Imposing leadership – Abdul Sattar

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Since the creation of Pakistan, artificial leadership has been imposed on its people, which has not only undermined the federation but also damaged the social fabric of the country. This was done to achieve narrow objectives in the name of the national interest of the country. However, such attempts turned out to be catastrophic, plunging the country into crisis after crisis.

Soon after the emergence of Pakistan, conspiracies were hatched to delay the general elections in the country that had come into existence through a democratic process. The party that created Pakistan was divided into several groups, with every dictator coming up with some form of this party. During the decade of the 1950s, different brands of the Muslim League were used – but instead of getting the sympathies of people, they turned out to be rather unpopular. The parties that enjoyed immense popularity among the people were either sidelined or branded as traitors.

The policy of banning or creating problems for the most popular parties which enjoyed immense popularity among the masses continued. In East Pakistan, attempts were made to patronize religious right-wing forces to counter Bengali nationalism that only demanded greater autonomy within the constitution of the country under the Lahore Resolution. The religious right that had opposed the creation of Pakistan was pampered. Such right wing forces did not have any regard for the demands of people. Even when the country was on the verge of separation, ultra-religious elements were supported; this finally pushed us towards the door of destruction, which culminated into the separation of the eastern wing.

Even after the fall of Dhaka, we did not learn any lesson, banning the National Awami Party that enjoyed support not only in Balochistan but in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) and other parts of the country as well. Again, obscurantist forces that had damaged the federation in the eastern wing were supported. Later on such forces were also employed against Bhutto whose judicial murder triggered rage and fury, plunging the province of Sindh into a low level of turmoil during the decade of the 1980s. During the dictatorial regime of General Ziaul Haq, sectarian and fascist forces were bankrolled and encouraged to replace the political parties that believed in the politics of federation. This policy proved to be counterproductive, badly denting the social fabric of the country with thousands of people losing their lives in the name of religion, ethnicity and sect.

Popular political parties have also lamented that even during the elections of 2018 genuine political leadership was deprived of a mandate. In particular, in Punjab, this has been the first time that such a sense of deprivation has been seen. Such an approach could be catastrophic for the country and the people.

In the urban areas of Sindh, different experiments were carried out to impose an artificial leadership on the people. Mass political parties commit mistakes and sometimes even blunders but sidelining them or replacing them with artificial leaderships or rigid political forces is not prudent at all. The absence of a genuine leadership in the urban centres has created a sense of frustration besides plunging the cities into an abyss of problems and crises. All this is likely to divide urban areas along various ethnic and sectarian lines. The TLP that has been banned by the government has also been encouraged in urban areas of Sindh to replace nationalist forces in those areas.

In Balochistan, the National Party led by former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik and the Balochistan National Party of Akhter Mengal enjoy a lot of support among large sections of the population. But the two parties have faced immense challenges since 1988. Charges levelled against the late senator Hasil Bizenjo and Dr Abdul Malik are yet to be proved in a court of law.

In KP and several parts of the country, the PTM is extremely popular. In politics there is always room for dialogue and discussion. But branding movements or individuals as traitors, preventing them from holding public rallies and implicating them in allegedly concocted cases will not help at all.

Supporting retrogressive elements to undermine nationalist forces has emboldened extremist elements of society to challenge the writ of the state, plunging the country into a terrible insurgency that claimed the lives of thousands of Pakistanis, including the brave soldiers of the country. Therefore, it is important that those who have a different approach towards political problems should be engaged in talks. Their point of view should be heard. If there are reservations towards the way they conduct themselves then those reservations should be put forward and deliberated upon. But choking them does not make any sense at all.

The experiments of imposing an artificial leadership on the people have proved to be destructive in the past. Therefore, from Punjab to KP and Balochistan to the urban areas of Sindh, it is important that we let genuine political leaders work and serve the people. This will be beneficial for the country and the people.

The writer is a freelance journalist.