Shame all around – by Kamran Shafi

Photo Credit: Dawn

First published in Dawn
At exactly 23:12 i.e. 12 minutes past 11pm last Thursday night, my mobile telephone rang. My old friends of ‘Private Number Calling’ infamy were at the other end.
“Aap aaj XYZ embassy gaye they — wahaan kiya hua?” the voice said.

When I asked who was speaking, the voice mumbled a name, something between ‘Maqbool’ and ‘Mahboob’. When I asked where it was speaking from, the voice mumbled “IB”.

I said that I had indeed gone to the embassy concerned along with three other journalists to meet a visiting dignitary, and that if anybody wanted to find out what had happened there he should come visit me, identify himself and we could then have a chat. The nameless, numberless voice rang off, and hasn’t called since.

Shame on you gentlemen! Is this the way to behave with a citizen, not rich and powerful but a citizen nonetheless and a senior one at that? A person who writes a weekly article in a major newspaper and who never says what he does not write (and vice versa), in the cold light of day; who appears regularly on television talk shows and whose views are known to all?

Is this the way to question someone of my age, calling him in the dead of night, on his personal telephone (why don’t they use the landline, these spooks?), and ask him silly and impertinent questions? Much shame on you, sirs.

There was very recently a report in one of the newspapers that the superior judiciary is now taking more suo motu notice of matters than it ever did before. Well here is a fit case for immediate action by Their Lordships. The Supreme Court, which is exercising muscle and sinew rather a lot these days on every matter under the sun, should immediately ban the use of ‘Private Number’ telephones. Calls made from such numbers can be intimidating, and can be used for nefarious activities to boot.

The agency concerned should understand too that hiding its identity shows great cowardice: announce out loud who you are if what you do is in the service of the country! Whilst I doubt very much the voice was from the IB, shame on you whoever you are, and on the coven to which you belong.

Which immediately takes me to the ludicrous letter the foreign minister has written to the United Nations secretary general on some aspects of the Benazir Bhutto murder report. So absurd is it that it seems Shah Mehmood Qureshi has merely put his signatures on an already typed letter, ‘put up’ for the needful, no questions. Bizarrely, the letter was written a full two months after the report was submitted to the government and placed before the world to read and try to decipher.

The main thrust of the letter is to deflect attention from the ‘establishment’ and therefore lessen the opprobrium directed at it. Laughably, the letter goes to the extent of saying that no evidence has been provided; no material mentioned; no document referred to; and no affidavits provided to the effect that the establishment was “involved in or bears some responsibility” for Benazir’s assassination.

So who bears “some responsibility” if not the establishment? Who was in complete command at the time of Benazir Bhutto’s cold-blooded shooting to death if not the establishment’s own commander-in-chief, the Commando himself, when his government failed to provide her the security her status demanded, and specially when over 120 people had already been killed in an earlier attack on her?

Does Shah Mehmood not recall what Musharraf had said to Benazir after her return to the country when he saw that she was increasingly standing up to him? Words to the effect: “You are as safe as your closeness to me”? Does Shah Mehmood not know that she completely ignored this threat? So who “bears some responsibility” for Benazir’s killing? Everybody and Charlie’s aunt? Not the establishment?

Astoundingly, the letter goes on to say: “The report fails to identify the material, documents and special interviews on which it relies to come to the conclusions regarding the role of ISI.” Where, pray, has Shah Mehmood lived his adult life? In Timbuktu? Pakistan’s foreign ministers, who belongs to the PPP, a party which has been on the wrong side of the establishment ever since its inception, does not know the extent of the influence ISI exercises on Pakistani’s lives; a power that the ISI has arrogated to itself?

Shah Mehmood Qureshi does not know that the dark doings of the ISI range from setting up political parties; bringing no-confidence moves against sitting, elected governments; breaking political parties, even disappearing people.

I have posed the question before, I shall pose it again. Does no one in the establishment do any thinking at all before bombarding the public with more jewels? What other “material, documents and special interviews” should the commission have relied upon to come to conclusions regarding the role of ISI in the various happenings in Pakistan than the conventional wisdom of the lay people of Pakistan who have witnessed firsthand the shenanigans of this behemoth for decades now?

Did Shah Mehmood not pause before signing the letter and consider for a moment that the leader of the commission was a Chilean? Surely our foreign minister should have known of Chile’s suffering at the hands of its army and intelligence agencies, and therefore come to the conclusion that a Chilean would well understand every facet of an out-of-control security establishment’s behaviour.

The UN secretary general has quite rightly dismissed the objections raised in this silly and self-defeating letter which has served to highlight rather than paper over the suspicious activities of the establishment. Consider these words: “In any case, observations and comments on the history of ISI, its purpose, its past and present role and area of work are extraneous to the purpose of the mandate of the commission.” Shows there is much to hide, what? I ask you!



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