Mar 3, 2009

The lie factory

By Anjum Niaz
The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting"I need hibernation for at least three years, and don't have the luxury to do that," Asif Ali Zardari tells Christina Lamb of The Sunday Times, a year after his wife's assassination. "Benazir is all around. I dream about her and wake expecting her to come in." The president continues: "But I don't think she'd be unhappy. I think she's looking at us now, saying, 'Tell me, Asif, now do you think it's easy?'" Question: Was the president telling the truth about his performance to Ms Lamb – the peripatetic British journalist, BB's one-time-foe-turned-best-friend? He had already received an "F" from his citizens. The US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) last December conducted a poll where 60 per cent Pakistanis preferred Nawaz Sharif over Asif Zardari. Nawaz Sharif, his newest bĂȘte noire, tells the ranting crowds today that the spirit of Benazir Bhutto is raging because her husband is on a self-destruct path. "He's taking her PPP down with him." Nawaz Sharif mixes his populist rage with prayers for "Mohtrama Shaheed's" children. He pledges to prevent the demise of Pakistan's largest political party, the PPP. Shahbaz Sharif echoes his brother's words. Question: Aren't the Sharifs shedding phoney tears? Surely they would love to see the PPP destroyed, if not annihilated? So why pretend? Why lie?Fellow fence-sitters, Welcome to the lie factory. It's now fully operational. It's producing lies at warp speed. The bumper crop is before you. Help yourself to this rich harvest.Since Zardari will not "stoop" to the Sharifs' level, being the president, silly, he has cloned a corps of inane cabinet ministers and jiyalas to go out and counter the PML-N's "lies" with balder (no pun intended) "lies" about the coiffured brothers originally from Gawalmandi, Lahore, but now of Park Lane, London. Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar has had a revelation. Hallelujah! CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry asked for a presidential pardon. According to him the chief justice approached Mukhtar: "Go to Asif Zardari and tell him that I want to patch up with him." Question: Why did Mukhtar's conscience (if what he alleges is true) keep the CJ's cry for help confidential until now? Today it's overridden by the law of necessity dictated by the big boss Zardari. Mukhtar's classic one-liners normally cause titters, the latest being that the drones don't take off from Pakistan, but only land here.Minister Raza Rabbani, plainspoken and honest, has cruelly been put in a double-bind by his boss. Should he admit to being present when Asif Zardari offered a "business deal" to Shahbaz Sharif? The alleged deal, as we well know, was to support Justice Dogar's extension through an act of Parliament and in lieu the Supreme Court would not disqualify the Sharifs. RR has denied knowledge of such a conversation ever having taken place. More recently, The Wall Street Journal reported Zardari hitting Rabbani below the belt. Question: Is Raza Rabbani lying or Shahbaz Sharif? And why is he shielding his boss considering his shabby remarks? He refused a cabinet post earlier because he loathed taking oath from Musharraf. Must Rabbani let go of his principles now?Law Minister Farooq Naek has been sighted knocking Justice Dogar's front door in the cover of the night. His furtive visits allegedly took on greater urgency a night before the verdict on the Sharifs. Naek has denied this charge. Question: Is Naek lying when he says he has not visited the Dogar household despite being spotted by people who swear that they are telling the truth? If he's a visitor there, then he has no right to be our law minister; nor has Dogar the moral right to head the Supreme Court. Naek's appointment was an eyebrow-raiser, considering that he was the personal lawyer (humble servant?) of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari. It's not his wit but gratuitous services that got him this job.The Sharifs have allegedly stashed a fortune abroad. Their factories are in foreign lands, as are their palatial homes straddling continents. Where did all this wealth come from? They have humble beginnings as ironmongers, we well know. Question: Are they lying by hiding their illegal wealth while accusing Zardari of his millions in Swiss banks? Aren't they being twofaced by questioning the NRO that has sanitised Zardari while the Sharifs and cronies emptied out their coffers and spirited the money abroad hours before they froze our dollar accounts in the summer of 1998? I interviewed the FIA director-general after he was summarily sacked by Nawaz Sharif. General (r) Niazi gave me an on-the-record statement of who, where, how and when the money was whisked out of the country in the middle of the night.Nawaz Sharif has accused the Presidency of bribing parliamentarians with money from the Intelligence Bureau's slush funds during Asif Zardari's September election (he said this in an interview with Javed Chaudhry of Express News). This is the most damning accusation to date. It involves the agencies once again doing the dirty job of the government of the day. Question: if the PML-N fears horse-trading (a disgusting reality) in Punjab with Governor Salman Taseer allegedly doling out Rs50 million per vote to form a PPP government (a party MNA who is also a close relative of the Sharifs said this on a TV talk show the other day, although this was promptly denied by a PPP MP also on the discussants panel). Why has Mian Sahib decided to cry wolf now? If money was paid in the presidential election, why did Nawaz Sharif remain mum until now? Sinless Sherry Rehman and her crew of innocents avow they did not know that the Supreme Court would pass a judgement against the Sharifs. They claim to be clean-handed and heartbroken at this unfortunate news. Question: If the guiltless lady and gents are telling the truth, then how come their government informed the Americans on the eve of the Supreme Court judgment about the ruling? Zahid Hussain who reported this story swears by it. Want the brazen truth? Our government dare not mess with foreign newspapers. When it comes to The Wall Street Journal, the PPP guns sheepishly fall silent. The Feb 26 contentious article "Pakistan's leader stirs fresh turmoil," quoting multiple witnesses, western observers and officials regarding Asif Zardari's noxious style of governance and his "boorish" behaviour towards his subordinates, has gone legally unchallenged. Interestingly, the article includes pedantic quotes in defence of the president by his spokesman, the Faustian Farhatullah Babar. Readers are informed by Babar that his boss has never "used intemperate language" with colleagues and "far from endorsing infighting and general nastiness, President Zardari is seeking to melt away the bitterness of the past." Question: Is this write-up total hogwash? Are Matthew Rosenberg and Zahid Hussain deliberately distorting information? Are they wilfully slandering the president, and thereby inviting libel? The WSJ is a very influential newspaper and is widely read by movers and shakers in America. If Babar is to be believed, why has the Pakistan government not sued the WSJ? Why is Sherry Rehman in denial? Portraying our president as "boorish" has hurt our pride and sensibility, damaging our reputation abroad. Is Babar a liar and Rehman an ostrich?Finally, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has accused the security forces of the murder of Geo reporter Musa Khankhel in Swat. It has even named an Army major who reportedly "exchanged harsh words with Khankhel," warning the reporter "to be careful when dealing with the armed forces." The AHRC, based in Hong Kong since 1984, is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. Question: Is the AHRC concocting pernicious lies against our army – and why is the ISPR silent? Let the nation have a full-throated debate to separate the pseudo-populists from the unfeigned. The devil's in the above details!

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