All of the time, in more ways than one. So, first to our blow-hot, blow-cold prime minister who has executed another dizzying U-turn. This time on his statement that the Sipah Salaar-e-Azam (an honorific bestowed upon the Sipah Salaar by Akram Shiekh, who is also Mansoor Ijaz-of-the-Murky-Memo’s counsel) and the DG ISI had acted improperly in submitting a reply to the SC without the government’s approval.
We are now told that he had said what he said under “a unique situation when there was no clarity”, but that now, “since there is clarity and now we have all met … that (remark) does not pertain to these two gentlemen”. I don’t know if your head is spinning reader, mine surely is. It’s so bad actually that I am now going for a walk with my beloved Labrador, Mister, to try and clear my head. I only hope I can get this piece done by my deadline.
Now, that was good! A crisp sun shines down on a Lahore that was freezing till yesterday — no gas, thank you very much. While the walk was bracing, my head is still buzzing at the extent of Makhdoom Sahib’s naiveté. However, here goes another effort at writing.
So then, the three protagonists met and clarity came, eh? Was it in the form of a demand that the PM withdraw his remarks and mayhap the army would let the government off the hook? Or were there any other quid pro quos to off-set the PM’s humiliation? And if there weren’t any, why? Should one of them, indeed, not have been ISPR’s withdrawing its harsh and insolent statement against the PM? Once bitten twice shy they say, but he simply will not learn: I’ll bet the PM will be bitten again.
And now to Mamogate or Meemogate, depending on which TV channel you prefer. I attended the first hearing of the Commission and, even before proceedings started, told my nephew who was with me that this was going to descend into a complete farce. And what do you think made me say that? Only the fact that whilst a twice-elected former prime minister accompanied by seven senior leaders of his party, all former chief ministers and federal ministers (two of them flying in from Karachi for the hearing) attended; whilst senior Grade-22 ‘bloody civilian’ bureaucrats attended, two army officers, one Grade-21 and one Grade-22 did not deign to attend. All had been issued like summons. The portends were clear from the start.
Look at where we are today; just look at what the world is saying about us Pakistanis, our politicians, our army, our intelligence services, even our superior judiciary. Just read reports in the international press from the Christian Science Monitor to the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, see what the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has said. In short, that we are an irresponsible, unfair, inequitable, capricious, bitter people.
Neither are we stopping here. On the very day that some of these negative stories came out accusations were made against the interior minister no less, of planning to murder Mansoor Ijaz no less, if he came to Pakistan. The purported reason for the belief: that he was Benazir Bhutto’s ‘security chief’ the day she was killed! I ask you! The Commando was in power then, Rehman Malik, good bad or ugly, was not in government then. For God’s sake, what is going on? How many self-inflicted wounds can this poor country suffer?
Someone had it right the other day on TV, talking about the various shenanigans going on: “Who will want to visit a country: investor, tourist, anyone, when in the highest of the country’s courtrooms allegations of ministers committing murder are being bandied about”? Let me add: “Who will wish to visit a country where the government, the army and the judiciary are seemingly at each other’s throats, and no one knows whether he/she is coming or going”?
We Pakistanis can still recover some dignity, save some little face if we grow up. That is all I will say on this theatre of the absurd. But for the particular reading of the Sipah Salaar-e-Azam and his men I give here an excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor story of Januaray 25th: “But Ijaz’s criticism is not limited to the civilian leadership, with whom he has developed a high-level of personal animosity. Asked whether Pakistan’s traditionally pro-military judiciary should be doing more to probe his allegations that ISI chief General Shuja Pasha met with Arab leaders to discuss the possibility of a coup, Ijaz responds: “You’re damn right they ought to ask that question. If the Supreme Court is not willing to, you can be sure [I will].” Warning: this may well develop into a Hoar Choopo Gannay situation, sirs.
In the end, let me go back a little. On the day that the Supreme Court took up regular hearing of the Mamo/Meemogate petitions with Asma Jehangir arguing, I met my friend and (junior) schoolmate, Khawaja Asif outside the court. When he asked me what I was doing there, I said, “I am here to witness the collective suicide of the political class”. I stand by what I said that day.
P.S. I haven’t slept well since watching the video of the beastly TTP shooting fifteen personnel of the Frontier Constabulary in cold blood just a few days ago. What I still cannot fathom is the extent of the cruelty of the murderer making a speech while the poor unfortunates stand there waiting to be shot in the back of the head. Might one ask why when there is much breast-beating when Nato kills our soldiers, there is not a squeak out of anyone when the TTP does likewise?
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2012.