Zardari's finest hour at the UN
President Zardari did the nation and Muslim Ummah proud at the UN General Assembly session when he stood tall amidst world leaders to forthrightly present Pakistan's case in its correct perspective as well resonate worldwide condemnation of the blatant act of incitement of hate against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the comity of nations.
I watched his speech on Television and I saw in him a different man in a mood that is true manifestation of how hurt a Muslim feels inside on the horrendous act of blasphemy. While not condoning violence he forcefully urged the international community not to remain a silent witness to criminalisation of the freedom of expression that endangers the global peace and security.
As the sole spokesman of "the brave and courageous people" of Pakistan, Zardari underlined the enormous challenges faced by his resilient nation. He recounted the sacrifices in blood to fulfil its enormous commitment to provide better future not only to itself but to entire world moving from one crisis to another in what has come to be a century of terror.
Zardari asserted Pakistan's image as a lead player determined to bridge interfaith and cultural harmony across the globe in opposition to Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilisations" by fostering equality irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender for eliminating poverty through equitable distribution of wealth and empowerment of all classes of people.
Zardari nailed squarely the constant media diatribe against Pakistan aimed at blackmailing it with the objective of forcing it into a corner to make it dance to the tunes played by various vested interests with varied geo-strategic ambitions. He was absolutely right in asserting that the sinister design behind the anti-Islam film was to provoke protests and violence in the Muslim world to weaken them internally and externally.
Zardari did not lose his statesmanlike cool while conveying to the comity of nations the grievously injured feelings of the Muslims across the globe. Indeed, as he put it, in Islam the best revenge is compassion and the world at this critical juncture needed to follow the martyred leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's legacy of reconciliation and tolerance. He made an impassionate appeal to the world leaders to get down to bridging the ever-increasing widening of gulf so that God's little earth is not plunged into a quagmire of violent polarisation from which there would be no pulling back.
The President highlighted the inbuilt mechanism of compassion, mercy and forgiveness in Islam. He stressed what could be the panacea for resolving the issues emanating from increasing outrageous blasphemous acts. To pull the world back from the suicidal brink he pleaded for organising and mobilising saner, civilised and universally effective response for nipping in the bud all those conspiratorial elements who seek to make fortunes by sowing seeds of discord among communities and religions. A united approach to combat this other "form of terrorism" such as blasphemous film makers can only be vanquished by pulling the rug from under the feet of fly-by-night carpet beggars who believe in making hay by dividing people and nations.
Besides, President Zardari did not forget to raise his voice in support of the right of self-determination for the people of Palestine and the people of Jammu & Kashmir. He strongly conveyed his profound concerns to wake up the sleeping conscience of the international community to the never-ending plight of the people of Palestine and Kashmir-two of the oldest issues lying unattended in the UN morgue. He pleaded with the world leaders to fulfil the aspirations of the Palestinians and Kashmir people who have given blood in hundreds and thousand for the much promised right of self-determination.
President Zardari harkened the world about the most counter productive drone strikes in total contempt to enormous sacrifices rendered by the people and armed forces of Pakistan as a front line state in the war against terror. In putting Pakistan's case straight President Zardari highlighted by telling the world leaders: "I am not here to answer questions about Pakistan" but to tell how much wronged Pakistan has come to be. His words like that of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's in 1971 will resonate in the Hall of the United Nations for many decades to come. He said:
• The people of Pakistan have already answered them.
• The politicians of Pakistan have answered them.
• The soldiers of Pakistan have answered them.
• We have lost over seven thousand Pakistani soldiers and policemen, and over 37,000 civilians.
• We have lost our Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti and my friend Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of our most populous province of Punjab, to the mindset of extremism.
• And I need not remind my friends here today, that I bear a personal scar.
• On December 27, 2007 knowing her life was under threat from the mindset she had warned the world against, Pakistan's first elected woman leader and my wife Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred through the bullets and bombs of terrorists.
• Terrorism and extremism have destroyed human lives, torn social fabric, and devastated the economy.
• Our economy, our lives, our ability to live in the shadow of our Sufi saints and our freedom-loving forefathers have been challenged.
• We have responded.
• Our soldiers have responded.
• So I am not here to answer questions about Pakistan.
These painful words coming from a man whose brave spouse gave her life for freedom and empowerment of the people moved every one in the UNGA. It was not just forceful expression of a man hurt deep inside. His conclusion, indeed, must have left indelible imprint on all those present:
"To those who say we have not done enough, I say in all humility:
Please do not insult the memory of our dead, and the pain of our living.
Do not ask of my people, what no one has ever asked of any other peoples.
Do not demonize the innocent women, and children of Pakistan.
And please, stop this refrain to do more."
Zardari's humility in his speech must have left enormous food for thought for the global leaders. They must have noted that though hurt yet he was not arrogantly defiant. His sincere pleading for "global cooperation, connectivity, and mutual respect" as "stake holders in each other's futures" is the need of the hour.
It is a question of now or never. By pursuing goals of peaceful co-existence sans discrimination, sans double standards and no preference to expediency over principles can guarantee a better, brighter, prosperous, progressive and peaceful future for this world.
*Author is the High Commissioner for Pakistan to UK
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