Dishonourable discharge

Decency demands an honourable exit. Dishonourable discharge is deplorable. In disciplined institutions such termination is considered terminal with no return. Only in developing countries such individuals survive and manage their comeback to repeat their act. Currently the fourth dictator is being tried under Article-6 of the constitution that carries a possible death penalty. Under the constitutional provision, the President is bound to act under the advice of the Prime Minister (PM) who relies on his law minister to keep the process legal. At the time of the imposition of emergency in 2007 by Pervez Musharraf the PM was Shaukat Aziz and the ministry was headed by the same person who then managed to be a part of Nawaz’s cabinet unfortunately both of them have not been touched.

Musharraf’s and then Sharif’s law minister had to step down under pressure from the Faizabad Dharna. This dishonourable discharge will be followed by another comeback and the cycle will be repeated again. Before him Sharifuddin Pirzada played this role till his death at a very advanced age and earned the title of Jadogar-e-Jeddah. Unfortunately the magic show continues only the Master of Ceremonies (MC) changes to misguide the public again and again.

A few years a back an ad hoc judge of the Lahore High Court was not confirmed. While vacating his office tears were rolling down his cheeks, an old friend tried to console him with kind words. ‘You had a flourishing legal practice, with your credentials there should be no problems’. ‘A Jatt never gives up a government job, not even that of a peon’. You expect me to give up my position on the bench without remorse’ were his remarks.

Professionalism demands a professional approach. Hired pens and experts are like paid assassins who cause long term damage to the system. Once I attended a course on ‘effective confrontation’ in which it was taught how to say no to the boss on the basis data and rules of business. Loyalty and blind obedience to individuals has seriously dented the process of effective governance. A very senior bureaucrat who can rightly be called Baboo-e-Azam after the death of Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) his senior, regularly appears on TV and talks about the democratic order. GIK had the unique distinction of dismissing three elected governments the summaries of which were prepared by the same Baboo.

In October 1958 when Ayub Khan took control of the country he silenced all dissent. In the words of Habib Jalib in his reign of terror even the leaves were afraid of moving. He stood alone to recite his famous poem. ‘Dastoor’ which was the first voice of confrontation. Nawa-e-Waqt under the legendary Hamid Nizami also stood up. My own uncle a progressive writer and poet went on a hunger strike outside the civil secretariat in 1959. He had three demands: Lifting of Martial Law, investigation into the murder of the first PM and withdrawal of intelligence agencies from monitoring the progressives. Till today his concerns remain. Jalib wrote about the hired pen and experts warning them, ‘Apna fun mut Baycho’ (don’t sell your expertise). Jalib remained firm on his principles in return he lived in poverty and died in neglect.

The list of ‘dishonourably discharged’ individuals is long and it keeps growing as they manage to stage a comeback under new MCs. For the country to move forward, we have to get rid of such tainted leadership. As a nation we must learn the process of honourable exit otherwise will have to face extinction.

Replacing the MC while the actors remain unchanged is an exercise in futility. In 70 years of our existence some lessons should have been learnt by now. The show must go on but with new players. As the first born free generation of Pakistan we not only toppled the usurper, we also forced the first free and fair elections of 1970. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new era. The government of Quaid-e-Azam was called ‘Awami Hakumat’ but it was short lived. Despite several democratic gains, the dishonourably discharged individuals were able to surround Bhutto and win his party tickets for the 1977 elections, the first under the 1973 constitution.

Old habits die hard. The electoral exercise in 1977 was tainted by these so called electable which resulted in a major catastrophe. Zia’s misrule not only destroyed civilian institutions he even created factories to produce ‘dishonourable leadership’ Musharraf fell into the same trap. While he created some of his own political weeds he also allowed the experienced ones to re-enter the political arena through his infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

On leaving the Presidency Musharraf insisted on a Guard of Honour. It was a good idea to drum him out. In most multinational companies ‘exit interviews’ are arranged for leaving employees in which they get a chance to speak their mind. Dishonourable discharge is a reality of life which must be recognized, it must be accompanied with either drums or ‘Manadi’ as it is called in Urdu. Choices should be made clear, dishonourable discharge or honourable exit in both cases the due process should be followed. Once the terms of separation are understood then the closing ceremony should be organized. ‘Manadi’ for the dishonourably discharged and music for the honourable.

In the valley around Chitral, burial takes place with ‘Music’ as it signals the start of a new journey. It is time for us to agree on a framework in which political leadership should be have a proper send-off either with ‘Manadi’ or ‘Music’. In the words of the poet: ‘Jahan-e-Taza ki Afkar-e-Taza Se Ha Namood ‘ (A fresh world requires new thoughts for its decoration ).

The list of ‘dishonourably discharged’ individuals is long and it keeps growing as they manage to stage a comeback under new MCs.

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