Masters and Slaves

By Humayun Gauhar

First the sad news: my precious champion dog Manelo died on Thursday. R.I.P. Manelo. You ruled the roost for many years. He was the most beautiful and intelligent German Shepherd I have ever known, a great friend and companion, devoted and more loyal than human beings can be. His sons and daughters are all over Pakistan: two with President Musharraf, one with Air Marshal Asghar Khan, one with Imran Khan, one with Sania and Ghalib Nishtar and one with Dr. Zeba and her husband Aamir Matin and tens of others all over.

The good news is that I was in London for my daughter Fazila’s marriage to an Irani boy named Armand. I performed their ‘Nikah’ at my daughter’s request: “Abu, if you can do Atiqa Auntie’s Nikah why not mine?” This is the reason why I have been absent for three weeks. It gave both you and me some respite though.

Pakistan is on the radar in London only for bad news and we oblige by providing it by the bucketful. The only Pakistani news that concerned them during the time I was there was what they see as two possible flashpoints: the injustice being meted out to former President General Pervez Musharraf and the talks with the Taliban that they are convinced will lead to disaster.

While in London, the thought came to me: “What kind of a country are we?” We cling to a system in which the oppressed regularly elect their oppressors to go on oppressing them in perpetuity. And we love it. Indeed many would die for it. We turn villains into heroes and heroes into villains, patriots into traitors and traitors into patriots, place crowns on the heads of traitors and villains and then rejoice in the majesty of law and democracy. The more our rulers of choice abuse and degrade us, the more we love them. The more they loot our money and plunder our national resources, the more they flout the law under the guise of following the law, the more they empathize with terrorists and appease our enemies, the more they degrade our military, the more we love them. Those who do us any good we abuse and revile. In this country, treason has become patriotism, religious terrorism Islam. I wondered which mother’s breast we have drunk milk from, what father’s blood flows through our veins?

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The answer came to me that because our forefathers were slaves of local and foreign rulers, we their progeny are slaves too of the mental and emotional kind. We are trapped in the syndrome of the classic master-slave relationship to those who are richer and more powerful. Beggars and weaklings can only have one station in life: slavery. But there is no law of God that poverty should lead to slavery: if we develop even a modicum of self-awareness and self-esteem, what Iqbal called ‘Khudi’, the poor become masters of their destiny and not bend to anyone. “Bend to the outsider and lose your mind and body, your heart and soul”, said Iqbal. “Don’t sell your self-esteem, make your name in poverty”, which doesn’t mean extol poverty but strive for self-reliance. The rumour is that we just sold our self-esteem for the umpteenth time for $1.5 billion to fight yet another proxy, this time between people who call themselves Muslims. In our case ‘Khudi’ is a pipedream to beat all pipedreams. Some think it’s already too late. I don’t. It’s never too late. An earthquake comes suddenly, without warning.

Good sense is entirely absent. Nawaz Sharif has painted himself into a corner and the court trying Musharraf for treason showed him the way out by letting him go abroad. Instead, he balked, trying to save face by passing the buck to the judiciary. If you must try Musharraf for treason, then start the case all over again from the beginning, from Kargil. You have all the files and documents. You have the witnesses. Start with Kargil, Nawaz Sharif’s actions on October 12, 1999 that led to army intervention onwards and involve all aiders and abettors. Let it hit the fan.

Musharraf’s brief statement in the trial court is worth repeating. I don’t have the recording yet, but he told me what he said last Thursday night. I didn’t have the time to transcribe it, because much of it is in Urdu and needs translating. I will try and give it to you next week. However, here is what I recall, which is why I am not putting it in inverted commas.

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Musharraf told the court that whatever I did, I did for the country and its people. I am sad that I am being called a traitor. I made Pakistan a respected country during my tenure.

I honour this court and prosecution. I strongly believe in the rule of law. I don’t have ego problems. I have appeared in courts high and low 16 times in this year in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

I am being called a traitor. I have been chief of the army staff for nine years and I have served the Pakistan army for 44 years. I have given my country my youth. I have fought two wars. Is this ‘treason’? 

I am not a traitor. For me traitors are those who loot public money and empty the treasury. I was with our soldiers in Siachen and Kargil. Our enemies have said that Kargil was a successful operation. Is this treachery? Where is the justice of the democratic Islamic Republic of Pakistan? You judges are the custodians of justice.

Our government gave prosperity to the masses during our eight years. The country made significant progress in different fields, in the socio economy generally, in industry, information technology, defence, education, water management and much more. Is this the fruit of loyalty to the country? If not, what is treason? To me a person who sells the country’s secrets is a traitor. Traitor is the person who lays down arms before enemy.

I say on oath before this court on my old and ailing mother and children that I have not taken a single paisa of the country and during my era no one dared offer me a single rupee. In 2008, when we left power, there were $17 billion in reserves, of which $13 billion were Pakistan’s own reserves. Now only three billion dollars are there in the State Bank. Where has the rest of the money vanished?

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Sadiq and Ameen (sagacious, truthful and trustworthy) members were present in the assemblies at that time and now as well but only I am standing before the court. Where is the justice of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? I have given something to the country but not taken anything.

We inherited foreign exchange reserves of $300 million and increased them to 17 billion. For the first time in our history we reduced our foreign debt from $40 billion to 37 billion. The dollar remained stable at Rs 60. We got out of the clutches of the IMF. Is this treason?

I gave prosperity to the masses because it was my duty. Now the masses are demanding elimination of poverty, increase in income, education and health facilities. What is treason, I ask?

Our government strengthened the defence of the country when many internal and external threats were present. The Al-Khalid tank, JF-17 thunder fighter jets were introduced in my time. Many other steps were taken to strengthen our defence, including the testing of all missiles. It is our pride that all appointments in the higher judiciary were made on merit in my era.

I can challenge that our eight years witnessed more development than ever before or after. There was great progress in Balochistan, like Gwadar Port, highways, canals and the establishment of nine universities.

To me there is another category of traitors: those who create hurdles in the way of socio-economic progress, like the situation created in 2007. We were going towards the sky but steps taken by some personalities blocked the way of progress. Now we are going below ground.

I consulted the then prime minister and other stakeholders before taking any step and never abrogated the constitution. This is basically what Musharraf said.

By the way, it is totally untrue that Musharraf didn’t allow Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif to come to Pakistan to bury their father, and they know it. I know what Musharraf did and I will tell you about it soon.