Fungus, the bogeyman-Anjum Niaz

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The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting.

Fungus is a fictional character in a children’s book. His job is to scare people. He belongs to the Society of Bogeymen who prefer stink and sleaze as opposed to ‘Mr & Ms Clean.’ Sliminess is their credo. Since life imitates art, Fungus is a good fit for our current cabinet of ministers. Men and women who live on decomposed dirt and stink up the corridors of power. The kingdom of Fungi thrives by attaching itself to the establishment guys. They are the mushrooms, moulds, mildews, smuts, rusts, and yeasts of our society. Why does the man/woman at the top tolerate these types? From Pervez Musharraf to Asif Ali Zardari; from Nawaz Sharif to Benazir Bhutto? You already have the answer.

But for Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman, plus a few old cravens dying for a ministry, Chief Bogeyman Yusuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet makes the people of Pakistan puke. Thanks to the toxic waste Pervez Musharraf left behind – the myth of National Reconciliation Ordinance or the NRO – Asif Ali Zardari sits where he could never have dreamt of sitting last year at this time: He and politics were poles apart; He and Pakistan were two different continents separated by the gigantic Atlantic Ocean, their trajectories never converging as in day and night – When it was day in Islamabad, it was night in Manhattan (Zardari’s home for the past five years). And now Pervez Musharraf, also a card-carrying member of the Society of Bogeymen, has the cheek to tell us that in 60 days the Zardari government will fall and the army will take over. Mr Mischief is throwing a big hint: ‘Get ready folks, I’m coming back.’ God forbid!

After Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, we gravitated towards her widower. Pakistanis are a charitable nation and while many were averse to his being the kingmaker, he still became our sovereign. Top diplomats raced to Bilawal House in Islamabad to shake his hands and secure his favours. Fungus, the bogeyman along with many other mendacious Fungi came crawling for jobs and lucrative deals that would make them super wealthy. Zardari’s first two top appointments within the first week in power were that of Hussain Haqqani and Rehman Malik. It was déjà vu all over again. The telltale records, neatly categorized and ready for revelation lying in the basement of the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) were the first casualty last February. The senior jiyalas reportedly went to the basement and personally destroyed them. More shocks were in store with the resurrection of superannuated civil servants Salman Faruqui and Javed Talat. Joint Secretary Siraj Shamsuddin was given a double promotion and overnight jumped to grade 22. The government was ordered to pay him and Salman Faruqui salary of the last ten years which the two gentlemen had “lost” out when they fled Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto’s second government fell. To make up for the material, physical and emotional ‘injury’ inflicted upon these émigrés who had breached our trust and fled, Chief Bogeyman Gilani was instructed to provide them succour. Faruqui’s niece, Sharmeela (who accused Nawaz Sharif’s chief cop Saifur Rehman of sexual harassment) today is the adviser to Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah as is Dr Shahid Masood, the failed PTV head to the prime minister. Thrown in are some oddballs, including a Dubai-based TV anchor, who enjoy the status of ambassadors at large and sponge on poor Pakistan.

The gravy train run by our rulers today would be the envy of any greasy character living in the developed world. He/she would wish they lived in Pakistan where the rulers are loaded and pull out truckloads of money each time they put their hands in the till. Well, that’s the signal we are sending out. When our president goes abroad, he takes along not one, not two, but three planeloads of chamchas. He says he foots the expenses from his own pocket. Strange? Where in the world does a leader live and make his own rules according to his whims. Are we a country or a fiefdom of one person?

I cried when Barack Hussein Obama won. I cried for the Americans who under George W Bush had become the most hated nation in the world. I cried for the people of colour in America who would at last not feel inferior because they were black and brown. It was a defining moment in history and thanks to live TV we all witnessed it. Then I cried some more for Pakistan and its kismet. I cried because our president took an entourage of 240 people to Saudi Arabia to beg money from King Abdullah. I cried when I saw the two disingenuous ‘Mirs’ Bajarani and Zehri become ministers. For their stunts against women, they were invited to join the cabinet!

And then I asked myself: if God can change the fortunes of the US by giving them a brand new leader – young, fresh and honest, why was Pakistan being punished with leaders – tried, tested and failed? If the Americans had rejected the Bush doctrine and those propagating it, why couldn’t the Pakistanis have rejected people who plundered the country in the past?

“It will take two hundred years for our politicians to become honest, clean and sincere,” Air Marshal Asghar Khan, 86, tells me at the launch of his book, My Political Struggle. But time is of the essence, I said, we don’t have the luxury to wait. Who knows what will happen two centuries later? We don’t even know if Pakistan will survive the crisis it’s facing today? “You have to be patient,” said the man who trained and put in place a top class Air Force in 1965 and saved us from defeat at the hands of India. Asghar Khan failed as a politician because he was too honest and too decent a man. “Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto asked me to join hands with him saying we’ll fool the people and rule over them for the next 20 years. I flatly refused.”

A speaker at the book launch, Asma Jehangir, said in her typically sarcastic tone with a sardonic smile “Rats of all seasons abound, especially rats bred in the GHQ.” She said that politicians who make a pact with the devil get rewarded, not punished.

But listen to this man: He is hundred percent certain that Army Chief General Kayani will not opt for a martial law even if things get real bad. He is also certain that the ISI is not helping the Taliban as western leaders and their media outlets think. Anyone who brings a bad name to the Pakistan Army is no friend of Australian author Brian Cloughley and that includes Ayesha Siddiqua. “Military Inc is not a good book. I have taken her head on in my new book. I have interviewed several players who are accused by her of running a financial empire, making the army appear sinister. I have set the record straight.”

Is that the reason DG ISPR General Athar Abbas stayed away from Brian’s book launch? Is that the reason why serving generals were absent? They didn’t want to give an impression that they had authorized the book and covertly facilitated its birth. Retired generals with skeletons in their closets who want us to believe that they are innocent souls and love Pakistan should have been there. But not a single fauji – retired or serving bothered with the launch of Brian Cloughley’s book War, Coups and Terror last Tuesday morning. What’s going on? It’s hard to believe that they didn’t know of the event. Cloughley (pronounced Cluffly) is an old hand at the ins and outs of the Pakistan Army. He has poured his admiration in one book already and this one is no different. He defends the institution like a hawk and loves it like his own child.

Good news: two good men, authors Ahmad Rashid and Shuja Nawaz are in Tampa, Florida at the invitation of US Centcom commander General David Petraeus, working on a strategy for Afghanistan and Iraq. The Indians are green with envy why two Pakistani security analysts have made it to Petraeus list of consultants. Eat your hearts out!

Alas, while our own leaders choose Fungus, the Bogeyman type, foreigners bag the best of our people to serve them. Anyone who can come up with a plan to banish forever the Society of Bogeymen deserves a Nobel Prize.


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