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Posts Tagged crooks

My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade

hina-rabbani-bilawal-compromising-position-5-300x225Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: “…As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.” The year was 1587.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People’s Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.

Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People’s Party supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.

Benazir’s last decision was in the same autocratic mode as its predecessors, an approach that would cost her tragically her own life. Had she heeded the advice of some party leaders and not agreed to the Washington-brokered deal with Pervez Musharraf or, even later, decided to boycott his parliamentary election she might still have been alive. Her last gift to the country does not augur well for its future.

How can Western-backed politicians be taken seriously if they treat their party as a fiefdom and their supporters as serfs, while their courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties concerning the young prince and his future.

That most of the PPP inner circle consists of spineless timeservers leading frustrated and melancholy lives is no excuse. All this could be transformed if inner-party democracy was implemented. There is a tiny layer of incorruptible and principled politicians inside the party, but they have been sidelined. Dynastic politics is a sign of weakness, not strength. Benazir was fond of comparing her family to the Kennedys, but chose to ignore that the Democratic Party, despite an addiction to big money, was not the instrument of any one family.

The issue of democracy is enormously important in a country that has been governed by the military for over half of its life. Pakistan is not a “failed state” in the sense of the Congo or Rwanda. It is a dysfunctional state and has been in this situation for almost four decades.

At the heart of this dysfunctionality is the domination by the army and each period of military rule has made things worse. It is this that has prevented political stability and the emergence of stable institutions. Here the US bears direct responsibility, since it has always regarded the military as the only institution it can do business with and, unfortunately, still does so. This is the rock that has focused choppy waters into a headlong torrent.

The military’s weaknesses are well known and have been amply documented. But the politicians are not in a position to cast stones. After all, Mr Musharraf did not pioneer the assault on the judiciary so conveniently overlooked by the US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. The first attack on the Supreme Court was mounted by Nawaz Sharif’s goons who physically assaulted judges because they were angered by a decision that ran counter to their master’s interests when he was prime minister.

Some of us had hoped that, with her death, the People’s Party might start a new chapter. After all, one of its main leaders, Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Bar Association, played a heroic role in the popular movement against the dismissal of the chief justice. Mr Ahsan was arrested during the emergency and kept in solitary confinement. He is still under house arrest in Lahore. Had Benazir been capable of thinking beyond family and faction she should have appointed him chairperson pending elections within the party. No such luck.

The result almost certainly will be a split in the party sooner rather than later. Mr Zardari was loathed by many activists and held responsible for his wife’s downfall. Once emotions have subsided, the horror of the succession will hit the many traditional PPP followers except for its most reactionary segment: bandwagon careerists desperate to make a fortune.

All this could have been avoided, but the deadly angel who guided her when she was alive was, alas, not too concerned with democracy. And now he is in effect leader of the party.

Meanwhile there is a country in crisis. Having succeeded in saving his own political skin by imposing a state of emergency, Mr Musharraf still lacks legitimacy. Even a rigged election is no longer possible on 8 January despite the stern admonitions of President George Bush and his unconvincing Downing Street adjutant. What is clear is that the official consensus on who killed Benazir is breaking down, except on BBC television. It has now been made public that, when Benazir asked the US for a Karzai-style phalanx of privately contracted former US Marine bodyguards, the suggestion was contemptuously rejected by the Pakistan government, which saw it as a breach of sovereignty.

Now both Hillary Clinton and Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are pinning the convict’s badge on Mr Musharraf and not al-Qa’ida for the murder, a sure sign that sections of the US establishment are thinking of dumping the President.

Their problem is that, with Benazir dead, the only other alternative for them is General Ashraf Kiyani, head of the army. Nawaz Sharif is seen as a Saudi poodle and hence unreliable, though, given the US-Saudi alliance, poor Mr Sharif is puzzled as to why this should be the case. For his part, he is ready to do Washiongton’s bidding but would prefer the Saudi King rather than Mr Musharraf to be the imperial message-boy.

A solution to the crisis is available. This would require Mr Musharraf’s replacement by a less contentious figure, an all-party government of unity to prepare the basis for genuine elections within six months, and the reinstatement of the sacked Supreme Court judges to investigate Benazir’s murder without fear or favour. It would be a start.



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Our national disgrace

When a most foolish prime minister after committing an avoidable blunder handed over on a gilded platter this country to his army chief in October 1999, there was, to put it mildly, from a nation imbued with democratic principles, a strange outpouring of widespread joy. The love of and desire for democracy was shelved.

Gen Pervez Musharraf inherited a country that was broke, and that was regarded as an international pariah due to its nuclear ambitions. Initially he did not do a bad job of running it, with a cabinet of 12 citizens, and his popularity ranking by and large was favourable. We chugged along, with no help from the outer world, with no internal upheavals. Then came 2001 and 9/11, and Musharraf was established as one of the world`s most sought after leaders. Pakistan`s geographical location and his wink-of-an-eye decision had seen to it.

Then he got carried away, it all went to his head, by April 2002 he had `lost it`. His referendum was the beginning of his end. He then further `lost it` by picking out the worst possible political actors on the national stage with whom to form a political party and run away with the elections he was bound, by the Supreme Court, to hold at the end of that year. His choice of manpower on the political side could not have been worse (well, yes, judging by what we have today, perhaps it amazingly could have been).

To form his new assemblies some bright spark advised him to decree that all those standing for election must be graduates. Utterly ridiculous, and against all democratic norms, because not only did it shut out the larger majority of the nation from offering themselves to the electorate but it opened wide the door to corruption (which until then had been held within reasonable bounds).

Musharraf knew his country-kin, he knew their propensity for corruption and he must have known that a large number of those he sought to install in his parliament would conjure up bogus degrees — which of course they did with his encouragement. He was not ignorant as to how entrenched was corruption. At the end of 1999, in an interview with the BBC, when asked how corruption in the armed forces compared with that of the political classes — Mickey (Kamran) Shafi will like this one — he responded, curtly and aptly “We are all of the same stock.”

So, no one knew, or even cared, at that time how many bogus degrees had been produced before the Election Commission, and exactly how many cheats and crooks entered parliament — though we did have a fair idea from the calibre of those that sat there.

The graduate requirement was operable for the 2008 elections and so more bogus degrees were cooked up by the new lot of aspiring legislators. We now know much more. On orders passed by the Supreme Court, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has reportedly sent off the degree certificates produced by 934 parliamentarians for verification (the total number of these leech-like beings is 1,170). Apparently 161 certificates were illegible — what does that tell us as to their validity?

It seems that a dozen or so cheats and crooks have already been disqualified by our courts and over 50 cases are pending. The most famous legislator allegedly with a bogus degree is the man in charge of the law ministry who claims to hold a doctorate from a university that sounds like an Italian ice cream factory.

The media, particularly the press, has been active in its coverage of this national disgrace — and must be given due credit. `Civil society` which reared its head in 2007 has not been too vocal, there have been no marches or demos against the cheats, charlatans, con-persons and four-flushers who have passed themselves off as legislators.

The two intrepid tilters at windmills, friends Naeem Sadiq and Isa Daudpota, appealed in April to the Chief Justice of Pakistan pleading that he order that the parliamentarians` degrees be verified and those found with fake degrees be disqualified immediately and barred from ever again standing for election.

Last month they sent him a second appeal requesting that he take legal action against the CEC or Chief Election Commissioner (current and previous) for failing to verify the declared degrees and allowing cheats and crooks to sit in our parliament. The fault that they are where they are lies entirely with the CECs.

The CEC and, by extension, the HEC must shoulder the blame for this unacceptable state of affairs and see that the matter is sorted out as per the orders of the Supreme Court and as per accepted norms of honesty. All who have sat in parliament between 2002 and 2007 and all who now sit there must share the guilt for having connived and acquiesced with gross moral corruption. The universities of the country must cooperate, and not in their turn cheat and falsify, in weeding out the bogus degrees and by advising the HEC which in turn should make public the list of all the criminals who have conned us.

To top it all, when on the subject of connivance and acquiescence, we had the chief minister of Balochistan, a `nawab` no less, Aslam Raisani, who recently when uttering on the subject of the holders of fake degrees in his assembly (13 members of whom allegedly stand accused) is quoted (this newspaper June 30) as having stated that “a degree is a degree whether fake or genuine”. If such be the belief and thinking of our legislators, then not even God Almighty can save this country from its moral morass.



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