At least two readers, obviously the Commando’s supporters, have sent me abusive emails after reading my last article ‘The happening place’ (March 2) in Dawn.
They have, among other compliments, called me a liar for suggesting that Bilal Musharraf, Gen Musharraf’s son and heir, visited Prince Alwalid bin Talal taking in tow the then Pakistani ambassador Adm Shahid Karimullah. ‘Where is the photograph?’ they have demanded of me.
Whilst they are being patently dishonest because the said photograph was printed in the press at the time, and was commented upon by me among others at the time, they need only google Bilal Musharraf’s name and spend a few minutes on the Internet to find and access it. They will see that not only is the admiral sitting, hands folded in his lap as if he were in the presence of a high and mighty personage, Musharraf Junior, even Asad Jamal, Musharraf Junior’s ‘boss’, is likewise sitting in a subservient way in the presence.
This is a most serious matter: the Pakistani ambassador sitting in on a private business meeting; specially an ambassador who was a retired and much bedecked navy chief. Might one call upon My Lords the justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan who have oft spoken of the need to wipe out corruption in high places, to take suo motu action on this too and summon Adm Karimullah to explain himself? Unless, of course, the only corrupt people in Pakistan are political leaders against whom the Internet is full of postings ever since Gen Musharraf lost his nerve and left office under threat of impeachment.
Case in point: the friends of the establishment come out with facts and figures on the Internet on how much members of the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan are paid; what their perks are; how many government cars they use; and what their worth is according to themselves in their declarations of wealth and property. More often than not these declarations are made fun of and ridiculed by the media Taliban who ad nauseum ask for the ouster of whichever minister/public representative is the flavour of the week.
Not once has the media asked for transparency in what perks senior armed forces officers enjoy; how much they cost the state; which, and how many motor vehicles they are authorised; whether corps commanders drive around in BMWs or not; how many servants wait upon them and the zoos of exotic birds and antelope they maintain (in their official residences), and what they own in terms of movable and immovable property.
In my day there was a form, PAFY 1975, in which army officers were required to detail their worth. Is it existent today? And if it is, why are the assets of senior army, navy and air force officers not made public like those of elected representatives? Unless, of course, they are holy cows not to be questioned.
Holy cows reminds me, after the unilateral declaration of independence by the Pakistan Army in arrogating to itself the perfect right to give extensions in service to senior army officers, will other departments follow suit? The general manager Pakistan Railways handing out extensions in service to several divisional superintendents; the chairman federal board of revenue to customs and income tax officers, and the inspector general of police, Punjab, to DIGs?
Where will all of this stop if every department becomes a law unto itself? Why have governments at all then? For, of what use the prime minister or the chief ministers of the provinces? Of what use ministers and secretaries to government? Of what use, indeed, parliament itself?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, more and more Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are being apprehended in joint operations of the Americans and our intelligence wallahs. Almost all of these arrests were made in Karachi adding to the charges that there always was a Quetta shura which hightailed it to Karachi when the Americans threatened to bomb their hideouts in the environs of Quetta itself.
The question to ask is why our security establishment for so many years denied the existence of the shura in the face of open and very public declarations by Balochistan’s elected leaders such as Mir Hasil Bizenjo and former chief minister Mir Akhtar Mengal that it did exist, in Quetta itself?
The answer is easy and we all know what it is. Anyway, it seems that President Obama’s strategy of using the carrot and the stick, mainly the stick (witness the tough letter hand-delivered by Gen James Jones, Obama’s security adviser), and of demanding accountability, is paying dividends not only in neutralising the terrorists who use Pakistan as a launching pad but also in Afghanistan. Would that accountability was applied across the board in this country too.
It would not be out of place here to mention, too, the clear-headed policy being followed by the US and Nato commander in Afghanistan Gen Stanley McChrystal. The thing that stands out most is that the general keeps a keen eye on what is going on and is sensitive to innocent deaths and collateral damage caused to non-combatants, apologising personally and publicly whenever such sad events occur. This is a sea-change from the arrogance of Dubya and Dick ‘The Sneer’ Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their field commanders.
In the end in what seems to be very bad news for the terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his friends in the Pakistani security establishment, many of his commanders and fighters have reportedly defected to the Afghan government after attacking the Taliban in Baghlan province. This too seems to be the result of McChrystal’s policies, and is another setback to the establishment’s yearning for strategic depth in Afghanistan which seems to be a rather large pie-in-the-sky now. More on this quite inexplicable venture next week.