While the whole country is echoing with one chant, “go Zardari go”, the question naturally pops up into one’s mind: Where do we actually want ‘His Excellency’ send to? To London, Dubai, Geneva, or some other cosmopolitan city? To the Bilawal House? Or then, back to the pavilion viz the prison cell - as the public mood on streets of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi transpires at the very start of the New Year? This last option seems a bit out of place and unfair, as the poor guy has already served one of the longest sentences in the country’s political history. Mandela was not treated like that in his country at all, some jiyale might butt in. Besides, he is after all the husband of the late, Ms Benazir Bhutto, who sacrificed her life for the country. So, no ingratitude as such. As for the second option, it is not practical at all. For, rarely has a ruler gone to his own house after serving a term in the President House. Maxims like “there’s no place like home” or “home sweet home” just don’t apply here. A foreign trip is usually planned as a solemn rite, as soon as the man is out of office. So, no Bilawal House, as well.
The only choice left is London, Geneva or Dubai, where the good guy has got some personal property and family business. Its prospects, at least on the first glance, seem upbeat and promising. For, they make a good launching pad for any future Pakistani politician. Our dialog with the President on power relinquishing can run like this: “Spare us this time, saeen. Due to the ‘false’ charges, you wasted a lot of time behind bars in the past. You need rest and loads of practice. We will call you, when we need you next time. Meanwhile, let’s shake hands like good old friends and say goodbye. Please sign here, Mr President.” One can hear the thunderous clapping in the background.
By the way, what a nation of foresight and vision we are. First we send our leaders to foreign lands. Then we lament our doing and bring them back via street protests and mass movements. Then we elect them. When in power, we spare no occasion to throw them out and to send them to their comfort zones back again. Perhaps, no country has ever exiled and brought back its leaders so frequently, like we have. You can bet on that.
Ms Bhutto, for instance, was first sent into exile by General Zia. She was greeted with a historic reception by the masses in 1986 upon her return. She was twice elected and twice dethroned. In the late 90s, we forced her into self-exile. We brought her back in 2007 once again, welcoming her with a reception, no less historic than the previous one. This time, however, her life was tragically cut short in the incident, still mourned today.
Coming back to the subject, not long ago, we heard deafening slogans of somewhat like nature, “go Musharraf go”. However, no sooner did the SSG man make a parachute jump into the far land than we raised objections to his leaving the country. Bring him back home, cried we in unison. He, too, insisted upon his return, but later declined.
Among all our political sages, MQM’s Chief seems the only man with some foresight and wisdom. Why not outsource and establish an offshore call centre in London, to solve the nation’s problems, thought the business-minded Karachite almost two decades ago. It would not only save the nation’s hard-earned money, but would also do away with the hassle of everyday air travel and security issues, he must have mused. No politician can beat him on that, i.e. on reading the “signs of time”. You bet! Only if he had just a wee bit more political sagacity and learned the way of mutual co-existence and ethnic assimilation.
By the way, we are a nation so seasoned in contriving slogans - slogans, which are poetical and political at the same time. Witness, for instance, “aik Zardari, sub pe bhari” (Zardari alone, outweighs all). That was changed to no less a poetical motto, “aik Zardari, mulk pe bhari” (Zardari alone, ruins all). The PML-N’s catchphrase during its last tenure, “qarz utaro, mulk sunwaro” (Clear debts, redeem the country), was also mockingly changed by his political opponents to, “Nawaz utaro, mulk sunwaro” (Unseat Nawaz, redeem the country). And who can forget Jamaat-i-Islami’s catchy slogan during the 1993 polls: “Zalimo, Qazi aa raha hai” (Tyrants, Qazi is coming). Qazi or Qadi, being the honorary title for a Muslim judge, was supposed to clear the country of all the debris and corruption. When the elections were held, the Jamaat secured only a handful of national and provincial assembly seats. And the slogan was altered into, zalimo, Qazi jaa raha ha (Tyrants, Qazi is going).
In the 1993 elections, the Jamaat was trying every bit of its political muscle to emerge, as a third force in the country. The attempt turned out to be a complete fiasco. The revolutionary zeal and fervour has now been taken up by the PTI. It is probable the party may come up with the slogan, “zalimo, Imran aa raha hai” (Tyrants, Imran is coming). This time over the proverbial lion or wolf, - depends how you see it - seems to be landing in the valley in actual terms. And why not? 2012 has already been termed as the year of consciousness awakening by the Mayan experts. So, be it! Let this ‘sleepy hollow’ nation be awakened of its thousand-year slumber now.
There were times, when we’d also see wall chalking every now and then, saying, “chalo chalo Lahore chalo”, “chalo chalo Karachi chalo”, “chalo chalo Peshawar chalo”. Not that it has stopped completely, but they appear with only with less frequency. That is, perhaps, due to the rising fuel prices and the dead horse, called Pakistan Railway. Long live Qazi sahib, who so patriotically injected huge sums of money into it by his regular long marches and train marches and literally kept it on the track. We don’t see such zeal in the present ameer.
So when we, the public, would notice such chalking, we’d usually respond to the offer in a very positive manner. The reason was quite simple. The tickets were free, the ride enjoyable, and the milieu peaceful. Not anymore! Thanks to the suicide attacks and kidnappings, no one seems interested in going to Peshawar. Its famous Storytellers’ Bazaar and Bara Market are deserted and you’d see no local and foreign tourists at all. As for Karachi, recurrent incidents of ethnic strife have left the city crippled and it ceased to be the nagar shehr (a free-for-all city) it used to be.
Lastly, we are also very good at devising savoury slogans, when it comes to the so-called saamraaj. That is to say, imperial powers. Protesting against injustice and an illegitimate foreign occupation is one thing. Raising useless slogans of “go America go”, and burning effigies and tires on our own streets, is quite another. Does such throaty screaming make the ground realities change? Does it bring about any change in the US foreign policy? Perhaps, not! The funny thing is that such cries are raised by people, who at one stage or another served as instruments in the hands of those very powers. No wonder then, the slogan was derisively changed by foreign commentators to, “go to American, go to America”. To them, the change reflects the inner feelings of the protestors more faithfully.
To conclude, the PPP government has already spent three quarters of its tenure. There was crisis upon crisis right from the very beginning. We don’t need to go into its detail, as the process continues till this day. If anything, the government succeeded in achieving only one major policy goal. That is, the partial control on the Frankenstein called terrorism. Other than that, it didn’t achieve anything of value. In fact, it utterly failed on the economic and foreign policy fronts - two crucial vehicles for survival in today’s world. The slogan, “go Zardari go”, may have a lot of connotations, but to the man on the street, it has only one i.e. enough is enough, let’s try another hand.
n The writer is an advertiser based in Islamabad