We today bear witness to an extraordinary event. Seldom does a moment come in history of mankind when the truth stands so clear from the error. The energy that has been released by the People of Pakistan today is reminiscent of the sacrifices, hardship, and dedication which our nation unleashed for the regaining of our sovereignty and our independence in 1947. Just as challenges were before us during our independence struggle, just as threats were abundant following independence; Today, as the clock slowly ticks and the nation is overjoyed with the good news, it is only natural for feelings of euphoria and jubilation to sweep our minds. We must, however, sit back in introspection and ask ourselves some pertinent questions. Because even though there is reason for optimism, danger lurks ahead of us. We must rise to occasion and defeat these threats. The questions I am going to pose and the answers we find for them will help us chalk the future which is needed to meet and satisfy the rising aspirations of a glorious people, namely the People of Pakistan.
Most of us are celebrating the restoration of the judiciary. Some of us are hopeful that this victory will mean the judiciary will remove the politically motivated Dogar Court rulings on the disqualification of the Sharif brothers. Some of us are celebrating the success of the Long March as a genuine step towards realizing the essence of a genuine democracy in Pakistan. Almost all of us, however, recognize that today the audacity of our collective hope has prevailed against overwhelming odds. I, for one, never truly supported the idea of the restoration of the chief justice because I felt a judge who accepted the ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ and became a PCO judge in 1999, which in fact validated Musharraf’s coup, was and is guilty of his part in over-throwing a democratically elected government. This is the same reason why every time in the stormy year of 2007 when Imran Khan spoke of his utter dislike of Pervaiz Musharraf, I would always be nonchalant towards his views because I was aware that Imran Khan had welcomed Pervaiz Musharraf’s coup in 1999. Now that Chaudhry Iftikhar Mohammad has been reinstated, does he not think it would be the right thing for him to stand on national television and apologize to the People of Pakistan for his part in validating Musharraf’s coup a decade ago? Shall we not have the same expectation from Imran Khan and so many other personalities who accepted the validity of the coup? What unfolded in 1999 was not just the toppling of a democratically elected government, it was a direct attack on the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Suddenly activating a conscience in 2007 and standing up to a dictator does not wash away the sins which were cast in the past.
Musharraf may have had intentions to steer the country out of crisis in that dark year of 1999, but the consequences of his actions was the derailment of the constitution. Anyone who supported his actions must apologize to themselves and to the country. Do the Sharif brother’s remember that during their last government, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Sajjad Shah, was attacked by supporters of the PML-N while he was in the Supreme Court of Pakistan? Do the Sharif brother’s remember that it was they who placed Sindh under Governor Rule for 11 months? These may be inconvenient facts but they are factual and the truth nonetheless. Redemption is not through tokenisms or mere speak, it is through genuine change in thought and action. The burden of guilt is as fiery as it was the day the transgression was committed as it is today.
Today, Nawaz Sharif, the Chief Justice, Imran Khan, and the people who broke the rule of Musharraf and restored our judiciary, need to cleanse the guilt which rests on their shoulders. Come on the television and tell us that you made mistakes in the past, that you are sorry for not maintaining the correct moral precedent, and that you will now work tirelessly to uphold, defend, and strengthen the Constitution of Pakistan, a task you failed in the past. Right now, I too am euphoric for I feel a vibrant change is in the offing. But I am cautious. How real can this change be if it comes to our knowledge that the political parties which supported the cause of the judiciary only did so because it was expedient to do so and not because it was the right thing to do? We, the people, would be crestfallen. Our rising expectations would be given another blow and the idea of a developed, powerful, democratic, and stable Pakistan would seem further from reach. Do not betray our aspirations, do not betray the tide which has brought a spring of change to our country.
The opportunistic and wilful Zardari realized his political miscalculation and has finally decided to honour, at least in principle, the idea that the judiciary has to be reinstated. This was a commitment which the late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had agreed to. Whether he fulfils his pledge to his country and honours the commitment made by our national leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto will only seen once the Charter of Democracy is enacted in letter and spirit. Zardari has failed to keep up the spirit of reconciliation which the Sharif brothers offered him. The country has lost billions in the past month due to his undemocratic actions and his initial summersault on the restoration of the judiciary. Zardari must decide whether he is occupying the office of the presidency for the interests of the PPP or for the national interest. What would he choose when national interest and PPP interest collided? His pre-meditated actions between 25th February 2009 and reluctance to take the national interest on board are a clear indication for all those who wish to see it.
People of Pakistan, there are challenges before us. The colossal size of these threats is vast. But we do have the capacity to turn the tide in our favour. We must take a principled stand. We must be ready to die for our constitution. We must be prepared to offer sacrifices for the cause of our national struggle. Pakistan is bigger than the PML-N, PPP, MQM, etc. Pakistan is not about a Bhutto dynasty or a Sharif clan. Pakistan is not about the feudal-minded establishment which has for far too long held back the flames of hope we carry in our hearts and our minds. Pakistan is about the 170 million dreams, aspirations, expectations, values, collective sense of appropriation, harmony of our civilization’s ethos and shared desire for success, strengthening of our territorial integrity, the growth and strength of our national economy and trade, the power of our ideas to ameliorate our appalling state of affairs, the test of our patriotism; the ideal of Pakistan is one of hope and one of building a great Pakistan which is a light in the comity of nations. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the only true vanguard we possess to propel the cradle of our dreams to reality. The expressions in our constitution are bigger than any temporal authority.
I would like to be the first citizen who practices my own advice to our esteemed political and apolitical leaders. I apologize for supporting the coup of General Musharraf in 1999 but I was of tender age and naive thought. His system was neither sustainable nor ultimately beneficial in the ultimate sense. Our constitution, if we are to follow it in letter and spirit, it will give us the capacity, the courage, the strength, the inspiration, and the sense of commitment we need to manifest the glory, stability, scientific prowess which Pakistan and her glorious people rightfully deserve. Now that the wreaths and garlands have been placed for the success our nation has achieved, it is now time to use the collective energy of our people to address the economic crisis, to ensure food security, to provide water and job security, and to build a modern, democratic, progressive, and enlightened Pakistan. These are the real challenges which the audacity of our collective hope must address. This ideal can only be realized once we accept that the truth stands clear from the error, and anything which is ultra-vire of our Constitution is not just unacceptable, it is unbearable.