Published in: The News-International
Friday, March 21, 2008
A conversation with the president
I sit down to write this article, addressed to anyone who maybe interested in reading it. March 16 was a very special day for me, as I had the opportunity to watch myself on one of the largest television networks, sitting across a room, conversing with a man who I believe has made a tremendous mark in Pakistan’s history, President Pervez Musharraf.
The setting was at his residence in Rawalpindi and the intention was to have a conversation that would allow me and the audience watching us on screen understand Pervez Musharraf the man a little better. After all, we have a right to know him well, he has been our president for the last few years now and as far as my children are concerned, he is the only president they know and for the sake of history, they must understand him well as a man.
The conversation is now itself history and has left me and hopefully a large number of the audience watching the conversation completely convinced that Pervez Musharraf is a very practical, sensitive, patriotic and extremely special man. A man who loves his people and his country perhaps much more than he himself realizes. Throughout the conversation he spoke of his nation like his family and spoke very little of the family that he has had to force into the background for the well being of his nation.
I wrote this article after the conversation had taken place and had been shared with a large audience thanks to Geo Network. I would like to share my motivation and feelings regarding the need to have this conversation in the first place.
Not so long ago, I watched General Pervez Musharraf, a military man, take over our country on Pakistan Television. The takeover was due to the fact that the then prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharrif, had decided to hijack an aircraft carrying this military man who also happened to be the army chief of Pakistan at the time to try to stop him from entering his own country, apparently over personal differences they had developed.
Why Nawaz Sharrif risked the life of our army chief in this way and couldn’t find a more civilized manner to handle the situation is to date a mystery but alas typically feudal. Anyway, since almost all of us know what the facts are from that particular event, I would like to skip to the present and look back at the past few years since we have had President Musharraf around.
Watching him giving that first speech in 1999 gave me an immediate sense of peace and security. I don’t know why but I remember looking at him and thinking, thank God, finally after years of a so-called civilian and democratic leadership that has shown very little love for the land, we may have a person in control who is, if nothing else, due to his military background going to be committed to the safety of Pakistan.
Funnily enough, after all these years I still feel the same way even though we have recently had a free and fair election and a new government is about to be formed. Unfortunately, it’s all the same old players back in the ring. How quickly we forget what they were and how they treated us as a nation. Does a leopard ever change its spots? Maybe, perhaps this time around they will behave differently realizing that the world is watching us very carefully to note every slip we make.
Having followed President Musharraf’s last few years with great interest, I believe that he has given us his best in the worst of times. September 11, 2001, was not just a terrible event for America but was just as devastating for Pakistan. We were the ones who were going to have to carry the onward burden to try to stop such attacks in the future anywhere in the world. What would have happened if we had a civilian government at the time, I dread to think. At least a military man in control had the inner strength and overall support needed to tackle a time such as 9/11 and onwards for us.
We speak of democracy and never stop to think, how can feudal lords become democratic leaders? How can they hold office when they have perhaps never held a job in their entire lives? How do we expect a free and fair election in a country like Pakistan where these feudal lords can fill buses with ten rupees a head to acquire their vote bank? What is so wrong with a military man being in control who has turned out to be more free thinking and fair-handed than any of his civilian counterparts? It saddens me to think that we have marginalized our army to such an extent that it seems to be the enemy.
Maybe I have missed the plot totally but then again, I feel safer in the hands of my army that takes root from a middleclass backdrop and is committed to die for its country, than in the hands of a small elitist number of feudal landlords that shall never have an understanding of how the common man struggles in Pakistan.
So here’s to President Pervez Musharraf:
They may never ever try to understand you
They may never ever really care
But for whatever it’s worth
They shall always remember you
As you have made your mark in history
By: Atiqa Odho