Earlier, I heard a report that Condoleezza Rice put down any suggestion that the US would be willing to give sanctuary to the Pakistani President, who is under threat of impeachment from the recently elected "coalition" government, led by the late Benazir Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, and Nawaz Sharif, a former Pakistani prime minister. First of all, let me just say that I am completely disgusted with Rice's statements, and the US should be ashamed of itself, given the decision by Musharraf's opponents to attempt to negotiate people who blow up innocent people-security forces, civilians, Shia AND Sunni Muslims. When I thought about writing a post on this subject, I wanted to begin by saying that Nawaz Sharif is a vindictive, fat-headed moron (Musharraf ousted him in a coup almost ten years ago, and he has gone so far as to say Musharraf should be sentenced to death), but then I read this letter.
An Open Letter to Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari
I AM writing this to you sitting outside a coffee shop in Virginia, a little outside Washington. I hope that my letter will be taken in the spirit in which it is written — from someone who deeply loves Pakistan and sincerely cares about it.
Over the years, I have watched the situation in Pakistan, analyzed it and have come to the conclusion that the problems of Pakistan can be solved by the people of Pakistan themselves provided they set aside emotions and self-interest. A country of about 150 million people facing so many dangers from within and without cannot afford to be hostage to the whims and caprices of anyone — even elected leaders.
Sitting thousands of miles away but emotionally present in Pakistan, I feel that the time has come for everyone to rise up and confront the danger, reject revenge, put aside personal ambitions, remove malice and enter into a new phase of reconciliation.
I read in the papers here of calls for the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf. I read of statements saying he will not be granted safe passage. I read of charge sheets being prepared against him by hitherto unknown politicians. I also read about the president calling for reconciliation.
I tell you in all honesty that Pakistan does not have the luxury of time or money to embark on an impeachment move. Neither is it the time to focus on such divisive issues. Suddenly political pundits and inexperienced lawmakers are seen making statements. They talk about the interest of Pakistan. What interest, I ask them. It is good for the ego to get 15 minutes worth of fame by talking to a local television network or The Washington Post.
HOWEVER, it is more difficult to show generosity and tolerance by reaching out and closing ranks, and history is full of such examples.
And I will start with our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who forgave all his enemies. It was he who told the Archangel Gabriel that he would forgive all those who threw stones at him in Taif. Let us honor ourselves by following him.
Let us take a great man of our time — Nelson Mandela. After 27 years in prison, he spoke of truth and reconciliation. Mandela sat with Pik Botha, who served as South Africa’s foreign minister in the last years of the apartheid era, immediately after his release and helped guide South Africa to its promising future. After the black majority came to power, Mandela’s followers did not go on a rampage. They did not burn or loot. Mandela commanded respect.
I asked him was there any rancor or hate in his heart for those who oppressed him and his people. He replied that South Africa was too important for him to feel anger. Imagine what would have happened if Mandela had taken the road of personal revenge.
Now allow me to offer my thoughts. Musharraf is obviously not a perfect man, but I think he understands the nature of the situation his country his facing. Condoleezza Rice feels the need to go off on him for declaring the much vilified state of emergency, but there is no doubt in my mind that President Bush (or any world leader, really) would take the exact same course of action if thousands of soldiers had died on his nation's soil, if suicide bombers were victimizing American cities on a daily basis, and if countless civilians continued to fall pray to terrorism in a savage attempt to disrupt the political process. If this was happening in the United States, what would we do? Please Ms. Rice, would you be willing to answer this question? I suppose this could be my open letter to Condoleezza Rice, or even the Bush Administration in general.
Musharraf tried to do the right thing...he wanted to do what the US asked of him while trying to put his country first. I believe what ultimately led to his political was the targeting of Pakistani civilians by militant groups based in the Northern mountains, which turned the population against him. Many far-left and so-called "antiwar" groups also allege that Musharraf "wasn't doing enough to fight terrorism". To me, that is complete nonsense, given the above scenario, Musharraf was probably afraid of a full-scale confrontation because of the bloody backlash it had against his people.
All I can say now is that I hope that Nawaz and Zardari will heed the calls in that letter, because the very last thing Pakistan needs is more tension. Sharif's vengeance may ultimately prove to be just as divisive as the bombing campaigns ordered by Taliban warlords, who are very likely laughing it up in a cave somewhere in the mountains right now...