If you go to the NA-55 area of Rawalpindi these days, you will be struck by the billboards which show Sheikh Rashid with Benazir. The impression one will get is that Sheikh Rashid stands for Benazir.
He, for his part, has let it be known that he has prayed at the site of Benazir’s martyrdom near Liaqat Bagh. The leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party has asked its voters to vote for Rashid and ensure his victory. Wherever he goes, Rashid misses no opportunity to praise Benazir’s contributions to democracy. He calls her a martyr and a great leader of Pakistan. He actually does not call her by her name any more, but by “Mohtarma”.
Why is the People’s Party helping Sheikh Rashid? One answer is that it is the ISI which wants a Rottweiler in the parliament who could bite anyone suspected even of scowling at the very name “Army”. The budget session is nearby and the Army has asked for more money which it will not allow anyone to audit it or talk about. Rashid’s presence will make a good addition to bully in case one or two MNAs should they hazard a comment on the money for the Army. This however is not an issue. In Pakistan, no one can challenge the Army.
What I was personally reminded of was the year 1988 when Nawaz Sharif, backed by the ISI and General Aslam Beg, declared Benazir, then the country’s prime minister, a “security risk” for Pakistan. It was on one evening in Mochi Gate in Lahore where Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League held a rally against Benazir. Every speaker including Nawaz Sharif demonized Benazir for being a foreign agent (India) and called for her removal as prime minister. But it was Sheikh Rashid who stole the show. When he spoke everyone fell silent. Nawaz Sharif had a mischievous and conspiratorial smile on his chubby face reinforced by his shining bald head and rotund belly.
The moment Sheikh Rashid took to the rostrum the atmosphere was electrified with anticipation of a welcome volley of filth for which he has been notorious since he was handpicked by General Zia ul Haq to be a part of his team in the 1980s.
Those who did not attend the speech will only marginally understand what I am going to write because it was Rashid’s body language and the use of hands and fingers which filled in all the innuendos and gutter talk in which he launched himself. He began, “These days her [Benazir’s] situation is going up and coming down [O de halat uttay thally ho rai ne.].” He used his right thumb up and down suggestively which meant something so lewd that I cannot write it here. Then he made fun of her for losing her temper and said: “O barai chaiti garam ho jandi aye! [She heats up very fast].” With that he moved his four fingers and thumb like he was closing and opening them. This meant barking of a bitch. He called Benazir a bitch. He was hilariously applauded by the audience and the Mysllim League leadwrs including Nawaz Sharif.
There is much more he said about Benazir, but I cannot bring myself to write because it pains me to write about the woman who is not alive anymore. But the man who actually said that has never repented.
The People’s Party should be ashamed for having supported this man who has no shame and no sense of honor. What is the difference between Sheikh Rashid and the leadership of the People’s Party?