May 252008

Dr Farrukh Saleem

He is the most powerful politician in Pakistan. Of all the political prisoners in South Asia’s history, he has been in jail the longest. He has been the target of a 17-year long propaganda campaign. Of all the politicians in Pakistan’s history, he has been at the receiving end of this country’s most malicious character assassination crusade.

He definitely has his share of failings. He is certainly no angel (because angels don’t breathe). Most people one meets say he has made money the wrong way. His school friends say that he had a disco at home. Most foreign journalists one meets say he is a charmer, an enticer and a tempter. His record shows that he is also resolute, courageous and brave. There has always been a lot of smoke around him–and they say where there’s smoke there’s bound to be fire. According to the BBC, “He suffers from diabetes and a spinal ailment.” According to Al Jazeera, he also suffers from “heart trouble.” He has surely been the establishment’s designated fall guy ever since he married Benazir in 1987.

More recently, he said that “Amin Fahim would be the candidate for PM.” He went back on his word. He promised that judges would be restored within 30 days. He went back on his word.

This much is known about him. What’s not yet known is if he is far-sighted? Is he politically credible? Is he politically intelligent? Can he run the PPP? Is he playing smarter than he is? Is he a master politician? Does he play by the rules of realpolitik? Is he a visionary?

Last Tuesday, I was beginning to believe that he was in league with Musharraf. On Wednesday, Absar Alam claimed that “during recent rounds of negotiations” President Musharraf had “offered to resign.” If the co-chairman can get Musharraf to resign in exchange for an indemnity, he would undoubtedly be the master politician that his hangers-on claim him to be.

Last Thursday, I thought that he had forgotten peoples’ mandate. The same day, he gave an interview to the Press Trust of India (PTI) saying that “there is tremendous pressure from people who want the president’s ouster and that he has no choice.” I was proven wrong once again.

Over the last month or so, I had begun to feel that may be he was playing his cards not in the benefit of Pakistan. May be because of our judiciary’s failing to end his long, illegal incarceration he was averse to bringing back the judges. May be because of his vested interests he was not standing up to Musharraf. Then I counted the number of meetings he had with Anne Patterson and Robert Brinkley. I factored in Negroponte’s heavy hands and Musharraf’s recent remarks that “America, the most powerful institution and the MQM were with him.” Imagine; the pressure cooker the co-chairman must be in. I had to put my feelings aside and look at realpolitik.

A business leader told me that if the co-chairman became the PM he would leave Pakistan. A hardcore political worker from Wazirabad says that the co-chairman’s rather shaky stand on the judges and Musharraf is hurting the PPP. My own legal eagle says that we haven’t seen the constitutional package so one can’t say what the co-chairman is really up to.

Have you ever experienced a ‘Desert Safari’ in Dubai? When the desert ranger comes to pick you up from your hotel he isn’t really the type you would normally trust. You discover he is a rash driver. Then he, unexpectedly, jumps the red light. As the sun descends into the horizon, you find yourself in the middle of a dune field; crescentic sand dunes, linear and parabolic, moving dunes, reversing dunes and dunes interacting with the wind. The ranger, unexpectedly, speeds the 4X4 to the top of a dune and you feel elated (Bhurban Declaration). The ranger then lets the vehicle into a freefall and you feel you are in the middle of Death Valley National Park (PML-N ministers resign). When would the roller coaster end (“we can live with Musharraf” versus Musharraf is a “relic of the past”)? Seems like eternity but your ranger finally stops the vehicle. You realize that you are still in one piece and that there’s BarBQ, henna painting and belly dancing. You stare back at your ranger but this time in a different light.

Pakistan is being driven through a hyperactive minefield; terrorism, economic and political. According to the Telegraph, the co-chairman “now heads a political party that America and Britain wants to stabilize nuclear-armed, volatile Pakistan.” I want to think that there will be BarBQ, henna painting and belly dancing once we are through.

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email:

Courtesy: The News, 25/5/2008

 Posted by at 4:46 pm

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