Why must a country’s chief executive keep his sons, daughters and sons-in-law close to the seat of power, deaf to charges of nepotism and conflict of interest? Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif are top offenders. As masqueraders of truth and brazenly unprincipled, the two sassy billionaires are immune to public shaming. They will fight until impeached, sacked or indicted.
Awaited then is the final verdict on Donald and Nawaz. Meanwhile, American and Pakistani TV channels are flushed with ‘breaking news’ keeping their viewers entertained for hours. Even a Hitchcock thriller impales beside the suspense being witnessed in real time. But the end may not come soon. Such is politics.
Haunted by the curse of political legacy, Pakistan’s progress is stymied. We’re not a democracy but a family-ruled enterprise. We maybe disgusted by the ruling family’s corruption but we keep them in power. The Bhuttos, Sharifs, Gilanis and Chaudhries style themselves after the Saudi monarchy or the ‘Great Mughals’ or British royal family, posing as vice-regents of God on earth. Thrusted on us is their bacha party or kiddy party (not to be confused with kitty party our begums indulge in). The sky is the limit for their progeny. Born of fathers who began life as second-hand car salesman (Zardari); ironsmith (Sharifs); gadhi nasheen sponging off followers (Gilanis); petty police official (Chaudhries); feudal lord (Bhuttos), these kiddos lead charmed lives, living in plush environment with parents plotting their future. You lucky dog! is how Trump’s baita, beti and damad are known with big daddy as president.
But who would you name Prince William of Pakistan? Or Duchess of Cambridge? Depends which party is in power. Prince Hamza Sharif, son of Shahbaz Sharif is embroiled in a power struggle with cousin ‘Duchess’ Mariam Nawaz for takht-i-Pakistan while the real ‘Prince William’ Bilawal Zardari Bhutto waits in the wings. His abba continues to wield influence as Bhutto’s damad and therefore the flame carrier of PPP. Come May 2018, ensconced in the halls of power will be father and son. Like the stuntman Harry Houdini, famous for his sensational escape act, Zardari has escaped accountability for the billions he has bilked from this unfortunate country.
Let’s begin with Ayub Khan. His sons and sons-in-law acquired properties, licences (money making businesses) and indulged in illegal practices and blatant misuse of ‘Khanji’s’ name. Yet Ayub Khan was blind to their faults. In fact, he wrote in his memoir that his firstborn Captain Gohar Ayub was close to a genius or some such thing. Dads suffer from delusion; moms suffer from kid love. Zia deserves credit for not cultivating cultism. Either his son Ejazul Haq was a dumbo or else the general kept him in check during his rule. The apple of his eye was his daughter Zain. She was a special needs child and nobody grudged her the limelight that her dad lit on her. Bhutto kids? Let’s not even go there. If only you heard first person stories of people in France who saw the kids’ squabble over Qadhafi’s wealth gifted to Bhutto. Maybe, it deserves to be publicised because the jiyala brigade has furiously revived the Bhutto cult by pushing Bilawal as the next sovereign of Pakistan. The young man still looks lost. He shouts in the mike ala Benazir when addressing rallies, but his words often sound foreign to desi ears. He looked like a fish out of water with his gills swathed in pashmina when he first entered the public arena. Over time, Bilawal has matured his public persona, but distance he must from the shadow of his shady father.
Back in America, Trump’s business empire flourishes, resulting in the exit of the official in charge of the watchdog agency on government ethics. Trump ignored the ethics official’s suggestion to give up his vast business dealings as president and continued with money-grubbing.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2017.