A couple of things. For one, the man still known as the prime minister of Pakistan. Honour, of late, has been the subject of some discussion in these columns. Honour when it comes to the honour of the nation, which is staunchly upheld by those who have come to be known as members of the ghairat brigade. How do the adherents to high honour regard Yousaf Raza Gilani? Is he a man of honour? Does he represent the honour of the nation?
If he does, then we are really down in the pits. The general consensus, in this country and in those countries which follow the doings (and undoing) of Pakistan, is that a man holding the position of prime minister and convicted by the highest court of his land for contempt of that court should have done the honourable thing and resigned, rather than celebrate his conviction.
Totally putting aside honour, not only did he stick it out but he took off for London on May 8, with a planeload of some 70-odd companions. Now, should a nation somewhat obsessed with ghairat be represented by a man who is technically and de jure a convict? Obviously no one cares back home and the British prime minister seemingly also cares a whit, though no doubt, he had a quiet snigger at Gilani’s predicament. However, the ostensible purpose of the trip was a one hour meeting on May 10 with David Cameron during which mainly trade was discussed (remember Napoleon and his quip about the nation of shopkeepers).
Some of our more naive citizens have even gone so far as to query the fact that Cameron chose to receive Gilani. But what else could he do? The man remains, however shakily, the prime minister of a commonwealth country. And besides, other citizens shrug off the query with the response that for two decades Britain has kept and sheltered and given citizenship to Altaf Bhai, previously of Karachi, now of London Town. Reportedly, Cameron amazingly “affirmed that PM Gilani was working to strengthen democracy in Pakistan.”
The truly low point of the trip was Gilani’s interview with Becky Anderson of CNN during which he evaded any straight answer to the questions put to him. When asked why he had not resigned when convicted by his Supreme Court his response was, mocking the conviction and the court, stating that what he had done was strictly according to the constitution. Much has justifiably been made of his disgraceful comment on being asked why according to a recent poll one in five Pakistanis were keen to leave for greener pastures. His democratic smug view is that they should leave — “who is stopping them?” How does that fit in with the honour of the country or of the man?
For seconds, having discussed trade, economic growth and development, does he have any idea of how fares the economy of his country? On May 15, the national press carried three columns written by commentators on the state of Pakistan’s economy — Shahid Kardar’s “Back in the IMF’s parlour”, Maleeha Lodhi’s “Economics of elections”, and Meekal Ahmed on “A grim prognosis”.
A quote from the first: “[The Americans] have reconciled to the reality that . . . . . . we are not willing to transform ourselves and prefer to remain in the ICU, while the rest of even South Asia . . . . . . . bypasses us. That we as a nation are content to bump along at the bottom.”
From the second: “There are unmistakable signs now of a gathering economic storm in the absence of tough policy measures that the government simply will not take before elections.”
And from the third: “. . .the Pakistan economy is set for at least another year of financial instability with all its adverse economic and social consequences.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.
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