It’s always America that has the last word in our internal and foreign affairs. It will support a dictator as long as he works in American interests. But when he loses his value and become a liability, he has to be eliminated and made an example. On August 18, 1988, we witnessed the crash of Ziaul Haq on PTV. Exactly 20 years later, one more dictator has fallen. Yesterday we witnessed Musharraf’s crash courtesy PTV once more. Some things in Pakistan will never change.
In Musharraf’s case, the last nail to seal the presidential coffin was courtesy President Bush. Condi Rice had unequivocally said on August 17 that Pervez Musharraf would not be going to the United States. Asked by Fox News if Washington would grant him asylum, the secretary of state replied: “This is an issue that is not on the table.” Grasping for breath while on life support system, the Saudi and the British arbitrators arriving in Pakistan joined the US and the Pakistan Army by pulling the plugs on the president.
Thus has ended the inglorious era of yet one more dictator.
It is the same old saga of hate and revulsion against the ruler of the day. Pakistanis have ad nauseam witnessed parting kicks dealt to parting rulers. They have provided excellent entertainment for the public. Never have tears been shed; instead we have distributed sweets and danced on the streets each time a military dictator or a civilian ruler has been sacked.
Last year at this time Pervez Musharraf was insufferably proud. We hated his arrogance. We felt sick hearing him show off. Today we look at his drawn face and mellowed tone. Some among us feel sorry for the man. Less than ten days ago he was strutting about gloating in Asif Zardari’s and Nawaz Sharif’s waning glory; today he’s facing the music.
Look hard at the persona that once was indestructible. Look hard at the system that once fuelled his engines and provided all the horse power. You’ll always find the same lessons when you study the rise and fall of powerful men. The pattern never changes; the script is never different; the end is never benign.
And yet, men in power blithely continue believing they are destined to rule forever.
On August 13, only eleven federal secretaries showed up at the Presidency to witness the Independence Day celebrations. The majority spurned President Pervez Musharraf’s invitation. The next day at the Prime Minister’s House, all the federal secretaries showed up. “A presidential invitation is a command and unless for reasons beyond their control, it’s mandatory for the invitees to attend,” says a federal secretary who told me that it was shameful to see his colleagues behave in such a shoddy manner. There was a time when these same people kowtowed to Musharraf vying with each other to win his favour.The cliché about rats abandoning a sinking ship may be timeworn, but it is time tested. Indeed, the rats heading departments, divisions and government agencies had abandoned Musharraf and crawled into the PM House crevices to fatten themselves.
Serves Musharraf right! He harboured a clique of mediocre civil servants, gave them power and authority; gave them junkets abroad; gave them wealth; attended their parties and when they superannuated, he gave them extensions, not one but several. Today, but for Tariq Aziz, the rest have distanced themselves from the Presidency. They should not be called bureaucrats but rats.
The bureaucracy, politicised by our various rulers who chose their favourites to do their dirty work, has prostituted itself over the years. Nawaz Sharif’s yardstick of loyalty was to love him whether he was in power or out of power. When out of power, some of the same babus who were once close to him didn’t bother to remain in touch with the deposed prime minister, he never forgave them. In his eyes they had committed a cardinal sin.
Same story with Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari. When they left Pakistan, the bureaucrats fled too. After the February 18 elections, some of the most discredited bureaucrats whose sins got washed out by the NRO are back in plum positions. If the PPP government lasts some more months, you wait and see – Asif Zardari will stuff his men in every post, killing merit once more. Already government run organisations are being told to clear the decks for PPP appointees irrespective of whether there is a vacancy or not. Some of the worst men with sullied pasts are being appointed and given fat salaries and huge perks at the expense of the tax payers. Accountability is a word unknown in the ruling coalition’s political lexicon.
Welcome to democracy!
Where were the geckos of Gujrat? Musharraf picked up these ‘political orphans’ from the street. He gave them a free hand to rule, loot, plunder and play havoc with the people. During the February 18 elections, all the TV channels ran their advertisements 24/7 showing a benign Pervez Illahi ‘serving’ Punjab accompanied by his elder statesman Chaudhry Shujaat. Both the men were a profile of patriotism, selflessness and piety. Are they now going to attach themselves to the ruling party to suck more blood while the party lasts?
In politics, everything is a fair game. Alas!
Where are the MQM stalwarts today? Day and night we heard them threaten us with revenge if we dared support the sacked chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Their leader from London spoke long distance in his strange style of oratory pledging his life and that of his party’s to Musharraf. The president in turn ignored the blood that flowed on the streets of Karachi on May 12 last year; instead he jumped up and down along with the geckos of Gujrat to celebrate his show of strength while the rented crowds sang and danced in front of parliament in Islamabad.
That was the beginning of Musharraf’s downfall. God gives power to some but blinds them to it when they become too proud. Too drunk with power to see the blood flowing on the streets of Karachi, Musharraf earned the wrath of his people and the curse of his Creator.
His end, if not immediate, was inevitable, even a blinkered soul could tell but paid mercenaries like Sharifuddin Pirzada, Waseem Sajjad, Justice (retd) Malik Mohammad Qayyum and their coterie of lawyers like Khalid Ranjha, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, Shahida Jamil and Mohammad Ali Saif misled the president into believing that he was invincible.
Why do men in power always pick pygmies who are the cause of their downfall in the end? If anyone can answer this question, he deserves a Nobel Prize.
According to press reports in yesterday’s newspapers, Musharraf was said to be “so angry with the MQM chief that he has not been taking his calls since August 13.” Earlier, one heard the MQM Nazim of Karachi Syed Mustafa Kamal hold forth in his leader’s style of oratory the greatness of Musharraf while the president sat and glowed in his praise. “Musharraf appears scraping the barrel,” said an amused analyst, “he has become so desperate that he’s now leaning on the shoulders of a city Nazim!” But I wonder if the same Nazim today would be willing to say the same nice things he said of Musharraf?
Musharraf kept us guessing till the end whether he was staying or quitting. He made full use of our being a caged audience waiting to hear his verdict. Instead he gave us a long shopping list of all the good he had bought for Pakistan and how much he loved Pakistan. One small question: If he loved us and Pakistan so much why did he allow his handpicked ambassador in Indonesia some years back to sell the embassy land in Jakarta at a lower price than the market value? The team of investigators sent to conduct a probe after the number two at the embassy had squealed were told in Islamabad to lay off the retired general because he was one of Musharraf’s man!
Not only did the retired general stay on and enjoy the money he had made in the deal but was patted at the back by Musharraf. This is just one instance. Money more will come to light in the coming days.
Do you think the born again angels Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif will purge this nation of corruption now?
Give me a break!
The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting.