March 9, 2007 was a new epoch in the history of Pakistan. On that day Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhary defied the military dictator and refused to resign. With that act of courage, he triggered a revolution and changed the course of history. This was the moment when Pakistan lifted its head and began to fight back against the dictator.
THESE ARE TIMES THAT TRY MENS’ SOULS
Euripides once famously said, “Whom the Gods destroy, they first make mad”. President Zardari, symbol of the unity of the Federation, has declared war on the Supreme Court. The government’s refusal to comply with the Supreme Court directive is an alarm call of the most compelling kind. The fear of conspiracy against the Supreme Court hangs heavy in the air. Our history can show no precedent for so foul a plot as that which this corrupt, dying regime has hatched against the Supreme Court.
Outwardly an illusory calm and an unreal air of bourgeois serenity seem to have settled over Islamabad. “Everything seems”, as Goethe said, “to be following its normal course because even in terrible moments in which everything is at stake, people go on living as if nothing were happening”. But a perfect storm is looming on the horizon. Islamabad is once again preparing for a collision between those who stand behind the Supreme Court, the defender of the Constitution, the Rule of Law, the protector of citizen’s liberties and those who represent the forces of darkness, whose hands are dirty, who have looted and plundered the resources of this poor country. “I can detect the near approach of the storm. I can hear the moaning of the hurricane, but I can’t say when or where it will break forth”.
Three years ago, a judicial earth quake remade the political terrain of our country. On March 9, 2007 to be exact, began a new epoch in the history of Pakistan. On that day Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhary defied the military dictator and refused to resign. With that act of courage, he triggered a revolution and changed the course of history. This was the moment when Pakistan lifted its head and began to fight back against the dictator.
Napoleon needed the Terror, Caesar needed the Gallic Wars, Churchill needed the Nazis, and Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhary needed General Musharraf to be raised to the pitch of greatness each achieved.
In Pakistan, the Supreme Court’s historic role has been one of subservience to military dictators. Chief Justice Iftikhar broke with the past tradition and changed all that. The nexus between the Generals and the superior judiciary has snapped. An era of deference by the Supreme Court to the Executive has given way to judicial independence. Isn’t it ironic that today the people of Pakistan, especially the poor, the disadvantaged and the voiceless, expect justice not from the parliament, not from the presidency, not from the Prime Minister but from an unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court?
For once, the citizens of this benighted country have been assured that there is such a thing as true accountability. They have the comfort of knowing that those who have grown fat and rich on ill-gotten gains at the cost of starving millions, can be brought to book and shall be brought to book.
No military dictator and no corrupt civilian ruler can afford an independent judiciary or an independent media. They cannot co-exist. Today both are under attack in democratic Pakistan. “These are times that try men’s souls. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of his country, but he who serves it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman”. It is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve. To settle back into your cold-hearted acceptance of the status quo is not an option.
The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. This is a delicate time, full of hope and trepidation in equal measure. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to fight for our core values, to destroy the roots of the evil that afflicts Pakistan.
We have arrived at the epilogue, at the greatest turning point in our history. One feels in the air the sense of the inevitable which comes from the wheel of destiny when it moves and of which men are often the unconscious instruments. Zardari’s star has grown dim. He is losing political capital by the hour. Today it is hard to find anyone who believes a word of what he says. Today the only person willing to defend him is none other than Zardari himself, so alone and so beleaguered.
It is time to turn the page. The time to hesitate is through. This is a moment of great hope for Pakistan. Don’t let it turn into a national nightmare. In this transcendent struggle between the Supreme Court and kleptocracy, neutrality is not an option. You’re either with the people or against them. There is no half-way house. As we approach the endgame, the nation has to decide between two conceptions of politics, two visions for our country, two value systems, two very different paths. Every citizen must ask himself now: if our core institutions are to survive, if Pakistan is to survive, whether we can afford to let our corrupt rulers remain in power and destroy all our core institutions.
Today the Pakistan stage is clogged with bad actors playing lousy parts from commanding heights. Too many conflicting agendas. Too many egos. Too many so-called leaders with dirty hands. Major absentee on the stage: the people of Pakistan, barely mentioned by anyone. How can corrupt rulers occupy any place in the political order of Pakistan? This is equivalent to asking what place should be assigned to a malignant disease which preys upon and fractures the body of a sick man.
Today there is an intense anxiety on the part of ordinary people for decisive leadership. People are waiting for a stirring lead and a clarion call. It seems that while the nation craves for leadership, political leaders are equally determined not to lead them. Is it because they are all status-quo friendly and do not want to rock the boat? Isn’t it a great tragedy that today the destiny of Pakistan is in the hands of its reluctant leaders who refuse to draw the sword people are offering them?
What prevents the opposition parties and their leaders from joining hands and presenting a united front against corrupt rulers out to destroy all our core institutions? What prevents them from taking to the street as they have in other countries and as they have in the past in this country? What prevents them from putting national interest above petty selfish interest?
Today we are at the crossroads of a historic choice. This is the last chance, the last battle. If we shall not stand out into the streets, a long polar night will descend on Pakistan. Isn’t it a great tragedy that at a time when a window of hope has opened, our political leaders are dithering and cannot forge a united front against corrupt rulers? The time has come when the ultimate sovereign – the people of Pakistan – must assert itself.
If people want a change, they will have to vote with their bodies and keep voting in the streets – over and over and over. A regime like this, which is defying the Supreme Court, can only be brought down or changed if enough people vote in the streets. This is what the regime fears most, because it either has to shoot its people or quit. A bloodless revolution but a mighty revolution – that is what we need today.
Otto von Bismarck once said that political genius entailed hearing the hoofbeat of history, then rising to catch the galloping horseman by the coattails. Today Nawaz Sharif is acknowledged leader of a mainstream political party and has a decisive role to play in the critical days ahead. The voice of history beckons him. Will he “seize the moment”? Will he “seize the hour”? Will he respond to the challenge or continue to prevaricate and stay on the fence? That is the question. On that would depend the future course of events in Pakistan?
O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm and stern rebuke. For it not light that is needed, but fire, it is not the gentle shower, but thunder, we need the storms, the whirlwind and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscience of the nation must rouse; the proprieties of the nation must be startled, the hypocrisy of the corrupt rulers must be exposed.
Source: Roedad Khan
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