May 3, 2009

Adrift amidst the ‘fragile’ few

By Ardeshir Cowasjee
The government of Pakistan, comprising 80-odd self-adulators who serve but themselves, has been rated as 'very fragile' by the president of the sole superpower, Barack Obama. Fragile: “Liable to break or be broken; brittle; easily destroyed.” Such is the condition of a government cobbled together with the participation of our friends and well-wishers, a compilation and combination of political parties out to do in those of us in the cold. Fragile: Of persons: 'Liable to err or fall into sin.' Such are the 80-odd chosen few who form the fragile cabinet presided over by a fragile Asif Ali Zardari, our accidental president, who, it must never be forgotten, rules and misrules courtesy of the ghost of his assassinated wife to whom the Pakistani crown had been bequeathed by the 2007 government of the USA, the puppet master of the world. This new US government, it seems, is now unhappy with the George W. Bush-backed Zardari, which does not bode well for the president as when the US decided it had had enough of Gen Pervez Musharraf he was swiftly ‘eliminated’. The sole institution of the country that functions with a good deal of freedom and to which we, the people, should be indebted as whatever we know about what may be happening in the country emanates from it, is the media, both press and electronic. Given the fragility that afflicts those selected by the ballot box to govern, the media must zealously guard itself against breaking or being broken — it is our lifeline to reality — or to as near reality as anything in this country can be. And for this freedom, we must thank the man termed a dictator, Musharraf, who did what his preceding ‘democrats’ could or would not do. He gave the press as much freedom as it could digest and his media policies have allowed us as many channels on our televisions as we have ministers in our fragile government. That the freedom allowed to the electronic media is misused on occasion by certain eccentric unthinking commentators must not be a deterrent as it is up to the channel moguls to learn to exercise self-control rather than have control imposed upon them. At a recent seminar there was discussion as to how the Pakistani media can be made ‘good,’ in other words, how it can be controlled. Luckily, many amongst us agreed that there must not be any restrictions imposed, give the media time, and it will settle itself. Obviously viewers are taking exception to the wild views aired by the wild and woolly, which is a good thing, as it will hasten the sorting out process. Freedom is all very well, but it must be tempered by good sense, particularly when it reaches a largely illiterate public liable to be easily influenced by outrageously rabid utterances spewed forth by brainwashed twits. The press, at least as far as the English-language newspapers are concerned, is in control and provides us with enough news coverage for us not to have to rush to the Internet to find out what is happening within our midst and in the outer world. Few holds are barred when reporting on how we are perceived by commentators from abroad, whether such comments be realistic or unrealistic. Our homegrown commentators express their divergent views, with which we may or may not agree — we have the luxury of being able to sift out for ourselves what can be taken as the truth when it comes to news reporting or as valid comment when it comes to commentators. There was not much sifting to be done when perusing the reports on what the world’s strongest man had to say about his grave concerns about the state of Pakistan, concerns centred on the fragility of the 'civilian government' which can neither deliver what it is supposed to deliver nor 'gain the support and loyalty of their people”. We can only hope that he knows something that we do not know as he praised the “military side' for having finally come round to the realisation that the danger to Pakistan lurks not on its borders with India but within its own country. If this be a fact, full marks to the military for finally latching on to the reality of the situation and for deciding to take part in the civil war now being waged up north, on the borders with Afghanistan and further down towards the country’s capital. The question still exists, though, that after 60-plus years of indoctrination of both men and officers about the threat of the traditional enemy, India, has the army really seen the light, or is it merely succumbing to some very serious pressure being exerted upon it by the US, which pressure Obama referred to as “encouragement” which he said will be continued? Is it capable of such a swift change of mindset? Can it wage a sustained civil war opposing its own people, admittedly fanatics who give no quarter? For those who have been wondering aloud whether President Obama has sent out signals that the US may be well thinking of cutting its losses and handing over the country once more to the army, this can only be wishful thinking. Under the present circumstances with a civil war on its hands, how can it be expected to run the country? It has more than enough to swallow, motivating itself to take on the Taliban and to wipe out of its mind the old belief that India is about to pounce at any moment. There is little doubt that the nation as a whole has lost whatever patience it may have had with the Zardari dispensation, and that the sympathy vote that brought him and his party into power has evaporated. Then we have the economy. The government and its spokespeople may tell us at length that things are improving that we are on the up, but all signs are that we are on the down. The ‘friends’ of Pakistan, to whom the begging bowl has been held out, are all wary of those known as Pakistan’s ‘leaders’; they are not fools, they know well their reputations and their murky backgrounds. They are not going to easily hand out the goodies — what they give are but commitments. American money is naturally given for America’s own purposes. Zardari will be in Washington soon. All he can do is hope he can hold his own when he and his fellow travellers face the American president and his tough-talking team.

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