From Bhutto to Zia to Musharraf, ‘No Apologies’ Should be Our National Motto | Akhtar

The All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) denies that former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf offered an apology over the ‘murder’ of slain Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. Perhaps the ex-army strongman felt that there was no need to offer an apology to begin with, or perhaps he was just being true to the image he projects — a straightforward, no-nonsense man of action.

Some people may see this attitude as his belief in the uprightness of his character; others may consider it to be an institutional legacy, but the truth is that this statement of his belies an attitude that those in power have always adopted: Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Bhutto, Zardari and all others before and after.

“No apologies” should be our national motto.

Back in the days when Ayub Khan defeated Fatima Jinnah in a scandalous election that saw the only unifying political figure of the time resigned to the backwaters of Pakistan’s politics, Khan was sure — thanks in no parts to pious bureaucrats like Qudrat ullah Shahab — that he was the ‘chosen one’.

He owed us an apology for dismantling the democratic matrix in Pakistan for all ages to come.

Before the partition of Pakistan, when our ‘dark skinned’ brothers were still with us, we treated them with an attitude that was both racist and contemptuous. History has much to say about it.

When a proposal to build public washroom facilities in the then East Pakistan was put forth, one of the decision-makers noted the futility of the cause, saying the same could be achieved with banana leaves.

Not only was the comment racist to the core, there was a sheer lack of concern for ground realities. The elder brothers then left us, with a bloody struggle that made Faiz Ahmed Faiz yearn for rains heavy enough to wash out all the bloodstains.

But an apology was never tendered.

When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto nationalised all industries, including educational institutions like FC college, that resulted in a sharp decline of educational standards, not to mention the collapse of several of those nationalised industries, he did not apologise to us.

He left with no words of solace to those who were affected by ‘Islamic Socialism’ or to the nation that bore the brunt of his decisions.

Also read: A leaf from history: The prime minister is hanged

Ziaul Haq may be forgiven for what he did during the ‘Black September’ affair in Jordan. Presumably he was just following orders. But when he became the order, he introduced a cottage industry of international jihadis in our homeland, oblivious of its implications to the society.

Thirty years later, we are still reaping the crimson crop of his ‘expedient’ harvest.

Ziaul Haq owed me an apology. He owed this nation an apology.

During the 80s when the Kalabagh Dam was a reality, select politicians decided to play a game of ‘Who wants to be a Nationalist?’

Just like when younger sisters in a house are languishing for marriage proposals, while the eldest one blocks the way, no other major hydro-electric project could come into play.

It’s difficult to pin the blame on any one person, but ultimately the onus falls on all governments: from Benazir Bhutto’s to Nawaz Sharif’s, for failing to provide a solution — any solution — for Pakistan’s national energy policy. Those who burn tires on the roads in protest against load shedding deserve an apology. An apology which never came and probably never will.

From military coups to failed policies, from political murders to systematic suppression of minorities, there is a long list of acts for which national leaders owe us apologies.

Musharraf, you think you were the best thing that happened to Pakistan. So much so that you almost believed that you and Pakistan are inseparable. No wonder ‘Pakistan first’ was your favourite slogan.

Your partial commitment to the war on terror, your clumsy handling of the Lal Masjid build-up and a hideous incrimination of an equally doubtful character like Iftikhar Chaudhry have left deep scars in the present memory of Pakistan.

The fact that you came up with the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and a sham referendum to extend your rule (not unlike Ziaul Haq) makes it hard to attribute any genuineness to you for the words you speak.

The Bugti killing is yet another incident which may have some merit in the eyes of decisions-makers, but time proved that ultimately it was the soothing hand of democracy that may quell the rebellion.

The list is inexhaustible. From military coups to failed policies, from political murders to systematic suppression of minorities, there is a long list of acts for which national leaders owe us apologies.

Funny thing about history is that it repeats itself, especially for those who don’t learn from it.

Perhaps of all the crimes in our history, the one we have been most guilty of is failing to retrospect.

Perhaps what this country really needs is an apology.


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