It was the clash of two persons, two personalities, two ego that has come to set the course of destiny of this wretched nation, if nation be a description. No matter how fine a point of law or politics we put upon it, at the end of the day that’s what it boils down to.
Notwithstanding older history, today we are at an interesting, undefinable stage of democratic evolution, the outcome for us to define, thanks to the clash of the ‘titans’. Unfortunately, or perhaps that is only my lens, it was not principles, ideologies or lofty ideals that led to this point in space and time, but mere struggle for survival and dominance of two individuals. What a hapless people we are - our proudest moments rode the crest of individual ambition and revenge.
Much has come to pass between March 2007 and now. The battle between Ram and Shiva did awaken the common man to take sides, to politicize, to congregate and to ascertain his path and destiny. But it did take this battle to come to pass, for this nation to awaken to its stakes in its own future. We now speak of the constitution, the rule of law and principle, as if these were the imperatives that dictated the path we’re on today. May I prick the hot air balloon? They were not. And that is not to deny or diminish in any way the said path, but just to remind ourselves whence it all came about. Not from these lofty ideals, but from the base struggles of two dictators, in nature if not in absolute authority.
Hark back to the time one honourable Titan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, submitted to the will of the dictator Musharraf, when he overthrew the elected prime minister of the country – to save his job and position. He sold out on all the oaths and ideals – and us – at the time. Then hark back to the time he stood up to the same dictator – not for you and me – but for his job and title, once again. So base an act, so base the motivation, but we were wont to question. And rightly so, for the confluence of interests of a nation’s aspirations for self-determination and a single man’s desire to save his position. Imagine.
As citizens, we jumped onto Iftikhar Charudhry’s bandwagon because it suited us. The same servile coward had roared out as a lion, when his own survival was threatened, when there was no other way out. We, the hapless, can only ever vote for what works for us best, in a moment in time, not for persons, or sides, or personalities or parties.
Life is grey, and must be seen as such. Many would cringe at the thought of being reminded of their support of Musharraf when he perpetrated the coup in 1999. Such was the disgruntled state of minds that the best of men, and women, supported him. It was a swansong to confusion and desperation. Still, one cannot ignore the grey elements of even Musharrarf and his rule. He, like almost everyone else, was the embodiment of the good, the bad and the ugly. Even he is not all black.
But Musharraf, fading fast into history, is hardly the point of contention, now consigned fairly or unfairly to the dustbin of history. Today it is ex Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry who, on the point of riding into the sunset, inspires strong emotions still. And in the commotion of emotions we all forget that he is a human being, with strengths and failings we’re all too familiar with. If we could but remember to celebrate his good actions together with decrying his bad, like standing up to a dictator that (no matter the motive) fundamentally redefined the destiny of this nation, and not lionize him to sainthood, we’d do well by ourselves.
We’d do well to remember his sugar price setting stunts, his hard won independence from the executive, his summons of the Frontier Core over missing persons, his notice of two bottles of wine – two bottles of wine (ne’er a chief justice hath so lost his mind), his obsession with ‘obscenity’. He was only a man, a mere mortal, with more faults than not, and only an accident of history.
If we could only measure our hatred of Musharraf, and not gloss over and deny his actions that suited us, for example his allowing freedom to media, we’d possibly be better at peace with ourselves.
Today, we stand at a juncture which is an accident of history. A point in time where we’re pulled and pushed to take sides with good or with evil to forge the way forward. But the good is not unsullied, and the bad is not all black. But our worship of personalities becomes our undoing. There is no black. There is no white. Mostly. We are now at a place poised to learn the nuances of political life, to take the best and leave the rest, damned be the personalities and their petty personal issues. We must grab the opportunities offered up by these.
Thanks to the megalomania of these two protagonists, the Pakistani nation now commands a position of vantage. It may be shameful that personal greed and ambition of two individuals brought us here, but so be it. We are now perched at the deciding swell. We, and our democracy, are young still. We don’t have to take sides of anyone but of ourselves. Perhaps you have understood what I am trying to say: we look out for our, the citizens’, interest no matter who the agent. We must remain unashamed in the pursuit of this objective. If the proverbial ‘kalachor’ provides relief, we must endorse. Let’s become apolitical and political at once: with sincerity only to self, not to a party or to a person but to an idea, an issue, or a concept; not to a persona, but only to ourselves.
The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.