By Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan
July 05, 2011
Fifth (5th) July 1977 was one of the darkest day in the history of Pakistan. Every year this day brings back the bitter memories of an adventure when a general in a bid to clinch power, consigned the country to the curse of a dictatorial rule, suspended the constitution and turned backwards the wheel of progress. The clouds of the curse of martial law were so dark that even after 34 years; they are still hovering around imperilling the security of the country.
After the Dhaka debacle in December 1971, General Yahya Khan abdicated power to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founding Chairman of PPP who had won majority in the elections and consequently Pakistan for the first time had an elected and democratic ruler. The country was in the midst of the most precarious period of its existence after losing half of its territory. An ambience of uncertainty prevailed in what was left of Pakistan, due to the long periods of martial laws in the country. The institutions had lost their prestige and all avenues of development were clogged. Under these unexpected and critical circumstances Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in his capacity as the first elected ruler, pledged to re-write the destiny of the people and assumed their leadership with the determination to put Pakistan on the road to progress. He retrieved five thousand square miles of territory captured by India and also secured the repatriation of ninety thousand POWs, through negotiations on the basis of sovereign equality.
He established diplomatic relations with almost all the countries of the world with a view to revive the dwindling goodwill of Pakistan and to win the highest place in the comity of nations. He not only restored relations with the Muslim countries but turned them into perennial and durable friendship. It was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who in a way choreographed the emergence of the Islamic Block by hosting the Islamic Summit at Lahore in February 1974 and by bringing all the Muslim countries on one platform, sent a strong signal to the outside world that the Muslim Ummah stood united. He launched the ID card programme, extended the facility of passport to every citizen and created myriad of employment opportunities for the people by exporting manpower to the outside world. He was also the architect of the infallible Pak-China friendship, which is instrumental to earning of the much needed foreign exchange for the country. He gave the country the first unanimous constitution, which is still in vogue.
The present regime has restored the constitution to its original shape by removing the constitutional depredations introduced by the dictator, with the unanimous approval of the parliament. This constitution is a symbol of strength and stability of Pakistan. In line with the demand of the constitution, the process of devolution of power to the provinces has been completed and the people of the provinces have heaved a sigh of relief due to the provincial autonomy given to them. Besides this, the 1973 Constitution envisaged a number of welfare-oriented steps that recognized the provision of basic facilities to the masses as their fundamental right.
The defence of the country was made impregnable through the acquisition of nuclear technology and a number of projects pertaining to nuclear energy, like Kahuta Research Laboratory and Chashma Nuclear Power Plant were initiated during that period. Grand projects like Heavy Mechanical Complex, which are vital for the development of a country, were also set up during the rule of Quaid-e-Awam (Leader of the People).
He unravelled labour and farmer friendly policies and enacted laws to protect the rights of the downtrodden masses. He made labourers the shareholders of the capitalists and also allotted lands to the Haris (tillers). He created surfeit of employment opportunities and the law and order situation was also satisfactory during his regime. Living up to his pledge of changing the fate of the people of Pakistan, the Quaid-e-Awam during his five and a half year rule did things which amazed his opponents as well as the world. Due to the achievements of the first truly elected leadership of Pakistan, the developed countries felt threatened by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, because if Pakistan had continued to progress at the same pace it would have left behind the third world countries and joined the prestigious club of the developed nations within a decade.
The fascist powers could not tolerate the spectacle of a Muslim country challenging them. Therefore, to stop Bhutto in his tracks, the fascist powers of the world bought the loyalties of General Zia Ul Haq to implement their conspiracies against him. This benefactor-basher promulgated martial law and pushed the country into a morass of darkness. That was the beginning of the rejection of the revolution for progress. The elected prime minister was incarcerated. The first democratically elected prime minister was implicated in a fabricated murder case and then got condemned to death by a lower court.
Now, President Asif Ali Zardari has sent a reference to the independent judiciary, on the conviction of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, which is being heard by the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in his remarks has said that the sending of the reference by the president was a matter of honour for the court. The objective of sending the reference is to challenge the legality of the punishment awarded to the Quaid-e-Awam and redeem his honour in the court of law. In the dictatorial ear of Zia Ul Haq, apart from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed many workers of PPP were also executed, incarcerated and flogged. Nusrat Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto were also put behind bars and subjected to violent treatment publicly. During the dictatorial rule of Zia, tyranny was at its pinnacle.
The persecution let loose against the PPP workers also impacted the people of Pakistan. Religious extremism was encouraged due to which sectarian violence raised its ugly head. The country was inundated with arms and ammunition. During the Afghan war, the refugees were allowed to move freely in the country, who gifted heroin and Klashnikov culture to Pakistan that hollowed the roots of the country. Organizations were set up and promoted on linguistic and racial basis that created fissures in the Pakistani society. Democratic thinking, freedom of expression and dispensing justice were curbed. The unending dark night swallowed free thinking, intellectualism and fine arts. The intellectuals and competent people went into exile. An ideology of ignorance was foisted on the people.
Those eleven years were so dreadful that the country still has not been able to extricate itself from its ill-effects. The seeds of sectarianism, division on lingual basis and violent creed that were planted in those days have blossomed into strong trees. These evils could not be eliminated because democratic process was obstructed. The present government, under the stewardship President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is striving hard to get rid of those evils but it is not possible to decimate the cancers that were launched 34 year ago, within three and a half years. To accomplish this task we need continuity of the democratic process so that our beloved country can come out of the era of darkness and tyranny and begin its sojourn towards tranquillity and prosperity.
The writer is the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting.
Source: The News, Islamabad