Mirza, Suhrawardy or Bhutto: what fate awaits Nawaz?

The choices are stark

Iskander Mirza (1899-1969), the first President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, died in forced exile in London. Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy (1892-1963), the fifth Prime Minister of Pakistan, was found dead in a Beirut hotel under mysterious circumstances. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1928-1979), the ninth PM, was executed.

Each one of them played a role in the formative years of Pakistan. Now it’s Nawaz Sharif’s turn to write history. Iskander Mirza was ousted by Ayub Khan, the first usurper. He was forced out of the country. Died in London as a commoner and was buried in Tehran as his wife was Iranian. Suhrawardy was a popular leader of the Pakistan Movement and perhaps one of the ablest. He founded the Awami League which led the movement for the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 a fate he had predicted while defending himself in a Military Tribunal headed by a lieutenant-colonel. His death remains a mystery till today. Bhutto was eliminated through the judicial process. His legacy lives on together with his PPP. Nawaz has scheduled his return on October 21, to lead his party in the forthcoming elections. He is confronted with tough choices; he has to face the law and the electorate at the same time.

As an elected President Mirza connived with Ayub Khan to abrogate the 1956 Constitution. Instead of holding elections, martial law was imposed on the nation in October 1958. Only a few days later, the Army Chief decided to get rid of the President and started to run the country as Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). Mirza arrived in London on a one-way ticket. Unlike the Sharifs he had not accumulated wealth from his days in power. He lived like a commoner, survived by running a restaurant finally, to perish in 1963. As the first usurper was still in power he could not be buried in his homeland.

The Shah of Iran met a similar fate. Iran refused to accept the body of the former monarch. As his first queen  was from Egypt, he was accommodated there. Mirza was allowed to rest in peace in the land of his wife. In the words of Shakespeare; “A man dies when his memory dies”. In the cases of Mirza and Shah hardly anyone remembers them today.

Nawaz has to decide, he can no longer run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Like Mirza he can continue to live in London as a commoner till he perishes. If he decides to take on the establishment like Suhrawardy they will come after him. One can run but cannot hide for too long

At the time of Partition, Suharwardy was the PM of united Bengal and continued in this position to oversee the division of the province. By the time he arrived in Pakistan, the Governor General had appointed Liaquat Ali Khan to be the first PM. While Liaquat Ali migrated to the new land leaving his home constituency behind, Suhrawardy had a solid local following.

When the Muslim League started to lean towards the establishment for support, he parted ways to start his Awami League which defeated his old party in the local elections held in the Eastern Wing. He remained defiant against the Martial Law regime.  Where most politicians sheepishly went home when they were disqualified by Ayub Khan’s EBDO ( Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance ), Suhrawardy successfully defended himself and was exonerated of all charges of corruption.

As a brilliant lawyer he fought all his cases well and emerged as a major threat to the hegemony of the establishment. Finally fearing for his life he decided to go into self-exile to Beirut where he was found dead in his hotel room. After his demise, Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman emerged as the leader of his party. Suhrawardy was buried in a mausoleum in Dhakka which is now the capital of Bangladesh. He left a solid legacy as leader of the freedom movement and PM of Pakistan who stood for democracy and rule of law.

After the fall of the first usurper, Mujib’s Awami League and Bhutto’s PPP won big in the first free and fair elections held in 1970. The two leaders could not work together for a united Pakistan, and the rest is history as they say. As leader of what remained of Jinnah’s Pakistan, Bhutto picked up the pieces. After the passage of the 1973 unanimous constitution he took the oath of office as PM. An era of civilian supremacy emerged. He called his regime; Awami Hakumat (People’s Government), which indeed it was.

In 1958 the establishment played a key role in the abrogation of the 1956 Constitution, after the 1977 elections Bhutto was cornered. Instead of an orderly transition of power the country came under the boots again. Battle lines were clearly drawn between Bhutto’s PPP and the establishment. Undeterred, he decided to fight back. He was arrested for the murder of Ahmed Raza Kasuri’s father. Mr Justice K.M. Samdani of the Lahore High Court bailed him out. He was then arrested under the Martial Law and his trial started under Chief Justice Maulvi Mushtaq. Early morning in April 1979, he was executed in the Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, to be buried later that day in his village Naudero. While Nusrat and Benazir were under arrest, his body was received by his first wife.

Nawaz has to decide, he can no longer run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Like Mirza he can continue to live in London as a commoner till he perishes. If he decides to take on the establishment like Suhrawardy they will come after him. One can run but cannot hide for too long.

Politics of resistance is unknown to him and his party; he prefers Muk Muka (Wheelingdealing) to wait for another chance which he is usually able to manage. If he decides to come back he faces dual challenges of law and the ballot. Like prisoner 804 he too may land up  in the Attock Jail and learn to live there. According to the famous Sufi saying; “Suli tay charhna painda ay” ([For a cause] one may have to mount the gallows). Bhutto decided to walk to the noose with dignity to earn an everlasting legacy. Perhaps it is decision time for NS, and he has to choose between struggle for legacy in Pakistan or peaceful life in London.

Dr Farid A Malik
Dr Farid A Malikhttps://www.pakistantoday.com.pk
The writer is ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at: [email protected].


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