Is Ghazi Salahuddin's Analysis Fair or Factual?

Jul 4th, 2010 | By | Category: The News

Ghazi SalahuddinGhazi Salahuddin caught my attention this morning with his column for The News, “Under Zia’s Shadow”. In this piece, Salahuddin makes the claim that the legacy of Zia-ul-Haq continues to shape Pakistani policy, especially in the struggle against religious militancy. This is an interesting, if not wholly original discussion though certainly one that is necessary. But halfway through his column the author begins to make curious statements about the present coalition government and its supposed unwillingness to take on the Zia legacy and change the path of the nation. I tell you this surprised me.Ghazi Salahuddin known as an intellectual, but is he being intellectually honest?

My eyebrows shot up in surprise when I read the following:

I have alluded to the responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the military to deal with the legacy of Zia. But we now have civilian and professedly democratic rulers. What is their responsibility and how are they discharging it? Irrespective of the limits of the power they possess, they have obviously not taken any concrete steps to revise the policies that are rooted in Zia’s attempts to Islamise our polity.

After all, we should remember Zia not just for his religious fervour and how he invested it in his support for the Afghan jihad. He was the one who committed the judicial murder of the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party. Incidentally it is not only the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that the present rulers have to avenge, not in any literal sense but metaphorically. There is the more recent and still bleeding wound that the terrorists, Zia’s disciples in some ways, inflicted in December 2007.

Does this not mean that the first task of the present government, led by the PPP, is to mobilise the liberal and democratic forces in this country to change its ideological sense of direction? Democracy is the best revenge, they proclaim, invoking the political wisdom of Benazir Bhutto. However, they have not done much in this direction in more than two years that they have been at the helm of affairs.

It is truly unfortunate that in spite of their coalition with the Awami National Party, itself wedded to the legacy of Bacha Khan, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a seemingly secular outfit, no decisive steps have been taken to reverse the tide that was raised by Zia’s Islamisation. Indeed, the 18th Amendment did not dare to tackle laws introduced by Zia, including the Blasphemy Law.

I must say that I find it incredible that Ghazi Salahuddin can suggest with a straight face that parliament has “not done much in this direction in more than two years that they have been at the helm of affairs”.

Any evaluation must be made with some measurement of comparison. An elephant may be giant to a man, but compared to a planet it is quite small. When Ghazi Salahuddin says that the present government has “not done much” to address the Islamisation of Zia, who is he comparing to? Is he comparing to Musharraf who made deals with MMA to pass the 17th Amendment and consolidate power for himself? Or is he comparing to Nawaz Sharif who presented the Shariat Bill to the National Assembly? Yes, Musharraf was finally convinced to ban some militant groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, but wasn’t he also using these same militants during Kargil conflict and in Kashmir? Nawaz Sharif has also lately been making some statements against militants, but the better comparison is really with his time in power, not in opposition. That is not to discount Nawaz’s recent statements, but we must compare ‘apple to apple’ – surely an intellectual like Ghazi Salahuddin would agree.

So now let us look at the facts of the last two years. I will not say that there is not more to be done, but to suggest that the present government is doing nothing against Islamisation and militancy is absurd.

18th Amendment may not have perfected the Constitution, but it was certainly an important work of legislation and much needed. Also, the fact that it was passed unanimously across the parties must be respected. Surely Ghazi Salahuddin believes that building consensus and returning powers is a positive move.

Protection Against Harassment of Women in the Workplace Bill was a historic piece of legislation to protect the women’s rights. Does Ghazi Salahuddin not place importance on women’s rights and empowerment?

President Zardari signs women protection bill

President Zardari signs women protection bill

Actually, the American website Foreign Policy includes a recent post by the academic C. Christine Fair that argues against the inclusion of Pakistan on a list of ‘failed states’ and says the present government is making important progress against militancy. Have we now entered some bizarre world where the Americans are more willing to recognize our progress while our own intellectuals beat a drum of ‘do more’?

Ghaza Salahuddin perhaps reveals the true source of his anger at the end of the column when it comes to the issue of ‘fake degees’. This seems to be a pain to all of our public intellectuals, perhaps because they are so proud of their own degrees that they do not want any challenge to their own elitism. But Ghaza Salahuddin forgets the facts when he writes incorrectly:

But lying on record is a crime that any politician in a genuine democracy must pay with public disgrace and a prison sentence.

Perhaps Ghaza Salahuddin has not heard of a man named William Jefferson Clinton who was President of the United States of America and found to have lied under oath? Bill Clinton was not removed from office and did not face any prison sentence. In fact, he was allowed to continue being president and finish his elected term.

Ghazi Salahuddin is a respected public intellectual and writer, so it is important that when he is given a public platform such as the column of a newspaper that he is both fair and factual. He does not have to present any particular view but his own, but he should have intellectual honesty when he makes his arguments. Today’s column, unfortunately, fails both the fair and the factual test. We hope he does better in the future.

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  1. The Bill Clinton analogy was very erroneous due to the fact that many law makers in the United States clearly believe that it was veracious to have the president removed from office and possibly face other legal consequences. Also, since when do we hold the actions of another country especially the USA as the gold standard of right conduct. You sound foolish, you may not have to agree with Ghazi Salahuddin and that is fine, but please be careful in not crossing the line and accusing the writer of being “dishonest”
    Any educated reader would have a gripe with your opinion.

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