Pakistan needs national dialogue and PM must take the first step

By: Syed Anwer Mahmood      Published: 12:54 PM, 6 Nov, 2020
Pakistan needs national dialogue and PM must take the first step
File photo.

It cannot be more bizarre and more brazen. Ayaz Sadiq could not have been more explicit in what he said and what he said was carried live. And two days later, he stands up alongside Maulana Fazlur Rehman and says both the government and the Indian media are misinterpreting his statement.

Now does he expect the Indian media to call him and ask him if he said what he said? And did the Pakistani media also misreport his tirade, bordering on treachery, against his own army and against his own country. And in the same breath he said he stood by what he said.

The Maulana was quick to describe Mr Ayaz’s statement as statesman like. Now does 2+2 not equal to 4? Both are right when they say nobody has the right to call anyone a traitor. But what does one call someone who not just ridicules his own army but also turns around to describe his army’s and his country’s clear victory against its greatest enemy as an act of capitulation.

Now if the Indian media had ignored such a damning statement by a former Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, I would have called them outright stupid. Sure enough, they latched on to it in no time and went on to shout “didn’t we say so.”

Free media the world over is free for everything except when it comes to reporting on interstate matters. Indian media is a classic example of that circumspection and self-censorship. Sadly not so in Pakistan where a free media, a section of it I should say, is yet to distinguish between freedom and self-restraint in matters of interstate relationship, specially when it comes to India. But moving back to the Ayaz Sadiq episode, does one not notice a pattern since the Gujranwala rally?

Two days back, I had written about the crisis looming over our head as did many other writers with a background of Pakistan’s political history. That a number of our political players of today are driven totally by self-interest is no secret. But that they will go to such an extent in their pursuit of self-interest, I could not imagine.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman said in Lahore the other day that it was an indication of the doomsday that Muslim League’s patriotism is being doubted. He is right except that it is Muslim League-Nawaz. The Muslim League that got us Pakistan was hijacked only a few years after independence and was transformed and truncated by successive rulers. It is thus that we see successors of those who won Pakistan and those who opposed it stand shoulder to shoulder to defend and justify their narrative which is anything but helpful to the country.

Calling for a free and fair election is in perfect order. Calling for non-interference in governance is perfectly in order. But for that, the political leadership has to put its own house in order first. Let there be an end to dynasty politics and an end to the political parties being run as private limited companies. Let a commoner also rise to the highest ranks in politics. Let every party practise true democracy and inspire others by example.

Pakistan needs a national dialogue today more than ever. A dialogue that must go back to the basics that must encompass every national issue including a revisit of the Constitution. Pakistan’s security and its economy demands that. Pakistan and Pakistanis deserve that. For that dialogue to take place, egos and self-interests on both sides will have to be pushed back. Let the accountability process continue along with the national dialogue. The Prime Minister has to take the first step even if he believes it will be a non-starter. Short of that the inevitable may happen and that inevitable Pakistan cannot afford.

The writer is a former federal information secretary.