Kiran Omar   


March in much of Pakistan is about Basant (spring festival marked by kite-flying), flowering landscapes and fine  weather. This past March in Pakistan, the Spring breezes brought more than flowers and fluttering kites, it was  marked by three significant events, that brought Pakistan to a turning point in its turbulent political history.



After a long, bitter and violent struggle to bring the insurgency in the Swat Valley, under control and restablish  the writ of the state in that area, the Zardai led PPP government had to concede defeat and strike a deal with  Maulana Sufi Mohammad, leader of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and allow his group  to implement their version of Sharia (Orthodox Islamic Law) in the area, in exchange for peace and an end to  armed conflict. A quick review of TSNM shows that it is a well armed militant group with heavy Wahabi and  Deobandi leanings. The group was banned and declared a terrorist group in 2002. His son-in-law, Maulana  Fazlullah, broke away from the main TSNM and formed a more radical and extremist splinter group that has  allied itself with the Taliban. Under the Swat Peace Deal, Sufi Mohammad has agreed to broker a permanent  peace between the government and Fazlullah, in exchange for complete implementation of Sharia as they  interpret it. Some examples of the concessions they seek are: the immediate installation of Shariat courts to  administer speedy justice to the people; curbs on female education and visibility in public life; removal of the  army presence from the area, etc.    Swat, until 1969, was amongst the pre-colonial era of princely states and was ruled by the Wali (Prince) of Swat.  Justice was delivered swiftly to people with little bureaucratic red tape, and the administration of the state was  efficient.


Since 1969, after joining Pakistan, Swat has not had a proper judicial system in place. Furthermore, the  infrastructure and social development of the region has been severely neglected. The Zardari government by  giving in to the demands of the militants and agreeing for this brokered Deal, is conceding its inability to  reestablish its writ in that region. It accepts its inability to resolve conclusively, the myriad social and  developmental issues of the people and offer them workable and viable political alternatives that will restore the  rule of law, deliver speedy justice and ensure their economic well being.  


What most political observers fear is that this Deal and one similar to it that is being brokered in Bajaur, will set  a dangerous precedence, whereby militants can bring large segments of the country under their control through  terrorizing the population into submission. The government behaving like a deer paralyzed by the headlights,  will have little recourse but to give in to their demands. It exposes the ineptitude and reveals the inner cracks of a  stumbling government, that appears to lurch from crisis to crisis, with no coherent policy or future political plan.    For now the murdering, violence and torture that was ripping the region apart, appears to have abated. Displaced  people are tentatively moving back into the ghost villages and communities, to try to reshape their tattered lives.  The urgent questions that comes to mind is that how can the human rights of the people be ensured if these same  militants who terrorized and brutalized the population into submission, are now in charge of their destinies?  What form will their implementation of Sharia take and how far can the government of Pakistan ensure that the  rights and welfare of the people? Most importantly, who will bring to justice the militants who perpetuated  untold and inhuman tortures and crimes against humanity? They themselves are now in the position of control  and shared governance. The Zardari government’s response is subdued, weak and confused on these questions.  The rhetoric is there, but it is clear that they do not have either the ability nor the political will to prevent human  rights abuses in the region.   


The second and consequently third, momentous events that marked the month was the Long March by lawyers  and civil society and the subsequent restoration of the deposed Chief Justice, Chaudhry Iftikhar.   These events can be safely termed as a triumphant rebirth of mass movements in Pakistan. There were a clear  affirmation of the determination of a beleaguered people to take a stand against vacillating and corrupt politics  and politicians. The laws passed by a military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, were reversed and the army held itself  aloof from cracking down on the marchers and protesters. It refused to deploy to areas where the government  had requisitioned, and the Chief of Army Staff, General Kiyani, met with President Zardari to make it clear that  the onus for resolving this political stand-off rests squarely on the government. The US recognizing the resolve  and frustration of the people, made their displeasure felt and US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton was firm in  “encouraging” Zardari to prevent an open confrontation and to quickly resolve the issue.   


A new era has dawned in Pakistani politics and a new beginning is tentatively spreading its fragile branches. The  lawyers movement, in pushing for the restoration of the CJ, created an awareness amongst people that they must  mobilize to defend their rights. A time for a new Social Contract was on hand, and the rules of engagement  would be rewritten. A freer media, both print and electronic, cohesive and united organization by the civil  society played key roles in galvanizing people to take their destiny in their own hands, and say loud and clear:  ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!


The gauntlet has been thrown down, it is now up to the government to take it up and redefine and redraw their  map of governance; will it be more of the same governance by political expediency, parochialism, corruption  and flaunting of civil rights? Or will they take this opportunity for redrawing a Code of Conduct and a Charter of  Democracy. Is the country poised on the threshold of good governance, justice and rule of law that will  strengthen the economic and social fabric of the country and perhaps help stem the tide of home-grown  insurgency and radicalism. One hopes that this unique combination of events have presented the country with a  new path to tread on the journey towards peace and prosperity.   


One cannot help but close with the words of the great Pakistani revolutionary poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz:



SUBH-E-AZADI (August 1947)


Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Ye dagh dagh ujala, ye shab-gazida sahar,


Vo intizar tha jis-ka, ye vo sahar to nahin,


Ye vo sahar to nahin jis-ki arzu lekar


Chale the yar ke mel-jaegi kahin na kahin


Falak ke dasht men taron ki akhiri manzil,


Kahin to hoga shab-e sust mauj ka sahil,


Kahin to jake rukega safina-e-gham-e-dil.


Jawan lahu ki pur-asrar shahrahon se


Chale jo yar to daman pe kitne hath pare;


Diyar-e-husn ki be-sabr khwabgahon se


Pukarti-rahin bahen, badan bulate-rahe;


Bahut aziz thi lekin rukh-e-sahar ki lagan,


Bahut qarin tha hasinan-e-nur ka daman,


Subuk subuk thi tamanna, dabi dabi thi thakan.


Suna hai ho bhi chuka hai firaq-e-zulmat-o-nur,


Suna hai ho bhi chuka hai visal-e-manzil-o-gam;


Badal-chuka hai bahut ahl-e-dard ka dastur,


Nishat-e-vasl halal o azab-e-hijr haram.


Jigar ki ag, nazar ki umang, dil ki jalan,

Kisi pe chara-e-hijran ka kuchh asar hi nahin.


Kahan se a’i nigar-e-saba, kidhar ko ga’i?


Abhi charagh-e-sar-e-rah ko kuchh khbar hi nahin;


Abhi girani-e-shab men kami nahin a’i,


Najat-e-dida-o-dil ki ghari nahin a’i;


Chale-chalo ke vo manzil abhi nahin a’i.




The Dawn of Freedom


These tarnished rays, this night-smudged light-


This is not that Dawn for which, ravished with freedom,


we had set out in sheer longing,


so sure that somewhere in its desert the sky harbored

a final haven for the stars, and we would find it.


We had no doubt that night’s vagrant wave would stray


towards the shore,


that the heart rocked with sorrow would at last reach its port.


Friends, our blood shaped its own mysterious roads.


When hands tugged at our sleeves, enticing us to stay,


and from wondrous chambers Sirens cried out


with their beguiling arms, with their bare bodies,


our eyes remained fixed on that beckoning Dawn,


forever vivid in her muslins of transparent light.


Our blood was young-what could hold us back?


Now listen to the terrible rampant lie:


Light has forever been severed from the Dark;


our feet, it is heard, are now one with their goal.


See our leaders polish their manner clean of our suffering:


Indeed, we must confess only to bliss;


we must surrender any utterance for the Beloved-all yearning


is outlawed.


But the heart, the eye, the yet deeper heart-


Still ablaze for the Beloved, their turmoil shines.


In the lantern by the road the flame is stalled for news:


Did the morning breeze ever come? Where has it gone?


Night weighs us down, it still weighs us down.


Friends, come away from this false light. Come, we must


search for that promised Dawn.



-Translated by Late Agha Shahid

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