‘ZINDAGI kay naam per bass ik ijazat chahiyeh/ Mujh ko inn saray jara’im ki ijazat chahiyeh’ (In the name of life I seek permission/Permission to commit all these crimes)
No second guess is required to know whose admission this is. This is a confession by Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The man who escaped punishment for his selection of bad verse some years ago has been recently convicted a second time. What’s even more satisfying, he has duly been made fun of by the media — one party he had held at bay for more than four years.
All the right film songs have been masterfully used to celebrate his much-sought ouster. And he has been condemned to the bin of history following his telltale donation of blood to mark the birthday of his acquired leader, Ms Benazir Bhutto.
The verse — with all its poetic merits or demerits — is flashed at the start of Mr Gilani’s seen-all, been-all, all-over-the-place book, Chah-i-Yousuf Say Sada. It is his shikwah against the lightning that has selectively struck politicians here.
The poem protests his incarceration, with an opening line which says all doors have been closed on him and his vision has been blocked. It talks about the crime of wanting to know ‘why?’ and asking ‘what?’
The book is Mr Gilani’s account of the journey from a feudal Multan household to the office of a minister that landed him in jail. The turns and twists are too spectacular for the book to effectively explain, let alone justify.
Mr Gilani’s progress since then has been placed under the microscope and at least one of his prophecies — about the proximity between the prime minister’s house in Islamabad and the prison — has all but come true, a jail cell being unnecessary for confinement or debilitation in this case.
The absence of freedoms to ‘think beyond faith and beliefs’ — to borrow from the poem in Chah-i-Yousuf — is not the topic that would guarantee a wide enough audience today.
The emphasis, quite clearly, is on how, post-jail, Yousuf Gilani failed to select for himself a path that would guarantee him lasting freedoms. He had an option to be treated better by history; he failed to tread the path that others have and he was expected to have taken. He, a politician known to have changed parties in the past, must pay for this great folly — not just in political terms, but through his contribution to Pakistani humour.
PM Gilani’s was the worst. Period. But he could have been a saviour if he wanted to. His initial couple of years in office during which he could hardly be blamed for making any political noises are forgotten as an unproductive phase.
Instead, Mr Gilani (and his successor Raja Pervez Ashraf) has exposed himself to be demonised as a hopeless loyalist to an individual rather than being seen as the harbinger of a view that is not in conformity with some prevailing ideologies that are easier to follow.
They are not politicians belonging to a party which cannot help having a certain view on a certain subject. They are not elected representatives qualified to hold the prime minister’s office. They are certainly not worthy politicians showing consistency at personal loss. They are plain, hopeless, thoughtless loyalists to the man who they needed to rise against to salvage their personal political careers and save the country.
If Mr Gilani has set a precedent against the tradition of the maligned Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari, it is a precedent no one wanted. The demand is for conscientious fellow party men turning against their leader, à la Leghari, and delivering to the wishes of those who are within their rights when they demand a snap election and act as ghosts from an uneasy past when they appear to be encouraging floor crossing.
Isn’t it ultimately one group of loyalists pitted against another, ultimately a war in which various groups are fighting for the supremacy of individuals who have come to symbolise a particular cause?
Why is it that members of one group to the dispute are labelled as loyalists while the others are seen to be doing a job assigned to them due to their affiliation to a cause?
The Gilanis, the Raja Pervez Ashrafs of our world are easily ridiculed because they are portrayed as lacking in any kind of authority to hit back. Among politicians they can be ridiculed while many others are spared for fear of a television channel being stopped.
On the other hand, a television host can boastfully present the ‘anti-Gilani’ bits in his record as proof of his impartiality as he seeks to clear his name in a fixing scandal…. ‘Musa Gilani…why is it that your family’s name is dragged into every scandal.…?’ Now go prove your innocence while some others are innocent while proved otherwise.
It is obvious Mr Gilani’s dynasty in the making got it terribly wrong. They would have been a hailed as saviours had they chosen to deliver to the wishes of the anti-jiyalas, which are a model in objectivity as opposed to the shameless, and more importantly, badly out of sync, PPP jiyalas.
Both Mr Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf are fit to be condemned as loyalists just as the meek voices that point out the possibility — and the necessity and absolute inevitability — of there existing two views on a subject are shouted down.
Tailpiece: For those who believe in President Asif Zardari’s power of reconciliation and his gift for coming up with all kinds of combinations, the election of Raja Pervez Ashraf as prime minister does offer an example.
Mr Zardari failed to have a man from Gujrat or from Rahim Yar Khan as prime minister yet came up with a compromise: Gujrat+R.Y. Khan=Gujar Khan. Is it finally the Zardari masterstroke everyone had been waiting for?
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.