Feb 032009

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

Chalta hoon thori duur her aik tezrao key saath/ pehchanta naheen hoon abhi rahbar ko mein –Ghalib

I go some way with everyone I see advancing swiftly, so far I see no one whom I can take to be my guide: Translation by the late Ralph Russell.

What if Zardari elects to have Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry back as the lord of the Supreme Court? Not in a million moons, you will say. And I go along with your gumption. What if the dharna gets bombed out by Rehman Malik and agent provocateurs locked up before the event? Doable, you’d wager. What if Nawaz Sharif and Shujaat Hussain ganged up to topple the government? Hypothetical, you’d agree. What if Zardari got to Mian sahib’s emotional innards for the fourth time and convinced him to pull out of the long march? Unlikely you’d naysay. What if Hillary Clinton got a brainwave to save the day from ‘Triple One Brigade?’ Yes, yes, very possible! You’d shout.

It’s no state secret that the Zardari government is aimless and adrift and the Sharifs a smokescreen manufactured in the US. With the brand name “Democracy” the Americans have a copyright on this trademark. Ambassador Anne Patterson has worked hard to plug the democracy package to the Pakistani people for over a year. It’s been a hard sell. Why? Because the product is poor. The chief ingredients: Asif Ali Zardari, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain, Asfandyar Wali and Maulana Fazlur Rehman have not gelled. Why? They lack the chemistry. They continue as wild cards. As I write, the political laboratories in Washington under the Obama administration are carrying out new experiments – tweaking presidential powers; decreasing Sharifs’ efficacy; vitamanising Altaf Hussain and Asfandyar’s political impotency. Still all actors fall short of the man-meets-the-moment mix.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” says the wiseacre Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff. Their shake-and-bake recipe has therefore been repackaged and floated anew on our airwaves to test its salability. The 170 million Pakistanis are America’s guinea pigs. We’ve been trapped into becoming political junkies. Our waking hours are requisitioned by lawyers, ex judges, anchors, journalists and politicians. The Americans are watching. They already have sealed our fate, but we don’t know what it is. Ours is a blind date with history. Meanwhile our loudmouths with God as their witness appear on the airwaves fulsomely. All swear in God’s name that they speak the truth.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, but who cares?

There’s an ex fauji who swears he’ll blow the lid off. His name is Brigadier (r) Tariq Izaz. Angry, bothered and steamy, that’s who he is. His tongue is a sewing needle stitching together a patchwork of people he loathes. And believe me, they are plenty! The TV anchor eggs him on to continue spewing obscenities, abuses and crude remarks. Izaz is a macho Musharraf-man with a stout defence of his commando. Not surprisingly then, he vows to strip naked (“nanga kar doon ga”) “Arsalan ka Baap; Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Kurd, Munir Malik, Harvard University and the New York Bar.” The last two, as you know, recently honoured Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The brig’s sympathies lie with that “poor girl Farah Dogar” who is being maligned for nothing. “It’s Arsalan ka Baap who is the source of all evil. He should be tried and convicted for life for subverting the constitution. He’s the Mukhti Bahini, responsible for the death of 40 people in Karachi on May 12. ” He likens Ahsan Iqbal to Rushdie and his Satanic Verses (umm, there is a resemblance?). Imran Khan and Qazi Hussein Ahmad too are targets of his polemics. Is he finished fulminating?

No, no, the brigadier is not done yet. “How dare Talat Husain laugh at Musharraf calling him ehmak (idiot)?” Geo TV is not spared either.

My curiosity about this man caps with every name he disses. His face is new on TV. His volley of abuses and a spirited defence of Musharraf with a covert nod of approval for Zardari and Dogar drives me to Google him. I get one hit. He’s a member of ‘Reunion.com.’ The website is a big tease. It just lets me peep into the first two lines written by the brig, member since Oct 5, 2002. “[I]was in the Army and retired last year as a Brig Gen. At present I am …” Read More, the website seduces. Sure. I quickly fill up the membership form with my name, email, gender and age. When I hit the ‘Join Now’ button, I get kicked out. Not once but twenty times. “What’s on Tariq Izaz’s mind? …Find out now!” the darned page tantalizes but will not let me enter Tariq’s blog to know what’s on his mind. Well, I’ve already heard his mind courtesy the TV channel that has undertaken to conduct a nightly media trial on the former chief justice with the anchor himself screaming “Iftikhar Chaudhry should be hanged!”

Just for one man, no make it two; the TV chat shows have turned into a fish market. Those for and against the motion of restoring Justice Iftikhar and Justice Ramday along with some other judges bray like donkeys every night mulishly shutting out their TV hosts appealing for order. Zardari has let loose his dogs of war, as has Nawaz Sharif. Will the performing circus with its screaming clowns carrying the PPP and PML (N) dandas ride roughshod on our airwaves until heaven (read America) intervenes? Goodness, there are still 33 days to go before the start of the long march! God spare us.

The zero-sum game between Zardari and Nawaz Sharif began when Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry made a political speech at Karachi. He spoke like a man spurned; not like a chief justice of the Supreme Court. He heaped a carload of negatives on the Zardari government. He packed all his sympathies for the poor and the downtrodden being denied justice because there was neither “rule of law” nor an “independent judiciary” in the country. “The elites can afford justice, but the poor are the real losers,” he drummed. Past the midnight hour under an open sky with empty stomachs, the Karachi lawyers braved the address but their response was muted. Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Munir Malik and Hamid Khan poured out their usual poison. The dark horse among the speakers was the former Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas. His speech was superb, emotion free.

A week later, Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday (my all time favourite) outdid all the other speakers at Lahore where a sea of lawyers attended Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s address. Raising the level many notches high, Haji Justice Ramday swore (Khuda ki kasam) that he didn’t care for his job. “The constitution being thrown away like a tissue paper” is what upsets him most. He said after July 20, 2007 when the 13-member Supreme Court bench headed by him restored Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as the CJ, “we knew we were marked men.” Indeed, on November 2, Musharraf took his revenge.

In Lahore Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was a bit more careful in his criticism of the government. But Ali Ahmad Kurd waving his hands in the air with his wristwatch dancing like a swirling dervesh spoke fearlessly and with wild abandon. How many times these speakers must have invited contempt of court by lashing out at the present chief justice? And yet the Supreme Court looks the other way. It’s not only the sacked judges and rebellious lawyers who swear in God’s name to be believed, but even journalists like Ansar Abbasi. He pulls out all the stops on our judges as the lone warrior of investigative journalism. He broke the Farah Dogar story and before that Arsalan Chaudhry’s story. Hunted, cornered, threatened, he has valiantly stuck to his pen. But he too invokes the name of Allah many times to convince people. Nothing explains this phenomenon more than the fact that there is no justice, no rule of law in the country.

Khuda ki kasam, I say, let’s catch, impeach, convict and ban politicians, judges and bureaucrats whose track record is an open book. Just phone-tap these guys and you’ll have them dropping like dead flies. Just do it. Who will do it? America? You’ve got to be kidding!

Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu

Courtesy: The News International, 3-Feb-09

 Posted by at 7:10 am

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