Some other now must tend the garden of sacrifice;
The dew these eyes of mine have shed, friends, is used up,
The passionate faith is stilled; the hail of stones is over.
Dust underfoot today is the hue of the loved one’s lips,
In her dear street is unfurled the pennant of my blood,
To whom, whom will the summons come, now I am gone –
Who dares the challenge now of the deadly wine of love?
Again and again, now I am gone, this cry on the lips of her who pours, (Faiz translated by Victor Kiernan)
Benazir Bhutto is dead and now the big question in the political leadership void in Pakistan is: “whom will the summons come …. Who dares the challenge now of the deadly wine of love? The grieved nation is looking for the answer through tearful murky eyes.
The greater tragedy is that no other leader of this blighted country has countrywide support, from the snowcapped mountains of Karakoram to the seashores of Karachi and Balochistan. With all her past follies, it is accepted even by her foes that she led a party which is an adhesive to keep the Federation of Pakistan. It is also that her understanding of domestic and international politics was far better than her political peers.
Most importantly, I think she was the only popular leader of the country (President Musharraf does not fall in her league) who understood that the fundamental contradiction of the Muslim polities is between the forces of modernity, liberalism, democracy and the fascist militant Islamic forces. In fact it is not only the issue of Muslim societies, the Christian, Jews and Hindu societies are also seeing vehement and violent resistance to the flood of globalised secular culture and values. The traditionalists and those who fear change are fighting everywhere to insulate their societies from the liberal democratic value system. The information flow and global interaction is now cutting through all national, ethnic and religious boundaries.
It is the fear of being swept away by the changing relations of production, that heralds changed social relations and pattern of thinking. It is the challenge posed by scientific rational thinking that has made extremists of all major religions in the world to come out vigorously against the rationality. It is this fear that has made these forces intolerant and noisy. It is this inevitable progress of mankind that is being resisted by the likes of Al-Qaeda in Muslim societies, by BJP and Hindutva in India, by evangelists in America and by hard core Jews in Israel.
Those who undermine the importance of this political formulation have lots of disconnected arguments. They blamed Benazir Bhutto for supporting an American agenda when she boldly said: “We can sacrifice our lives but not the future of children to the militants.” They brushed aside this as an American agenda to polarize the Muslim societies.
Sweeping statements that this not an issue of the poor people of Pakistan and it is raised by the westernized elite is lack of understanding of the ecology of development. A society cannot prosper economically if it is dragged back to undemocratic medieval political and social system. The instability created by militancy is already taking a toll and the economic progress has slowed down. This in turn hurts the people on the lowest rung of the income ladder as they are the first one to fall back below the poverty line.
The issue is can any country now afford not to challenge religious extremism? Nobody grudges the right of the religious parties who believe in propagating remaining within the democratic norms, but it was the fascist and violent means of subjugating the people that has to be resisted. And Benazir Bhutto was the only national leader who had the courage to rise to the call of history on her own soil. She was in a position to provide people’s support to this cause, which Musharraf had tried to fight without any political backing. On the contrary all through he was sleeping with the politicians who support the obscurantist. To add further to his misery he isolated himself by picking a fight with the judiciary and civil society. Today he is extremely unpopular and his behaviour is that of a baffled man sans reason.
Perplexed people of Pakistan are once again asking what next? What is the hope to come out of the present turmoil? Should elections be held on time or postponed? Who will now lead PPP? And so on and so forth. Perhaps the most probable solution is that the elections are postponed with the consensus of all particularly PPP for a month, not more than that. A truly national government should be formed with all major political parties to supervise the elections. Pre-November 3 Judiciary is restored and an undisputed person like Justice Rana Bhagwandas is appointed as Election Commissioner. If President Musharraf cannot swallow this bitter pill he should resign as he hinted that he might if things turn out not to his liking. This is the least he can do for this unfortunate country to allow national reconciliation.
On the part of PPP it should evolve a collective leadership giving representation to all provinces, as no individual would be able to keep it intact. Unfortunately one weakness of BB was that she never allowed other leaders to grow under her shadow. Any other attempt would eventually weaken the party and may eventually lead to split into difference factions.
Benazir Bhutto’s death has left a wounded nation bleeding profusely and scores of people dead. I can only leave you with a prayer by Faiz again:
Come let us also raise our hands to pray,
We who have forgotten how,
We who have no god, no idol,
Only love, come let us ask life
To infuse the sweetness of tomorrow
In the gloom of today,
To lessen the burden of days and nights
For those who have no strength to bear it,
To light a lamp in the darkness
Of eyes that cannot hope to see
The face of dawn.
Come let us ask life
To show a way out to those who are lost
On endless streets;
To give the courage of heresy and the desire for truth
To those who follow the religion of lies and hypocrisy;
To give strength to those whose heads are bowed in fear,
So they can break the murderer’s grip.
Love’s hidden secret is the fevered soul.
Let us make a pact and slake this fever.
Let us accept the true word
Throbbing in our hearts
(Translation: Mahmud Jamal)