In familiar reprise, Pakistanis celebrate as Musharraf quits

August 18th, 2008 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 18 (IANS) This is not for the first time that Pakistanis have celebrated a ruler’s ouster by distributing sweets and congratulating each other - and even resorting to firing in the air in jubilation.Monday was one such day in Pakistan’s history when citizens took to streets after Pervez Musharraf’s announcement on resigning as the country’s 12th president. Queues immediately formed up outside sweetmeat shops in the federal capital.

“We have run short of sweets, especially laddoos,” Asim, a salesman at Fresco Sweets in the capital said, referring to the traditional sweet that is distributed on joyous occasions.

Field Marshal Ayub Khan was the first ruler whose removal from the government was celebrated and people in general distributed sweets. Before his removal, there were large scale protests and the people, particular the lawyers’ community, were demanding his resignation. In 1968, he handed over power to his trusted General Yahya Khan and resigned as president.

“I remember when (prime minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government was sacked by (then army chief) General Ziaul Haq and he was put behind bars, as a kid I saw people distributing sweets,” said Islamabad resident Ahmed Raza Kasuri.

“It was the most unpopular government in the country and Zia acted on the call of the opposition leaders and the larger segments of society,” Kasuri added.

“But in August 1988, when Zia was killed in a plane crash, I, as a university student, saw people celebrating his death and distributing sweets. In Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal ground where Benazir Bhutto was to address a public rally the same evening, people were happily announcing their contributions to buy sweets to celebrate the end of a dictator,” Kasuri maintained.

Again, on the removal of elected governments of Muhammad Khan Junejo in 1988, Benazir Bhutto in 1990, Nawaz Sharif in 1993 and the second Benazir Bhutto government in 1996, there were sweets and celebrations.

The only difference was that the removal of these four governments was celebrated by their political opponents and not by the general public. In 1999, too, when Musharraf removed Sharif from power and put him under house arrest, his political opponents and the general public celebrated his government’s removal.

Even cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan distributed sweets after his press conference in Islamabad a couple of days after Sharif was arrested. Leading members of civil society who were now opposing Musharraf had even addressed a joint press conference welcoming the military dictator.

They even formed a political party under the leadership of Omar Asghar Khan, who was a known rights activist, and joined the cabinet under Musharraf. Khan, however, died before the 2002 general elections and Musharraf thereafter ignored the party.

Thus, Monday was another day of celebration for the Pakistani people when Musharraf announced his resignation after ruling the country for about nine years. TV channels said that people across the country were celebrating the resignation though Musharraf, in his address, said that more than 85 percent of the people wanted him to stay in power.

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