Home Editorial Editorial: Pakistan’s Bounty of ‘Traitors’

Editorial: Pakistan’s Bounty of ‘Traitors’

To advance democracy and achieve political maturity, Pakistan’s leaders must end the charade of branding their opponents as traitors

by Editorial

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A recent social media shared by the X account of incarcerated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan has re-ignited debate over who is a “traitor” to the country. The post seeks to question the prevailing narrative of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman being a “traitor” to Pakistan, instead pointing the finger at Gen. Yahya Khan. Needless to say, this is an exercise in futility as while some in Pakistan might consider Rehman a “traitor” for his role in East Pakistan breaking off from West Pakistan, Bangladesh would consider him a great leader for his role in its founding. Similarly, some in India might brand Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as traitor for “backstabbing” Congress.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has a long tradition of turning on its leaders, particularly politicians, with accusations of treason a favorite tactic to malign opponents. In 1964, then-president Ayub Khan accusing Jinnah’s sister, Fatima Jinnah, of being “pro-Indian” and “pro-America.” Even before that, Huseyn Suhrawardy, a Bengali politician and prime minister of Pakistan, was branded a traitor by the security establishment of the 1950s. Similarly, Sindhi nationalist G.M. Syed; Pashtun leader Abdul Wali Khan; and Baloch leaders Ataullah Mengal and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo were also at various points declared traitors or foreign agents. More recently, both the PPP and PTI sought to brand PMLN’s Nawaz Sharif a “traitor” with slogans highlighting his attempts to broker peace with India under Narendra Modi.

It is simultaneously ironic and tragic that the same Imran Khan that employed the “Modi ka jo yaar hai” rhetoric against Nawaz Sharif not too long ago is today facing similar allegations over his posts on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This is made all the more laughable, as most independent historians agree Rahman’s separatist views resulted from years of mis-governance in then-East Pakistan. This form of politics helps no one; least of all Pakistan’s political leaders, who are most vulnerable to being branded “traitors” whenever they fall out with the establishment. To advance democracy and mature Pakistan’s politics, we must stop enacting this charade of naming traitors.

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