Trump card —Mahmud Sipra

Pakistan has invested a lot into the careers of such fine officers as Munir Akram and his younger brother. Let us not fritter away such assets because of a perceived missed beat of the party lineNew York billionaire Donald Trump is known for many things besides being the driving force behind some iconic real estate developments and record matrimonial settlements in today’s world of pre-nuptial agreements.

One of his other commercial successes has been the popular TV programme called ‘The Apprentice’, the show that has spawned a number of similar reality programmes and given a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘you’re fired’!

Now it seems that dreaded phrase has entered the realm of Pakistani bureaucracy. Everyone seems to be getting fired.

The Secretary of Finance who was recently hired became cannon fodder — he was fired simply because his appointment had been made by PMLN elements of the coalition cabinet.

The Chairman of PTV finally fell on his sword because he was a left over from the previous government. He has been replaced by a man of many words who has displayed a remarkable talent for hopping, skipping and jumping from one television channel to another.

Now unless there is more than one Dr Shahid Masood, the man who having completed his “apprenticeship” at two other private channels, is now Chairman of PTV. This is a perfect example of a man who can safely sing “Been there, done that” to the tune of Send in the clowns.

I don’t know who gets the credit for this double shuffle but as PTV still comes under the aegis of the Information Ministry I suppose Ms Sherry Rahman may have had something to do with it! Or did she find out only after the name plate on the PTV Chairman’s door had already been replaced?

This is the man who it was once demanded be “fired” from hosting his own show on a private channel. That move propelled Dr Shahid Masood overnight into some sort of an electronic media Samurai.

Dr Masood returned or was “re-hired” and given back his programme along with the more camera-friendly anchor Hamid Mir when the channel was allowed back on air.

Apparently Dr Masood talked himself into trouble again, this time around with the new set up in Islamabad. The plug was pulled again and the same channel found itself relocating its uplinking base in Dubai to London or Singapore, is it?

Dr Masood then made news again when he complained that he had been “threatened” by Mr Rahman Malik and that too, he “alleged” then, in the presence of Mr Asif Zardari.

That “threat” turned out to be a promise of things to come, it seems because he is now Chairman of the state-run Television Corporation. What value he can bring to this flagship of mediocrity which in this digital age of hi-definition television still can’t get even its lighting right, to say nothing about a speech aid called a teleprompter, remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure. Where Dr Masood is sitting now he is unlikely to need a teleprompter, it’s the writing on the wall he should be looking at!

Nevertheless I would have to raise a glass of Perrier on the rocks to the Federal Minister of Information, who I have to admit, when compared to her predecessors, is a breath of fresh air. She is in Washington DC nowadays, as part of the Prime Minister’s entourage.

I don’t know what else they might all come back with but the way Senator Obama is going around offering jobs to anyone who matters she in all likelihood could get an offer from him as well.

Then there is the unfortunate and unceremonious removal of Ambassador Munir Akram as Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN. Mr Akram — an eye witness to history from the times of ZAB — is an accomplished and experienced career diplomat, who is at that stage of his long career where even if his tenure was to be brought to a premature end, he ought to have been rewarded. Perhaps with an important appointment to a country where his diplomatic skills and his understanding of the country’s foreign policy in these difficult times could prove to be an invaluable asset.

What we see happening instead is that prize ambassadorial posts are being filled by political appointees and the culture of cronyism and petty petulance is replacing that of merit and professionalism.

I could be wrong and Ambassador Akram could be named envoy to France or to Brussels or maybe he will take over where his brother got off on his way to Beijing.

Pakistan has invested a lot into the careers of such fine officers as Munir Akram and his younger brother. Let us not fritter away such assets because of a perceived missed beat of the party line.

It is a sad commentary on an administration that wants to project the image of a fair and balanced policy towards some of the country’s best and the brightest.

If the recent circus staged by the government of the day on the “country’s premier intelligence service” is anything to go by then please read the following lines from that wonderful Stephen Sondheim song Send in the clowns performed by Judy Collins from A Little Night Music. It has a marvelous punch line.

‘Send in the clowns, Don’t bother, They’re here!’

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at



Source: Daily Times, 31/7/2008

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