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Can A Democrat Like Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan Answer These Questions

By       Message Ahmed Quraishi       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, a Pakistani politician turned rights activist, is successfully pandering to an American audience that knows zilch about Pakistan, or about Mr. Ahsan’s own history. He can wow the Americans all he wants, but only we, the ordinary Pakistanis, know Mr. Ahsan’s undemocratic history within his own political party. Welcome again to Pakistan, where the hero-of-the-month is just another feudal politician fighting for his pie.


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—You have to wonder which side of Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan’s personality is more sinister: the politician? Or the lawyer?

In his first capacity, as a politician, Mr. Ahsan voted his party boss – Benazir Bhutto, a fellow feudal – as party president for life. In his second capacity, he convinced a judge – Iftikhar Chaudhry – to commit professional suicide by assuring him that support was on the way from Washington. 

And now, this ambitious and suave lawyer/politician is almost on the verge of convincing many Americans and some Pakistanis that he, and not Iftikhar Chaudhry, is the champion of democracy and free judiciary in Pakistan.

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I wish I could believe him. I count myself among the third- and fourth-generation young Pakistanis who are searching for leadership, who make up almost two-thirds of this great nation, and who need no lessons to know that the failures of Pakistani politicians are unparalleled in world democracies. Trust me, with very, very few exceptions, our bunch is somewhere in the lowest crust of garbage pile in a forgotten dumpster. The “puppeticians,” as Fatima Bhutto has aptly described them.


I wish Mr. Ahsan was a real messiah. But I know better. I have a feeling Mr. Ahsan knows too.


So there he was, the ambitious Choudhry Aitzaz Ahsan appearing in the Washington Post this week with some American legislator, taking a cheap shot at our men and women in the Pakistani armed forces. In an op-ed piece, Mr. Ahsan and his American legislator friend appealed hard for the revival of a protest movement mounted by “judges, lawyers, journalists, political opponents and human rights advocates.” In short, revive the failed conspiracy that sought to cripple the Pakistani State and its military through chaos manufactured by a calculated domestic street dissent and external media pressure. (Remember Ukraine’s Orange Revolution?)

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But thank god Pakistan, after all, is not a banana republic, and foreign forces cannot land here – like the Americans did in Panama – to arrest a president in Islamabad and install another one in his place.


So I chuckled when I read Mr. Ahsan’s self-portrayal in Washington Post as a democratic and human rights leader whose only crime is “representing, in legal proceedings, the illegally sacked Chief Justice of Pakistan.”


Unfortunately, Mr. Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan’s quest for political immortality as a selfless rights leader and a brilliant attorney who fought the ultimate legal battle to restore democracy is obstructed by the following questions:


-         If you are a real democrat, why did you not leave Mrs. Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party when she manipulated an internal vote to get herself ‘elected’ a lifetime president, killing democracy within the party and forever ending the chances of future leadership to emerge? Was this a case of two feudal lords – you and your party boss – watching out for each other’s interest?


-         Why did you not leave the party when your client, the former chief justice, questioned a law that pardons Mrs. Bhutto’s massive corruption record, a law that is still pending in the court and is expected to be struck down as unconstitutional?


-         Why are you firmly keeping one foot in PPP while resting the other in the lawyers’ community? Are you hedging your bets? Are you not sure of the triumph of your principles?

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-         You convinced your party chief not to expel you from the party because, unlike your party, you are boycotting the elections in deference to the lawyers. Reports suggest you have convinced your party boss that, should she lose the coming elections, you would hand over the lawyers’ movement to her as an alternative way of getting back at Musharraf?


-         In your column of about 500 words in Washington Post mostly focused on judiciary and democracy, why did you and your American friend deliberately drag in the Pakistani military?  Sure, spending on education is low in Pakistan. But how is this the military’s problem? Why is it not the problem of politicians like you? It is your party’s government that nationalized and crippled enterprising Pakistani educational institutions back in the 1970s. And today, your party leader goes to Balochistan to sympathize with warlords who banned constructing schools in their feudal domains fearing education would emancipate the poorer Pakistanis.


The point is that you are a brilliant lawyer/politician. I know it. You know it too. You should lead a party and not be subservient to one. But all your brilliance will not get you party leadership. The Zardaris will never let you rise to the top slot.

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Ahmed Quraishi is one of Pakistan's youngest political commentators. He produces and hosts a weekly talk show on PTV News. He also heads the Pakistan Project at an independent, Islamabad-based think tank. He has closely covered the first three wars (more...)

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