As is the norm, confusion (or ‘confuyion’ as popular lingo often has it) has the upper hand in the dysfunctional republic. Columns of newsprint have been devoted, at home and in the international press, to the matter of Dr Shakil Afridi’s conviction by a “tribal court”. Slammed by human rights activists and certain members of the legal fraternity (itself somewhat in a state of confusion), defended by others using differing arguments, it has of course, found favour with the federal government following its own expedient xenophobia-supportive temporary stance.
Then, on May 30, came a press report informing the public that Dr Afridi had actually been found guilty, not of aiding the CIA in the tracking down of Osama bin Laden, but of having ‘links’ with Mangal Bagh and his banned Lashkar-e-Islam.
A Reuters report of the same day took the ad hominem line and did a bit of character assassination on the erring doctor, accusing him, inter alia, of corruption and of sexual harassment. Well… be that irrelevant as it may to the case, the entire episode has not helped at all with a dangerously fractured relationship between a dismal Pakistan and the sole superpower — which has not been improved by either irritatingly thoughtless or anodyne pronouncements of a deliberately clueless leadership. And this includes the chairman of the ruling party, who should emulate his eminently street-smart father who says little most of the time and sticks to a behind-the-scenes outmanoeuvring of his rivals and opponents.
Robert Fisk, who can always be relied upon for a dose of home truths, writing in The Independent on May 28, under the heading “Clinton’s USD33m raid on Pakistan shows that, in the end, hypocrisy will win”, after citing instances of alleged helpers of foreign powers in host countries, sums up the lopping off of 33 million “smackers” from Pakistan’s aid budget:
“It’s about hypocrisy. Sure, Pakistan is a corrupt country. Sure, it is corrupt from the shoeshiner up to the pinnacles of power. But I suppose in the end, if you’re going to prostitute yourself to America — financially and militarily, as Pakistan has done for decades — that’s the price you pay, which is why hypocrisy will win. For Dr Afridi, I predict, will be quietly given a substantial reduction in his sentence, will be released — or will disappear — from his Pakistani prison and, in a few months or years, when Zardari has scored enough points from Dr Afridi’s imprisonment, the good doctor will pop up in the US with a fine medical practice and the pleasure of knowing, of course, that La Clinton has re-endowed Pakistan with its missing USD33m.”
There is not much arguing against all this as facts and past events uphold his summation and prediction. The $33 million works out at one million dollars for each year of the sentence, so we may not see the entire amount unless the government acts swiftly, which might be a tad difficult given the present national mood. Nor can one disagree with another commentator from over the oceans, Australian Tony Letford, who, writing in the local press, puts the Afridi case down to “a virulent anti-Americanism [which] is leading many Pakistanis, including high government officials, into a form of moral blindness, alarmingly similar to the situation that prevailed in Germany in the 1930s, and led to the rise of Hitler”.
So, let’s move on to the general xenophobic trend in a country that relies upon handouts from foreign powers, led by the reviled USA, to keep it afloat and from remittances from its own nationals who have in desperation moved out and away to make better lives for themselves.
The moving out and away, justified and approved, by none other than the prime minister about whom there is much confusion as to whether he should legally (forget morally — morals have nothing to do with anything in the Islamic Republic) still be sitting where he is.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2012.
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