Lest We Forget – A Rejoinder to Dr. Atta ur Rehman


A friend of mine, who would not miss any chance to taunt me for being pro-democracy, shared an article written by our famous scientist Dr Atta ur Rehman who held the position of Chairman Higher Education Commission during the dictator’s regime, and is now president of Pakistan Science Academy. The article is titled “Lest We Forget” and published in The News on December 25, 2013.

I went through the article and learnt how good the economy was doing in 2008 when the great General was made to leave this country. He compares the economic conditions of Pakistan when he took over (usurped power) in 1999 with the time when he left Pakistan in 2008. I was wondering why he needed to remind us all that – the wonderful GDP growth rate, great jump in per capita income etc.

It was in the concluding paragraph that I learnt why the great scientist was reminding us of the great financial successes of the dictator’s regime. He writes “The position of president is purely ceremonial. The power lies entirely with the prime minister”. There I understood that he was actually trying to defend the Commando’s unconstitutional move to impose ‘emergency’. I would have definitely ignored it with a smile but this foolish attempt to defend the indefensible was made by a person who is held in high esteem by thousands of young men and women in Pakistan. It is, therefore, necessary to respond to the nonsense coming from a respected and learned individual like Dr. Atta ur Rehman. I would like to make following arguments against what the respected Doctor has written:

  1. First of all, it is interesting to note the contradiction within the article. Dr. Atta ur Rehman gives all the credit for economic boom to Pervez Musharraf. He forgets that the ‘position of the president is purely ceremonial’. As the power lied with the Prime Minister, the credit should go to the prime minister, not to the ‘ceremonial’ president. However, when it comes to imposition of emergency, the great scientist tells us “The guilt, if any, lies with all of them [Cabinet Members]”. Please do not ignore the words “if any”.
  2. Nation is not the sum total of GDP and Per Capita Income. Nation is much more than that. Our great doctor is so deeply focused on economy that he forgets everything else. So let me widen the comparison between the Pakistan of 1999 with that of 2008:
    • We, the wretched citizens of Pakistan, did not even know of suicide blasts in 1999. In 2008, even five year old kids know about suicide blasts.
    • We had only a few terrorist groups in 1999 (I can recall only two names); we lost count of them by 2008.
    • Swat was a peaceful valley where tourists from around the world were roaming about in 1999; it was under the brutal rule of Mullah Fazlullah in 2008.
    • FATA and Darra Adamkhel were peaceful places where we did not fear to go in 1999; it had become a no go area for everybody except Pak Army and terrorists by 2008. Even Musharraf did not dare visit FATA and Darra.
    • Balochistan was not happy with the federation, but Pakistan national anthem was sung in schools and Punjabis were not killed in 1999; the great commando has left, and we cannot sing national anthem in Balochistan, and non-Baloch Pakistanis are getting killed almost everyday there.
    • Hazara Shias were living peacefully in Quetta, and Balochistan had not heard of missing persons or mutilated bodies dumped around in 1999; Hazara Shia were being targeted in spite of the FC presence, and Baloch families were crying for their loved ones in 2008.
  3. Now let us get back to economy. Would the great doctor expand his research and see that Pakistan’s GDP has always remained high during dictatorial regimes. However, it is interesting to note that as soon as we see the back of a dictator, the bubble of GDP growth bursts and we are left high and dry. Ayub Khan’s era is considered to be the best as far as development is considered but we should see what happened to Pakistan when he left. Within two years, we lost East Pakistan.

I would request the great doctor to conduct a research into the reasons of why Pakistan is found in such a bad state whenever a dictator leaves. I think the doctor would do a great service to Pakistan if he helps us understand this phenomenon. His research may result in the development of a handy tool for future dictators to make good use of, though I really doubt if Pakistan would have the curse of another dictator.

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