THE DAY I WAS PROMISED FREEDOM

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BY: Lt. Gen. (r) Tariq Khan

“Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectation”

I was young and naive, when on being disappointed on losing some insignificant game, I was usually consoled by the saying, ‘Every dog has his day’. It was said to comfort me. Assure me that one day, good luck may even come my way. That better times would eventually be there. I even believed it then. I am now 65 years old and I am still waiting for that day – hopelessly.

Substantial sacrifices were probably made to educate me and to bring me up in the best of traditions, customs and values as they were known to be then. But later in life, I usually found my education to come in my way rather than help me progress. I could have very well done without it. I learnt very quickly that our culture does not appreciate, civic sense, good manners, honesty or truth and instead I had to find ways and means to survive in a system where being a knave was easier than being respectable. That is why, in a culture such as this, our comedy shows have slowly relegated themselves to what we can witness on TV – slapstick street humor. It is easier to display no standards or values, lie rather than tell the truth just because one can, exaggerate one’s own capacity and capability but shy away from recognizing through  one’s own failures. We, the people, through our own doings, are subjected to uneducated leadership and the few that are educated have the IQ of a monkey – we prefer it be this way. It reduces the intellectual and moral gap between the governed and the government. We accept all this as if it was in our stars; we call it fate, destiny and karma and not something of our own making; in fact, we are incapable of making anything without being duly supervised or influenced – we have learnt to respect people more for their capacity to break the law rather than follow it. We as a people are reduced to being a mob – hailing the high and mighty, bowing and scraping before authority and lending ourselves to be part of a maddening crowd for the little scraps thrown our way. We are no longer our own people but someone else’s – we regurgitate their arguments, their logic, their values but have none of our own. We have no opinion, independent thought or principle.

Ever since I was aware of my life and living, I have been exposed to General Yahya’s thrasonical brag during the 1971 war, that every house would be turned into a fortress – we surrendered the next day and East Pakistan was lost. Then there was Bhutto, mesmerizing people with his rhetoric; we still have not recovered from his era of nationalizing property in the mistaken belief that wealth would be equally distributed, instead misery was measured out to all by him.

This was followed by General Zia ul Haq, a deadly concoction of religion and politics – we never recovered from that either and pretended to be die-hard Muslims but forgot Islam in our enthusiasm to be even better Muslims as Islam was whipped into our homes and lives. Then there was the wasted decade: Benazir-Nawaz-Benazir again and Nawaz again. The nation got poorer and the people more irrelevant. We witnessed President Musharaf and his enlightened moderation; all talk and no substance. Extremism grew and violence perpetuated. Then with a peculiar twist in fate, Zardari made it from The Bambino Cinema to the Presidency after murdering his wife. The nation was almost bankrupt and the people just vassals and victims of exploitation. But then back to Nawaz and corruption galore, the nation was gasping for its life and the people conned into living the consequences of an artificial democracy.

Yet, at last there was a ray of hope when Imran Khan ascended the throne. It was short lived for he soon lost the crown he wore. He never anticipated how the system worked or how institutions were dysfunctional and instead preferred to live in a fool’s paradise. A Don Quixote charging windmills. Later, he decided to right the wrong through a display of might and people’s power and announced a Jihad, only to turn back in the face of intimidation – something he has now made a habit of. The people who were finally stirred from their slumber and stood with Imran, were let down and abandoned, as our very own warrior decided to live to fight another day. The ray of hope now torn to shreds has brought us back to being what we always were – servile nobody’s who had dared to hope that their day had finally arrived.

So, this dog, for one, has still not got his day. That day had actually arrived, when there appeared a promise of being free on the distant horizon but it disappeared into nothing; lost in the very wind that carried the promise to all of us – a whisper in the breeze. But still, this dog has not had his day.

This article is written by Lt General (r) Tariq Khan, the man who fought the war against militancy in most critical time of Pakistan’s history. He led active military operations as Brigadier, IGFC and as Lt General of Pakistan Army.As Commander Central Command and Corps Commander Lt General (retd) Tariq Khan was part of important decision making relating to Pakistan’s security.