My choice today: Sun, 25 May 2008

“The flour crisis”

Tourism of Malaysia

Despair on the line
By Ardeshir Cowasjee

LEST we forget, let me reiterate. Those now at the helm of the affairs of the republic that is Pakistan, this God-given man-made nation, guiding us along the path to destiny, whether they sport glittering Colgate smiles, implanted pricey hair, dyed locks, wigs, perukes, toupees or whatever, thanks to that marvellously wicked NRO forced upon a willing President General Pervez Musharraf by his well-wishers, the Yanks, have been made to appear as white as driven snow.

This unconstitutional and undemocratic piece of legislation, which should have been rubbished by our courts, has imbued them all — the happy returnees and those who have been with us over the past eight years — with implicit faith in themselves, their allies and their sycophantic inept confidants.

But, lest they forget, let them remember that this amnesty forced upon the people has not proven to them, the people, or even gone halfway to convincing them, that the crimes with which these mercenary ‘high-ups’ were charged have not been committed. That they have been let off the hook is merely the worst form of expediency, under the hypocritical garb of ‘reconciliation’ (reconciliation? — it is a perfect con job).

That man of great perception (there were no others to follow him) our founder and maker, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, once prophesied shortly after the making of his country, realising the calibre of men and women around and about him, that each successive government of Pakistan would be worse than its preceding one. This prediction, made 60 years ago, has been eerily correct, and continues to be so.

Pakistan’s newspaper of record, this publication, founded by none other than Jinnah, yesterday editorialised on the present political mess — a masterly understatement. The heading cannot be disputed: ‘Depressing scenario’.

To summarise and to add a few comments: Asif Zardari, unelected representative of the people and himself a relic of the 1990s, has flexed his unrepresentative democratic muscle and referred to his and the republic’s president as a “relic of the past”.

Flying into uncharted realms of fantasy, he has maintained that the people (that flailing horse forever being flogged) are not interested in their stomachs or their erratic electricity supply but only in the departure of Musharraf. Dawn, without elaborating, states that Zardari’s outburst has “sent shockwaves through political circles” and “exacerbated the sense of uncertainty and anxiety in the country”.

Why did Zardari utter? Well, says Dawn, it could mark a change in his policy of reconciliation, or it could be brinkmanship. On the one hand, one member of the famous coalition (we are not sure whether it is on or off) has it that the people want nothing other than the ousting of Musharraf whilst on the other hand, the other member tells us that the beloved awam wants nothing but the restoration of the judiciary.

Since our politicos are convinced that they are not worried about their creature comforts, let them come to an understanding at least about the premier importance of either Musharraf or the judiciary. As says the editorial, Zardari has been castigated for his retreat from the Murree Declaration vis-à-vis the judiciary, so in sticking to his reluctance to agree on the restoration he perhaps found it expedient to have a go at Musharraf hoping to ease tensions, in view of the “pressure from his allies and even elements in his own party” who were unhappy with his ostensible game of footsie with the president.

Musharraf is naturally not too pleased about this public display from the man he has done so much for. But then, what is the old saying about the dog biting the hand that feeds it? And, Zardari opened fire only after his last and final case (so he thinks) had been dismissed by one of the many courts forced to come to his rescue.

Yes, right is the editorial when it opines that the optimism that came with the dawning of Feb 19 “appears a distant memory”. But why does it not wish to point a finger of blame? They, the men running the national show, are all to blame. They are neither politicians of stature nor statesmen — they are minnows when it comes to political responsibility and statesmanship. If Musharraf has let us down, and if things progress as they seem to be progressing, these men he has brought in to play democratic politics are well on the way to letting us down with a bigger bang.

Dawn says that the “will of the people as manifest in the election results has not been entirely respected”. Putting it factually and bluntly, the will as manifested — relief from the inflated prices and shortages of the basic needs of the masses — has been trampled underfoot.

But yes, the “key players” have indeed chosen to “sacrifice the larger national interest at the altar of personal gain and ego”.

Now, why should we pretend to be so naïve as to be surprised by this? Did these key players, the two main democrats plus their sidekicks, not do exactly the same during the decade of the 1990s as they yo-yoed with the fate of Pakistan? Those of us who kept our heads firmly out of the clouds during this past year expected nothing more. In fact, what is surprising is that so far their shenanigans have not been more outrageous. However, time will tell.

And yes, there are “few reasons for optimism”, and that “we will find leadership at all tiers and in all areas of state” is indeed “a forlorn hope”. It is nowhere on the horizon. The danger lies in further deterioration, both political and economical. It also lies in the presidency. Musharraf tends to be reckless and if he is cornered, this recklessness may provoke him into doing something both he and his country may later bitterly regret. It is imperative that he keeps his cool, that he thinks long and hard before he acts.

One headline yesterday proclaimed ‘A foreign hand is involved in violence’ — the perennial excuse now offered by the Senate Standing Committee for the Interior on the prevalent absence of law and order.

Is it a foreign hand that has brought about the dog-eat-dog manifestation and vigilantism? Is it a foreign hand that captured and burnt to death alleged robbers in Karachi and Lahore? Is it a foreign hand that caused the slaughter (literal throat-cutting) in the precincts of Islamabad’s NDC of the wife and children of a serving military officer posted overseas? No, it is native desperation.

Nil desperandum no longer applies.