Lahore, 2000 AD

Lahore, 2000 AD


“There are two chapters of resistance in the history of the PML-N. The second one is this period since Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in July 2017. But the original one was written under the stewardship of Begum Kulsoom. Until she started challenging the military dictator, this aspect of the party was hidden from public view,” argues a political commentator who wishes to remain anonymous.

This story is from a time when I thought all politicians deserved all the trouble they got.

I was disgusted with Nawaz for the shameless way in which they exploited the gullibility of millions of sincere, patriotic Pakistanis in the “mulk sawaanro, qrz utaro” scheme.

And I was uncomfortable with PPP due to Zadari’s reputation as Mr 10% and the large number of feudals in that party. I was also suspicious of Benazir due to some interviews she had given on CNN in the mid 90s.

But I’d read the Herald report on the number of dead of the Northern Light Infantry in the Kargil adventure (conservatively estimated at 10,000, but possibly as high as 18,000, if I’m not mistaken) and how, contrary to usual practice, the bodies of the martyrs were not being returned as soon as possible, but deliberately delayed by two to three months, that is, the army was staggering their return so as to avoid a possibly dangerous upsurge in emotion among the population of Gilgit-Baltistan. In the face of this tragic slaughter (exceeding the total of all the previous wars between India and Pakistan) I couldn’t unquestioningly get behind the adulation of heros like Lalak Jan and others – not because I didn’t appreciate their bravery or sacrifice, but because I saw it being used to divert attention from the strategic and tactical miscalculations at the higher level of miltary decision-making that forced them to sacrifice their lives.

Not a single senior military officer resigned in recognition of the failure of the adventure. However, thousands of soldiers and hundreds of junior officers died – for no gain to the country.

As Begum Kulsoom Nawaz is laid to rest, I recall that time in my life when I was a confused and helpless observer, wondering how to make sense of all this. Her action – this very image of her car suspended in mid-air – added yet another question to the growing list of questions I had on politics and direct military rule.

Much has improved since then, notably the level of mass participation in practical politics and debate on public affairs.  I’m hopeful that my land will continue to produce more of the courage and intelligence required to question the unquestionables, and make Pakistan the land of justice, peace and opportunity that we dream of.

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