Mar 2, 2009

Here we go again

By Ardeshir Cowasjee

THE Supreme Court under the able leadership of Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, chief justice of this most elegant of Republics and its peerless leadership, has seen fit to rule that the Brothers Sharif, Nawaz and Shahbaz, by means of their own acts and deeds, have disqualified themselves from holding public office.
That there are hundreds of their brethren in politics who are more than deserving of the same fate — from the highest to lowest — has so far escaped the attention of the apex court.
However, now ‘lines have been drawn’ and the battle is so far on for the top-dog slot (though knowing the local inconsistencies of friendship and enmity it is not inconceivable that the adversaries will at some stage fall into each other’s arms).
Mendacity is the order of the day, with both sides of contenders bandying lies and assertions, none uninvolved in the fray being able to differentiate between the two verbal sets. The presidential band under the sole leadership of our accidental head of state, Asif Zardari, and the Brothers Sharif and their cohorts, are equally adept at twisting facts and truths to suit whatever stand politics and expediency dictate.
We hear that in this expected spat democracy is the loser, but when in this country has democracy even drawn let alone won? We are also told that democracy allows losers and winners alike to protest or celebrate, that demonstrations are the stuff of true democracy. But then, which provision of our distorted constitution gives any citizen the right to disturb public life, damage public or private property, and generally create mayhem?
From the Afghan frontiers to the shores of the Arabian Sea we are now, yet again, witnessing the fact that in this land the word ‘tolerance’ has no standing, that it forms no part of the local lingo or of the national mindset. This is a true shame for it shows up in full force that we are an uneducated nation, that even those who have learnt abroad and perhaps imbued the diktats of tolerance merely throw their learning to the winds on returning to the homeland.
A learned friend of mine, once a high policeman, an avid reader and collector of books, to whom education has firmly stuck and who is aware of the meaning of tolerance, once described the antics of the South Asians as those belonging to ‘subcontinental monkeys’ — a wild horde attacking a blackened bunch of bananas. This lack of tolerance ensures and enforces the fact that none of our past rulers and certainly none of the present lot on both sides of the divide wish for or could put up with an independent judiciary — thus, the nation is bereft of justice and will remain so until the current political slate is wiped clean.
As for this latest imbroglio, which has come hand in hand with the Taliban/TSNM ‘deal’ purchased in Swat and Malakand, and with the outing of the truth about the Fata drone attacks, the international media has leapt upon it with alacrity and glee as being one more sign that this troubled republic is indeed a failing state. And how fares our own media? So far so good, but there are the usual reports that come with each regime when it feels threatened, that there are those at the top contemplating restrictions. This would be the height of stupidity, as stupid an act as any so far committed by this Zardari dispensation.
However, our media is prone to totally futile self-censorship at times, which with the Internet in full flow is self-defeating and also stupid. The Wall Street Journal, a distinguished publication in the US with a circulation of 5.2 million (Dec 2008 figure) on Feb 26 carried a lengthy comment on Pakistan and its shenanigans under the title ‘Pakistan’s Leader Stirs Fresh Turmoil’. The ‘leader’ is of course the one and only Asif Zardari to whom the appellation ‘president’ still to many seems strange and misplaced. However, for our sins, we must suffer.
It rightly focuses upon the man who now calls all the shots in governance, with a handful of sinister cronies allied to or members of his party (now his party, rather than the party of the people). It opens up: ‘When Asif Ali Zardari won the presidency last year, he vowed to unite this fractious country after nearly a decade of military rule. Instead, Zardari is emerging as a divisive figure at a time when Pakistan faces a rising Islamist insurgency and a stuttering economy.
‘The widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is alienating both allies and foes. Even his personal style has turned off supporters of his wife — some of whom serve in his government but are now reluctant to deal with him directly. At meetings in recent months, according to several witnesses, he lashed out at senior ministers, calling one a ‘witch’ and another ‘impotent’.… Zardari, 53 years old, declined to be interviewed for this story…. Today Zardari rarely ventures outside the presidential palace…. presidential aides say security concerns keep him inside. … Some of those who visit him there, however, say they are frequently subjected to boorish behaviour….’
The article was reproduced in the national press, but with certain omissions, which are not included here as they would probably not pass muster. But all interested can easily log on to the WSJ website — apart from finding it widely distributed on the email circuit.
Nothing unusual — Zardari is merely emulating his father-in-law, a master at publicly dishing out colourful abuses to his lieutenants. Few of his close associates were spared his taunting or his rudeness — telling people to ‘shut up’ or, like Zardari now, mocking ‘their personal foibles, divorces, affairs’. But Zardari is not Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and never will be. He is in no way a match for ZAB’s peculiar and in part destructive genius.
The damage has been done, but can be mitigated. More serious matters may be afoot to hold the undivided attention of our friends in Washington and New York. Our duo in the States, HH1 and HH2 could be instructed to convey the ‘mitigated’ version, but they should act in unison rather than aggravate matters. Let us not forget former COAS Gen Wahid Kakar who in 1993, without raising a stick or moving a brigade saw off, calmly and peacefully, both president and prime minister.

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