Nile is being cleansed; Indus is in the waiting.  Raja G Mujtaba

By General Mirza Aslam Beg

The shock wave of the Tunisian revolution is sweeping the Arab world, particularly the countries suffering from despotic rules of decades. Egypt is the worst affected, as the agitation is mounting, shaking the government from its very roots. The hour of decision has come. The Americans are perturbed because their most trusted man, Hosni Mobarak, who maintained best of relations with Israel and helped project American power and influence in the region, has lost his hold on power. Fearing the take-over of Egypt by Ikhwan-e-Muslimeen, the Americans are trying to transfer power to persons like Al-Baradie, or the Chief of Army Staff, General Pantawi, who is a known loyalist. In fact, Americans are repeating the mistake of 1990, when they tried to prop-up the Fidaeen-e-Khalq, against Imam Khomeini’s revolution and failed.

The turmoil in the Arab world is likely to have its ‘domino’ effect on Pakistan also, because of the chaotic conditions prevailing here, though very different from those obtaining in the Arab world. No doubt, we have an elected government and a functioning parliament but the self-inflicted wound has reached to a dangerous level and quite explosive too. The main reasons are:

  • Defiance to the courts of justice.
  • Weakening the process of accountability.
  • Failing to correct the economic drift and the price of food.

The failings explained above, are all within the power and purview of the government, to correct and control. In fact the opportunities are ideal and institutional support is so willingly available, as I have reminded from time to time. “The present democratic system, however, is fortunate that those, who trampled democracy in thepast, are now reconciled to taking a back-seat. For instance USA now is in no position to install a government of its choice, because the military leadership is not prepared to play their game. The opposition, which in the past always relished a change, is committed to the democratic order, under the Charter of Democracy. Our higher judiciary has attained its legitimate position, discarding the notion of Law of Necessity. Thus, never before, a government has had such a favourable opportunity to deliver a clean governance, based on justice.”

The responsibility for change therefore lies squarely with Mr. Zardari, who is the leader of the ruling party and ironically controls the parliament. He must ‘seize the moment’ and make bold decisions to extract the country out of the morass. Indeed, this is his rendezvous with destiny, calling him to act with courage and correct the course with regard to the following:

  • Facilitate implementation of the apex court verdicts, on cases concerning his friends and his own person. Such an attitudinal change would raise the level of peoples’ respect for the President.
  • Ensure fair and free accountability at all level. Appoint an impartial, honest and an up-right person as the head of the National Accountability Bureau.
  • Listen to the advice of the Governor of the State Bank, and take immediate measures to correct the failing economy and lay down policies for achieving short and long term economic goals, mainly focusing on micro-economic gains and ensuring effective control of the rising prices of food items, getting out of reach of the common people of Pakistan, who hardly make a square meal a day. This is the most explosive factor to act as the ‘spark for a revolution’, knocking at our door. The government has to control and contain the prices of three items mainly: Roti, Dall and Sabzi, to ensure two square meals a day for the poor and the hungry.

Handling of Raymond Davis case under pressure would provide the rallying point for the masses against the government. Raymond Davis has committed cold blooded murders, not in self-defence, but with criminal pride of a CIA operative. He entered Pakistan with the courtesy of our Ambassador in Dubai. He enjoys no diplomatic immunity. He is the same person who was externed from Pakistan, a few years back, because of his anti-state activities. He has to be punished, in the same manner as the American court prosecuted the Deputy Ambassador of Georgia in 1976, for an accidental killing of an American.

Revolution is a romantic word, but not many revolutions have been a success in recent times. The example of Czechoslovakia and Hungry are worth examining, as both drifted into chaos resulting into break-up, because there was no political leadership to guide the movement of a people not fully integrated as a nation. Same is the situation in Pakistan now. God forbid, if a revolutionary movement starts, the Pakistan military would be the only institution, to pre-empt the drift and the downfall, leading to yet another military rule. Is that the choice to be relished by the self-respecting people, welcoming democracy as the best revenge?

“We are here for change”Mr. Zardari told me, when I rang up to congratulate him for winning the 2008 elections. Change is inevitable now, and its harbinger is Mr. Zardari. Destiny beckons him to rise above the self and act to bring about the change, he promised. Remember: “The War against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation.”

General Mirza Aslam Beg is former Chief Of Army Staff, Pakistan. After his retirement, he formed FRIENDS, a Think

Tank based in Rawalpindi. Since then he has been writing for several news papers and magazines. His articles have also appeared in International papers of repute.

Now he is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.