There are two types of traitors. The first type joins hands with foreign enemies and helps enslave his own people. Among the most prominent names in this category is Syed Jaffar Ali Khan, the chief of Sirajuddaullah’s army. Today, Mir Jaffar’s name is synonymous with treachery. Because of his treachery, Sirajuddaullah’s army was defeated by the British forces in the battle of Plassey in 1757, paving the way to the occupation of a united India by the British.
The other kind of ‘traitor’ does not collaborate against foreign powers. Instead, he raises a voice against those powerful local interests that are bent on themselves collaborating with foreign powers in the name of ‘patriotism’. Most of this second category of traitors does not carry arms, deploy tanks or possess fighter aircraft. All they have as weapons are their tongues with which they speak the truth or they write the truth with their pens. When they speak or write the truth, those with guns get rattled and label them traitors.
Pakistan’s history is brimming with this second category of traitors. At present, a campaign has been launched to label people like myself and some other journalists in this second category. Those who live under the shadow of the gun not only want to label me and my organization Geo TV as traitors but they also want to revoke my citizenship. What is my crime?
An assassination attempt was made on my life few days ago in Karachi. I sustained six bullet injuries and Geo TV aired the suspicion of my family that elements within the country’s premier intelligence agency ISI could be the masterminds of this attack because I informed my management several times in the recent past that some ISI officials were trying to use some extremists to silence my voice. After the attack in Karachi I was unconscious when my family suspected ISI for using some extremists against me.
When I opened my eyes on the second day of the attack I endorsed the stand taken by my family and immediately ISI sent a reference to the government for declaring Geo TV as a ‘traitor.’ Some banned militant outfits came out on the roads in support of ISI including Hafiz Saeed of Laskkar e Taiba (LeT). They want the government to declare me and my organization as traitors.
It seems such forces have been working for decades to dub me a traitor. At times, they have labeled someone making a political speech attacking dictatorship a traitor and at others for reciting poems in praise of democracy were also dubbed treasonous. The men with guns have in the past used this label to describe Fatima Jinnah, the sister of our founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah, despite the fact that she played a prominent role in the Pakistan Movement. When military dictator Ayub Khan moved to subvert democracy, Miss Jinnah mocked the power of the men with guns. When she fought the presidential election against the dictator, powerful people labeled her an Indian agent and traitor.
Sometimes I became a traitor by the name of Habib Jalib simply because I wrote poems condemning the army action in Dhaka in 1971. The regime of the dictator General Yahya Khan who ordered the surrender of troops in Dhaka not only labeled me a traitor but also threw me in prison.
I was then called a traitor in the name of Pashtun nationalist Wali Khan, Baloch nationalists Ghaus Bux Bizenjo and Ataullah Mengal, even though these leaders had played a key role in framing the Constitution of 1973 and pledged loyalty to Pakistan under that Constitution. Next, I was labeled a traitor by the name of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who gave us constitution of 1973. My elected government was toppled and I too was dubbed an Indian agent. I was then falsely implicated in a murder case and sent to the gallows.
It was during the regime of General Ziaul Haq, the military dictator who hanged Bhutto, that India occupied the heights of Siachen. During this period politicians like Benazir Bhutto, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmed Faraz and my father Waris Mir as well as countless political workers, journalists, poets, and writers were labeled traitors.
Dubbing a war fought for the sake of foreign interests as ‘patriotism’, Ziaul Haq introduced the culture of the Kalashnikov, sectarianism, linguistic and ethnic divisions and narrow provincialism in the country. To weaken the political forces arrayed against him, Zia doled out guns to certain religious groups, and along with the accusations of treachery, fatwas declaring people ‘Kaafir’ too became part of the political discourse.
When another prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, refused to bow before the power of the gun in 1999, his government too was toppled and a case was lodged against him for hijacking as he too was declared a traitor.
Then I was labeled a traitor under the name of Akbar Bugti, even though I had voted in favor of Pakistan when it was born in 1947. For this, I was driven in my old age to a cave deep in the hills of Balochistan which became my final refuge and where I was killed. My killing was blamed on General Musharraf, a man who subverted the Constitution of Pakistan not once but twice. Musharraf was termed a usurper by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, yet his supporters continue to call me and my family traitors.
Although ostensibly there is democracy in the country today, yet the men with guns have held democracy hostage. Elected government and superior courts looks helpless in front of the people with guns. Through certain sell-out politicians, maulvis and intellectuals, those who champion the freedom of the press are being termed traitors once again. The wisdom of those sell-out individuals seems to be tied to the laces of the heavy boots.
Today, I do not seek to address those who have sold their consciences to the enemies of democracy but to address you directly. I want to tell you that only a person like me who has suffered bullet wounds on his own body can feel the importance of the sacrifices of our brave soldiers. I too salute the sacrifices of our brave soldiers for the defense of the country.
But remember, these men offer sacrifices for my country and not to protect the unconstitutional privileges of a handful of people. You will not be able to hide your crimes behind the sacrifices of our brave soldiers. You represent the past that has fanned repression and injustice and the trampling of the rights of the smaller provinces. I am the representative of that hope that wants to see every institution in Pakistan bound by the Constitution. You believe the Constitution is a joke and every day you betray your contempt for the Constitution. To save a dictator from a treason trial, you kick up a hue and cry and label others traitors. I believe those who subvert the Constitution are the enemies of the country.
You divide terrorists into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories to confuse the people. I believe in unveiling your deceit. You aim to further your personal interests by handing over the country’s bases to foreign powers. You allow drone strikes on your own country and term your opportunism as patriotism. I believe such patriotism is a slight on the name of Pakistan. I believe in peace. You want to fan a civil war. I believe in holding my head high and speaking the truth to everyone. You believe in stabbing people in the back.
Agreed you are very powerful because you have guns and tanks. But I do not want to beg you for a certificate of patriotism. If Fatima Jinnah could be called a traitor, if Jalib, Bhutto, Faiz, Wali, Mengal and Bugti were traitors, then I too accept being branded a traitor. I promise if you have me declared a traitor by any court or have a maulvi issue a fatwa for my death, I will not deny your accusation. Your allegation will be a favor to me. Whether you hang me like Bhutto or have me murdered like Bugti, I will not be stopped from speaking the truth.
I want to be murdered at your hands, so I can live on in history. The verdict of who is or is not a traitor cannot be pronounced by a secret agency but by history alone.
The author is the Executive Editor of Geo Television. He writes this piece from hospital bed after surviving an assassination attempt on his life on April 19, 2014, in Karachi, but sustained severe injuries.
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