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OUR HISTORY IS FULL OF SECOND MARRIAGES

There is a famous saying that second marriage is triumph of hope over experience. In no other sphere of life is this saying more pertinent than governance. Pakistan’s history is full of ‘second marriages.’ The pre-Ayub Khan period of hand-picked and manipulated governments provided the people of Pakistan a very bitter experience. Hence the countrywide jubilation at the promulgation of Martial Law which was widely seen as a harbinger of revolutionary change. This was the first triumph of hope over experience. Each new government since then, whether of democratic, pseudo-democratic, autocratic or quasi-autocratic dispensation, has kindled new hopes of departure from all the bitter experiences of the past. But unfortunately no second marriage has brought happiness in the truest sense of the word. No hope has ever materialized. True, President Pervez Musharraf came to power in an illegitimate way by flouting the country’s constitution. True also that those who suffered because of his ‘unconstitutional grabbing of power’ have a legitimate reason to hold him guilty. But equally true is the fact that his emergence on the national scene was accompanied with very high hopes on the part of a substantial chunk of the country’s population. After all a great deal of disillusionment had been caused among the intelligentsia as well as the masses due to the politics of acrimony practiced by the leading contenders for power – also the unending witch-hunt that had polarized the society. The people by and large were ready for change – even of an illegitimate nature. Let it be acknowledged that the advent of General Pervez Musharraf was yet another triumph of hope over experience. Of course this hope too was doomed to be dashed. And after an experience of over eight years of Musharraf’s autocratic rule, Pakistan is back to square one. This time ‘marriage’ has taken place between the ‘change-hungry’ people and the ‘grand coalition’ of the parties that had previously been at each other’s throats and had separately been in power twice. Hopes are riding high again. Paradoxically, the people, by clinging to the familiar (Bhutto’s PPP and Nawaz’s PML ) are hoping, even more fiercely, for change. There is an irony in this situation. This irony is best described by Giuseppe di Lampedusa in his statement: Everything must change so that everything can remain the same. The question that arises in this context is: Can any reform, or change be achieved by keeping everything the same? The answer quite clear is No. Then are Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mr. Asif Ali Zardari prepared to act in a bold departure from the past practices – their own as well as those of the others? Can we invest our hopes in the belief that we are not going to go back (again) to square one? CAN WE?
12 – 04 – 2008

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