nationalistic tentacle in the four corners of the country. Zia ethnically and religiously fractured the Pakistani polity to eliminate PPP as the unifier of the nation. And his legatees continue to pursue that goal. Remember establishment propped Nawaz Sharif was the one who raised the slogan of “Jaag Punjab Jaag” in 1988 election and when he became chief minister of Punjab, he almost declared Punjab his fiefdom by not accepting federal government appointed officers, established Punjab Bank and would have moved forward had not President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Benazir Bhutto’s first government.
Since Punjab represents 60 percent of the population, it has monopoly representation in the armed forces and bureaucracy and the powers that be would not let PPP win election to form government in the province. This is the trend since 1988 until now. I remember President General Pervez Musharraf had told her in his first face-to-face meeting in Abdu Dhabi in 2007 that PPP shall never be allowed to form a government in Punjab.
Whatever the machinations of the “political engineers” one must remember that electoral dynamics are different. PPP by strengthening its links with the left-of-the centre forces in Punjab and working in the rural peasantry—especially in South Punjab—can change the political complexion. In 2013 elections it became a target of Pakistani Taliban in cahoots with the right wing political parties. PPP voters having seen worst of Nawaz Sharif’s, realising that the stage has been set to keep it out of electoral race, decided to vote for PTI. Conditions don’t seem to have changed much in Punjab as reflected in NA-120’s by-election. However, ongoing triangular struggle among the power centres have definitely provided space to PPP with its federalist credentials. Let jiyalas take charge and Bilawal Bhutto leads them from the front.

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

This piece was originally published in The News International 

In the cross hairs

No progressive citizen in Pakistan with any experience of the public discourse on women today expects change to be easy or unambiguous. Not if we have any sense of our history or contested identity. “But it’s 2016,” many young people ask. It’s Women’s Day again, and we are still fighting for the right for our young global achievers like Malala and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy not to be demonised for speaking out, or making films or flying planes.

The furore unleashed by the religious right on the Women Protection Bill, adopted as law in the Punjab Assembly, left huge definitional gaps unaddressed, but clearly touched a raw nerve that inflected on power and its diffusion.

So here’s the thing. Yes, we are again at a pivotal moment in our jostle for space with extremists who use dogma to define their authority. It’s been that way since a non-elected Gen Zia took Pakistan into the dark ages by appropriating religion for legitimising his politically incorrect coup. Pakistan did not choose him or approve his laws. This matters why? It does to many of us, because to this day “we the people”, an arguable notion of course, are trying to dismantle an onerous architecture of laws and social conditions he and his collaborators created for women, minorities, state identity, and democracy on the firm granite of exclusions.

This edifice of exclusion, of restricted rights, is so difficult to take down because it takes its power from state-defined unitary codes. Today those codes have assumed the language of the armed and dangerous rightist-led street, even many pulpits, and are used to mobilise power against confused, divided majorities.

Women are in the cross hairs of multiple targets.

That’s the sanitised nub of the problem. It’s not as if democracies have not ceded space to the right in Pakistan or even South Asia.

The counterfactuals to old ideological certitudes like democracy are legion. But they pale in comparison to other options. The point is that, quite apart from the burdens of the past and its violent patriarchies, women today find themselves in the cross hairs of multiple targets in all calls to power based on hyper-nationalism.

What must be done when regrouped extremist tides wash over at least some legislative lines we thought we had drawn in the sand in Pakistan? The foundations we had built with blood, grit, and tears don’t always go the way we plan. The right to be prime minister and president, for instance, must extend to all citizens, among other things. But we get up and fight for the right to write the laws again, and build them yet again. We build a dam that uses the resources we have. Democracy in Pakistan, polarised, fragile and shaky, still provides space for public contestation of extreme and misogynist voices shaming our towns squares-on-television. Democracy’s optimal instrument is parliament or the community. Yet we often forget that democracy can only be meaningful if experienced as transparent governance and social justice.

Within that space, apart from seeking economic entitlements, one source of power for women is the enlargement of the public and political space. As lawmakers, we move bills and steer them to law, if we can. The record is not too bad. Progressive forces, despite resistance from a powerful right, too, have used parliament to push through bills. The good news is that some of my own original bills moved on affirmative action, domestic violence, honour killings, repeal of Hudood laws, and sexual harassment at the workplace have seen the light of day.

Monitoring groups record progress, even implementation, particularly on removal of the zina clause co-mingling with rape evidence. The honour-killing bill, brutally slashed by the Musharraf parliament, is back in play at the National Assembly committee driven by Sughra Imam, and can be updated. Many of us are hoping a celebrity movie night at Prime Minister House will have changed that, but so far we still await action.

Despite the fact that advances in women’s legal rights come at personal cost of safety and public witch hunts, more women and men in parliament are prepared to pay those costs. So now would be a good time to amend the law to ensure that women’s choices, voices, and votes count. The way forward would be if more than 10pc of women’s votes are not seen to have been polled in any election, the Election Commission of Pakistan will automatically order a re-poll, be it Hangu, Dir, or anywhere. This will give women the power of the state behind us to seek redress. And it will penalise those who collude to exclude.

This bill is already on parliament’s agenda. It may see reversals, like many others. But the battle will go on.

This article was published originally at

By Sherry Rehman


Pakistan Peoples Party is the most popular political party in the country today. It is one of the oldest parties in Pakistan that has stood the test of time for five decades. From Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s era to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s, PPP has been through various ups and downs. The party has fought dictatorship and upheld the principles of democracy. Let’s look at some factors that ultimately led to Shaheed-e-Awaam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto forming PPP.

After developing differences with General Ayub Khan over the Tashkent Declaration, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto parted ways with the military dictator. He returned to Pakistan and received a hero’s welcome at Lahore’s railway station. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto realized that the time was ripe for change and that only he could be its agent. He held consultations with important political personalities and on November 30, 1967, formed Pakistan Peoples Party. PPP held its first convention at Dr Mubashir Hassan’s house in Lahore.

Four basic principles of the party were decided by its founding members, including Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. These were:-

  1. Islam is our religion
  2. Socialism is our economy
  3. Democracy is our politics
  4. Power belongs to the people

Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s PPP took to the streets against General Ayub Khan and blamed him for supporting America’s imperialism. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s fiery speeches coupled with his charismatic personality were enough to ruffle the military establishment’s feathers. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s rising popularity among students, labourers, farmers and the poor rang alarm bells for General Ayub Khan, whose popularity was waning with each passing day.

Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto succeeded in ousting General Ayub Khan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s PPP swept general elections in West Pakistan and emerged the largest party there. The party’s popular slogan ‘Roti, Kapraa aur Makaan’ gained immense traction with the masses. In its first ever election, PPP beat the status quo by winning a large number of seats from both Sindh and Punjab. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister.

PPP has given countless sacrifices for democracy in Pakistan. Scores of PPP workers have been martyred by military dictators and militants since the party’s inception. Pakistanis have time and again elected PPP to power so that it could implement its people-friendly agenda. However, conspirators in every era have tried to keep PPP at bay but failed miserably.

The reason why PPP continues to be the most popular political party in Pakistan is because it has undertaken reforms to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. PPP has always been at the forefront in taking control of Pakistan and reforming the country after every crisis. From the war of 1971 to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the party has sacrificed its leaders and workers for a stable, prosperous and democratic Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP—the pioneers of CPEC

Former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP’s government have gone down in history books as the pioneers of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It was during the government of the former president and PPP Co-Chairman that the control of Gwadar port was handed over to China in a bid to create an energy corridor for Pakistan.

Mr Zardari paid his first official visit as president to China in an effort to bolster ties with Pakistan’s neighbour. Mr Zardari’s efforts paid off when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan to sign important MoUs related to CPEC.

CPEC is a very important and lucrative project for Pakistan. It will prove to be a beneficial project for China and Pakistan on various fronts. An energy corridor from Pakistan’s Gwadar port to China’s Xi Jinping province will result in plenty of power plants binge built, roads and railway networks being laid out and the availability of thousands of jobs for the local population.

The project will promote economic activity in Pakistan and invite lucrative investments. It will also revive the tourism industry in Pakistan as foreigners will experience the country’s wonderful mountains, plains, rivers, plateaus and scenic beauties first hand.

Former Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah included several important projects for Sindh in CPEC. Among these was the Keti Bandar project—an initiative by Sindh Government to build the port in an attempt to revive medium and small scale industries. Mr Murad Ali Shah also announced that the government was planning to build a 450km long railway line from Keti Bandar to Thar coalfield and establish a 1320 MW power plant whose capacity could be extended to 10,000 MW.

CPEC was envisioned by PPP’s senior leadership so that it stimulates economic growth in Pakistan’s underdeveloped provinces, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These provinces will benefit a lot from power plants, roads, railway lines and jobs.

Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the most prominent and efficient foreign minister of Pakistan. He established Pakistan’s relations with China and it was his vision to increase economic cooperation with China so that Pakistan would reap its benefits and become an important player in the region. Mr Zardari followed in his footsteps to ensure that SZAB’s vision became reality.

Former president Mr Asif Ali Zardari said that future generations would continue to reap the benefits of CPEC project. He said that it was not important to take credit but ensure that the process that begun got completed.

“Several books are needed to cover the CPEC, whose idea goes beyond a thousand years and our future generations will continue to eat the fruits of this game-changing project,” he said.

CPEC is proof of the fact that PPP’s governments have always envisioned a Pakistan where people’s lives improved and the country’s economy thrived.