Murshid, Marwa Na Daina
Mohammad Hanif, Newsline, June 2011
What is the last thing you say to your best general when ordering him to conduct a do-or-die mission? A prayer maybe, if you are religiously inclined. A short lecture underlining the importance of the mission if you want to keep it businesslike. Or maybe you just say ‘good luck,’ accompanied by a clicking of the heels and a final salute.
On the night of July 5, 1977 as Operation Fair Play, meant to topple Z.A. Bhutto’s elected government, was about to commence, the then army chief General Zia-ul-Haq took his right-hand man and the Corps Commander of 10th Corps, Lt General Faiz Ali Chishti aside and whispered to him: “Murshid, marwa na daina.” (Murshid, don’t get us killed.)
Zia was indulging in two of his favourite pastimes: spreading paranoia among those around him, and cosying up to the junior officer he needed to do his dirty work. General Zia had a talent for that; he could make his juniors feel as if they were indispensable to the running of this world. And he could make his seniors feel like gods – as Bhutto found out at the cost of his life.
General Faiz Ali Chisti’s troops didn’t face any resistance that night; not a single shot was fired and like all military coups in Pakistan, this was dubbed a ‘bloodless coup.’ There was a lot of bloodshed in the following years though; in military-managed dungeons at Thori gate, in Bohri Bazar, around Ojhri camp and finally at Basti Laal Kamal near Bahawalpur, where a plane exploded killing General Zia and most of the Pakistan army’s high command. General Faiz Ali Chisti, of course, had nothing to do with this. General Zia rid himself of his murshid soon after coming to power. Chishti had started to take that term of endearment – murshid – a bit too seriously, and dictators can’t stand anyone who thinks of himself as the king-maker.
Thirty-four years on Pakistan is a society divided at many levels. There’s the beghairat bunch throwing economic statistics at the ghairat brigade, there are laptop jihadis and liberal fascists and fair-weather revolutionaries. There are Balochi freedom fighters up in the mountains and bullet-riddled bodies of young political activists in obscure Baloch towns. And of course there are the members of civil society with a permanent glow on their faces, presumably on account of all their candlelight vigils.
All these factions may not agree on anything, but there is a consensus on one point: General Zia’s coup was a bad idea. When was the last time anyone heard Nawaz Sharif or any of Zia’s numerous protégés thump their chest and say, ‘Yes, we need another Zia?’ And have ever you seen a Pakistan military commander who stood on Zia’s grave and vowed to continue his mission?
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