Pakistan: Another Gibraltar?

Between a rock and a hard place, having burnt his boats there is no other choice for Pakistan’s opposition leader Imran Khan but to achieve his objective to obtain “by a little bit of madness” the elusive freedoms that is the right of all Pakistanis in a real democracy.

Posted on 10/29/14
By Ikram Sehgal | Via ViewsWeek

ImranOrdered by Musa Bin Nusayr, the Governor of the Muslim provinces of North Africa under the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid-I, to conquer the Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania (Spain), Tariq Bin Ziyad crossed over from Morocco to mainland Europe on or about April 19, 711. Reinforced by an additional 5000 soldiers from Musa consisting mostly of recent converts to Islam, Tariq landed on a rock formation on the Iberian Peninsula along with his own 7000 soldiers. Derived from Arabic “Jabal Al Ṭariq”, “Gibraltar”means “Mountain of Tariq.” The saying “burning one’s boats” being taken from Tariq’s burning all his ships means there is no going back, either you achieve your objective or die in the attempt! Three months later on July 19, 711, his 12000 strong force routed King Roderic’s vastly larger 100000 plus Visigoth Army. Pushing deeper into Hispania, Tariq captured Toledo and Guadalajara while his other Divisions captured Cordoba, Granada and other fortresses.


Tariq’s “do or die” force was the vanguard of the muslims who went onto conquer most of Spain, remaining undisputed rulers as separate Emirates loosely unified for nearly 500 years. Starting the 13thcentury, the Emirates fell one by one to the christians, muslim rule in Spain finally ending two centuries later on Jan 2, 1492.  Muslims and jews lived together in absolute harmony for nearly 700 years, what an irony that they were persecuted and together pushed completely out of Spain by the christians.  My very good friend Frank Neuman often reminisces about this sitting in his beautiful villa atop a cliff in Moreira (place of the Moors) overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.


Writing in DJ, Group Capt Sultan M Hali said, “the clandestine raid, code-named Operation “Gibraltar”, carried out across the Ceasefire Line (CFL) in Kashmir in July/ Aug 1965, was bold and audacious in planning but was immature and unprofessional in execution, resulting in the needless sacrifice of hundreds of Pakistani soldiers and volunteers, they lie in unmarked lonely graves unsung and unheralded.”  Sultan Hali says that that “volunteers” were mostly untrained and under-equipped, with proper soul-searching the 1999 Kargil fiasco could have been avoided. Hundreds of our brave soldiers would still be alive instead of lying unclaimed on the desolate wind-swept high mountain slopes near and around Kargil.  Originally planned in the 1950s, those responsible for re-hashing the misadventure code-named Operation “Badr” should have been court-martialed, they lacked the soldierly attributes necessary and moral courage to claim the bodies of their own slain men.


Tahirul Qadri left Imran Khan the “last man standing” in town.  Notwithstanding that this horrible precedent would put an albatross around the neck of every subsequent PM, the PTI leader is determined that Mian Nawaz Sharif should resign as PM. “Changing the system” should be the primary reason for his protest, otherwise we are in limbo in a political impasse! Logic, if not knowledge of actual facts, suggest Mian Sahib is emulating Asif Zardari in buying his way out of trouble, consider Javed Hashmi’s sudden U-turn and then Qadri’s abrupt exit. Cautioned by Mian Nawaz Sharif not to gloat over this “victory”, PML (N) stalwarts barely restrained themselves falling over themselves with glee and rubbing Qadri’s nose in the dust.  The morality of conveniently forgetting his Model Town dead and injured notwithstanding, Qadri’s denials about a “sell-out” are not very convincing.


The electoral drubbing of the PML (N)-supported Javed Hashmi in Multan was a watershed, the subsequent rallies in Sargodha and Gujrat confirm Imran Khan sustaining the momentum of having caught the imagination of the public across the broad political spectrum in Punjab, his popularity being directly proportional to PPP’s decline. ANP is in serious trouble in Karachi, even the MQM will be hard put not losing significant numbers to PTI.  If Nabil Gabol quits MQM and joins PTI, quite a number of PPP’s hard core will follow him, from Lyari mainly, some from Malir.  What about Larkana on Nov 21 to gauge the reaction of rural Sindh to Imran Khan?


One should not hold out expectations from the ball being firmly in the Supreme Court’s (SC) court.  The SC judgment on “voiding” the NRO allowed endless legal filibuster, those indicted as corrupt but given immunity kept on looting with impunity.   Disqualifying the PM or not is a moot point, can their Lordships avoid taking into account the seething frustration gripping the land asking for dire need of electoral reforms and lack of justice at the grassroots level?  They will be hard put not to give “advice” for a fresh mandate from the electorate. With Senate elections due in March 2015, Imran Khan should concentrate on Parliament quickly enacting electoral laws to include direct elections to the senate.


Alone on Constitution Avenue but determined to tough it out, Imran Khan is politically the beneficiary of Tahirul Qadri’s exit.  Between a rock and a hard place, having burnt his boats there is no other choice for Imran but to achieve his objective to obtain “by a little bit of madness” the elusive freedoms that is the right of all Pakistanis in a real democracy.  PML (N) will go to town labelling his sit-in as an exercise in futility if he quits now. In a sense it is Gibraltar all over again!


Will this “Gibraltar” be like Tariq’s successful 711 AD foray or our ill-conceived 1965 and 1999 disasters? Maybe third time lucky for Imran Khan and Pakistan?


The writer is a Pakistan-based defense and political analyst. He can be contacted at

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