For all the years I have followed Pakistani politics, from the inside as a student political leader, or from the outside as a media person, I have always been amazed by the huge number of historic opportunities squandered by Pakistan, Pakistanis and Pakistani generals, judges and politicians.
From the dictator Zia having an opportunity to clean up the country of corruption, to Benazir Bhutto doing something for womenkind and education, history was wasted. Ghulam Ishaq Khan was thrust into the role of President and blew a historic opportunity for him to be apolitical, and have a chance to be someone Pakistanis would remember as a hero.
Alas, once in power in most countries, and especially in Pakistan, elected and unelected heads of state, regardless of being 40 years old or 70, seem to live in the moment, for the moment, and moment by moment. Even the aged Ghulam Ishaq Khan did more to enrich his relatives, and play political games, than grab the incredible opportunity he had to become a new father figure in Pakistani history.
It is amazing that in Pakistan’s 61 years, there is not a single head of state who has tried to, or left, a legacy good enough for Pakistanis to consider adding his (or her) photo on even a (now defunct) One Rupee note.
We now have a situation that is eerily similar to what we have seen before. A dictator, even more unpopular than Zia, is clinging to power, simply because one of the most unpopular American Presidents, ever, George W. Bush’s grand foreign policy for the South Asian region is — ‘we stand by Musharraf.’
Perhaps Bush supports Mush because it ensures there is at least ONE President who is more unpopular than Bush himself is! But, jokes aside, even a tragic accident of history like George W. Bush is trying, belatedly and with no success, to spend the next 6 months trying to “leave a legacy.”
I can easily say Musharraf is a far smarter and more cunning man than Bush ever was, or will be. But, one thing they both share in common besides the sound of their names – no understanding of how legacies are left.
They do not understanding that a legacy is not created by clinging to power, or failed ideas, but by doing things in the greater interest, things bigger than what even our biggest admirers could imagine us doing. Legacy and history smile on us when we do things even we could not imagine being selfless, brave and visionary enough to do. When we become bold enough to stop living for our own egos today, but to step aside now, so the future can look back on us with respect.
Alas, neither Bush, nor Mush, get the concept, which is why they are both close to each other in how history will not remember them. They are among the most unpopular, ineffective, and impeachable Presidents – though they rule over countries thousands of miles apart, and worlds apart in political, religious and social systems.