Mirror, mirror on the wall…

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

Sheikh Saadi Shirazi in a hikayat in Gulistan says, “A dervish with a reputation that his prayers were heard came to Baghdad during the reign of Hajjaj Bin Yusuf, who sought him and requested prayers for his well being. The dervish said that may he be dead. Shocked out of wits Hajjaj asked what kind of prayer was this, the dervish said this was a prayer for the well being of all Muslims and him too.” Meaning that Muslims would be relieved of his tyranny and his sins against them would cease.

“O ye powerful the ‘tormentors of the weak’

How long this torment will you wreak

What use to you this rule and reign

Your death is desired by the weak.”

In a second hikayat he says an unjust tyrant asked a sage which of his worship was the best. He said the time when you sleep and people remain safe from your cruelty.

“Once I saw a tyrant in a deep slumber

Said I may this evil forever slumber

One whose life torments the people

Should eternally sleep and slumber.”

Any ruler who evokes such prayers and such emotions loses any moral right to his rule and Hajjaj was one of the many who prompted such sentiments. We too have had had a fair share of our own brand of Hajjajs who awaken such feelings of repulsiveness in the tormented ones.

Sheikh Saadi in a ‘Bostan’ hikayat says, “Malik Saleh the ruler of Syria, sagacious and a friend of poor, in later part of night came out into the city with an attendant, his face half covered in the usual Arab manner. They saw two poor men bedraggled and angry in a mosque, the chill had kept them awake and waiting for the sunrise. One said to the other, ‘If on the Day of Reckoning these tyrannical, pleasure-seeking and callous rulers too are awarded Paradise I shall not leave my grave because what good have we seen from them here, they will only give us the more of the same there.’ The other said, ‘If Saleh even comes near the A’raf, I am going batter his head with my shoes until his brain comes out.’

Hearing these unsavoury remarks about himself he wisely decided to leave the place. After sunrise he had those two brought to his palace where they were dressed and looked after and endowed with gifts. Surprised as they were at this, one of them asked Malik Saleh what had he seen in them to prompt such beneficence. He smiled and said, ‘I want to make peace with you so that on Day of Judgement you do not confront me and denounce me.’”

I wonder if the rulers here have ever wondered or even bothered to know what the people say or think about the injustices that they perpetrate with the sole purpose of perpetuating their rule, the rule that only they and their coteries think is a blessing for all.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in a village near Umtata in the Transkei on July 18, 1918. ‘Rolihlahla’ means ‘to pull a branch of a tree’, or more colloquially, ‘troublemaker’.

Nelson Mandela arrested in 1962 was imprisoned on Robben Island where he remained for the next 18 of his 27 years in prison. On the island, he and others performed hard labour in a lime quarry. Prison conditions were very basic. Prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations. Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges. Mandela describes how, as a D-group prisoner (the lowest classification) he was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months.

On February 2, 1990, State PresidentF.W. de Klerk unbanned the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on February 11, 1990.

South Africa’s first democratic elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on April 27, 1994. The ANC won 62 percent of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on May 10, 1994 as the country’s first black President with the National Party’s de Klerk as his first deputy Thabo Mbeki and as the second in the Government of National Unity.

Mandela became the oldest elected President of South Africa when he took office at the age of 77 in 1994. He decided not to stand for a second term as president, and instead retired in 1999, to be succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

Nelson Mandela has denounced the emergency here, as who is in a better position than him to denounce this gross violation of rights of the people here. I sure hope that the government does not come out with a statement condemning him and ‘the elders’ who have condemned yet another violation of rights here.

Joaquim Chissano, one of the founding members of the Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo) that fought Portuguese colonial rule, has long been at the forefront of Mozambican political life.

He was prime minister of the transitional government that led up to independence in 1975, and thereafter was foreign minister under independent Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel.

Mozambique was in the grip of a civil war when President Machel died in a mysterious air crash in 1986. Mr Chissano succeeded him as a leader and devoted himself to restoring peace and stability in his country.

He is credited with initiating the constitutional and economic reforms, which culminated with the adoption of the 1990 Constitution that led Mozambique to the multi-party system. In 1994 he won the first multiparty elections in the history of the country, and was re-elected President of the Republic in 1999. Despite the fact that the Mozambican Constitution allowed him to stand in the 2004 presidential elections, Joaquim Chissano decided voluntarily not to do so.

Currently, he chairs the Joaquim Chissano Foundation and the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Government. He won the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Award for Achievement in African Leadership is worth $ 5 million over the next 10 years plus another $ 200,000 a year for life. This annual Prize was launched by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in October 2006 as an African initiative to strengthen governance in Africa.

I wonder in what category the rulers here would qualify for a prize if there were a prize for all varieties of governance, they would win the categories of corruption, incompetence and tyranny by an outstanding margin.

If you will notice, both these leaders voluntarily gave up their presidency in spite of being very popular and capable for winning in fair elections for a long time to come. They would not have had had to tailor laws or violate constitutions to stay in power.

Muhammad Hosni Mubarak has been the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt since 14 October 1981, succeeding to that office following the assassination of Anwar Sadat. With the control of the government and uncontested in subsequent elections, Mubarak won the presidency in national referenda in 1987, 1993 and 1999.

In February of 2005 Mubarak announced plans for a September 2005 election that would be Egypt’s first-ever multi-candidate contest for the presidency. On September 7, 2005 he handily won his fifth consecutive term, but it was a victory clouded by low voter turnout, reports of fraud and the imprisonment of his political rival, Ayman Nour. Not very different from the modus operandi employed here.

It is abundantly clear that the rulers who chance upon power due to freak events contribute nothing to their country and simply want to enjoy the power and pelf that comes with power and they have to violate democratic norms to retain their hold on power in connivance with a co-opted judiciary and legislature.

I have presented the readers with a brief summary of ways and lives of some rulers of the past and present eras. The rulers here too are up for comparison because once you are in the field of governing and ruling, the natural laws of preferences and criticisms inexorably catch up with you and you have to willy-nilly submit to them even if you do not like it. Yes, you can make laws outlawing dissent and criticism, but that does not make the people like you. All you succeed in is putting a temporary lid on freedom of expression. I invite the readers to decide the question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all.” It is an open season.

Tail piece: the Ordinance amending the Army Act and giving the prerogative and privilege of Court Martial previously reserved only for the armed forces to the civilians as well is an indicator of the egalitarian policies. This egalitarianism should however not be restricted to Court Martial alone, but should be extended to the plots in DHAs and lands in newly irrigated area of past and those envisaged for future.