May 9: Was it the Maiden ‘Black Day’ for Pakistan?

By Imtiaz Gul
(Photo courtesy, Matrix Mag)
During his press talk on May 11, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari invoked a bizarre logic; nowhere in the world – neither in the US nor UK – were army assets ever attacked. True. But do we really need to remind him that both countries as well as neighboring India never experienced martial law – 1958, 1969, July 1977, October 1999, and November 2007? Black days in Pakistan’s political history. His grandfather and mother, too, were victims of those military interventions.

Abrogation of constitutions, brutal oppression during military rules; execution of Z.A.Bhutto following a controversial split 3-4 Supreme Court verdict, flogging of politicians and journalists, and imposition of Governor’s Rule in 2008 by a democratic government, are all black spots in the chequered history of this country led by military and two dynasties.

India and Pakistan boast different histories – as the then US President George Bush had said at the President’s House in Islamabad on March 2006.

Bilawal also implied that the arson and violence in Lahore and Peshawar witnessed on May 9 – when Imran Khan was arrested – was PTI led, holding the party responsible for the violent events. It sounded like a naïve analogy Bilawal drew to pin down the PTI.

Should people have implied that what followed the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, was led and instigated by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP)? The assassination itself was a tragic Black Day – when enraged mobs went amok, looted banks, and torched nearly 4000 vehicles and public, and private properties.

Nobody did so for three simple reasons; when angry mobs gather it becomes difficult to control emotions. You only need one or two instigators to trigger violence. Secondly, the mob is the best time for miscreants and proxies to create conditions that eventually reflect negatively on the party involved. How can you rule out that opponents infiltrate the ranks of the protestors to steer them into doing things that qualify as subversive acts. Thirdly, why wouldn’t those groups and people who nurture a grudge against police and the military ventilate anger on such occasions?

Another Black Day was May 12, 2007 – when MQM seized the entire Karachi with over 50 deaths including ANP and PPP workers. It was done with the support of General Musharraf (late). The same party now constitutes the lifeline for the PDM federal government.

Will Bilawal dare to call MQM out and ask for an apology?

Would it be redeeming for educated politicians like Bilawal to wind down their parochial anti-PTI rhetoric, reign in Sharjeel Memon and Murad Ali Shah from their vitriol against Imran Khan, and take logical positions on what has happened in the last few months? Instead of banding together with the royal family of Punjab – divided and stigmatized – the PPP can take a more pragmatic approach if its leaders want to resurrect the party nationally and make it relevant to most of Pakistan again.

Viewed against the sustained campaign on the events around the arrest of Imran Khan, should one assume that a case is being made to demonize the PTI as a violent and terrorist organization before eventually banning it?

Will the rhetoric on the “terrorist party” and willfully motivated equation of the PTI to the TTP really help the country? General Ziaul Haq’s worst repression failed to erase the name Bhutto from peoples’ minds for decades until Asif Zardari took charge of the party.

Meanwhile, several questions surround why the security of several key buildings in Lahore and Peshawar was missing once the crowds arrived there. It would certainly warrant a big investigation at some stage.

This commentary first appeared in Matrix Mag. Click here to go to the original.


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