Making absolute fools of ourselves

Published: January 26, 2012
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

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.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Cautious
    Jan 27, 2012 - 12:12AM

    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?

    What amazes me is that the Military hasn’t lifted a finger in retaliation to the execution of it’s own — a despicable lack of response — as it they could care less.


  • Acorn Guts
    Jan 27, 2012 - 12:15AM

    What good is a leader who can’t judge right from wrong ‘under the circumstances’ I ask you? What good is a government that sways back and forth so shamelessly? Utter and complete shambles .. all of them. Wish there was a reset switch for Pakistan somewhere.


  • John B
    Jan 27, 2012 - 1:08AM

    All these happened due to America’s bigotry relationship with Muslims and PAK should stay away from US. Please read the enlightened accompanying opinion column.


  • Jan 27, 2012 - 2:10AM

    It is no coincidence that the army/judiciary’s enthusiasm for Mansoor Ijaz’s visit to Pakistan waned quickly in the past week. Given Ijaz’s statements including the one to the Christian Science Monitor, the establishment developed cold feet when they realized that Ijaz is a loose cannon. The shrapnel from his testimony against Haqqani could very well claim the ISI chief as collateral damage.


  • SMJ
    Jan 27, 2012 - 2:20AM

    Kamran Sahab, Hats off to you. This is a hounding question for media coverage in Pakistan heavily controlled by Abpara boys…Everyone should ask this “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”.


  • Paki optimist
    Jan 27, 2012 - 5:33AM

    well written article, Sir.


  • AshvinnAshvinn
    Jan 27, 2012 - 7:47AM

    Well soldiers and civilians are killed so often in Pakistan,that it almost seems like a norm.But memo gate was more like item song. By the way did any of you see PM Giliani’s interview to bbc at davos, I just muted the Tv after hearing the first few lines of his answer to the above raised question, you guys definetly deserve better, we Indians hope it someone better Imran khan( he has made too many compromises) .


  • plaintalk
    Jan 27, 2012 - 8:01AM

    “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?”

    He was a “major” in the army yet strangely he is asking this question whose answer should have been obvious to anyone with a grain of commonsense. With NATO we were not at war. With the TTP we are. QED


  • Jan 27, 2012 - 8:03AM

    When the TTP carries out killings no one bothers but when Nato does it no one forgets. This selective reaction over killings of innocents in this country is the root cause of all over problems. Kidnappings and extra judicial killings have been going on uninterupted in Balochistan. We don’t see protests all over the country. When religious minorities are killed or harassed we do not see protests on a large scale. In the past a very large number of people were killed in Karachi, belonging to a linguistic minority as well as in the interior os Sindh. Killing of one innocent person is like killing humanity. We profess it but do not practise.Recommend

  • mind control
    Jan 27, 2012 - 8:05AM

    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?

    That Sir, is the million dollar question, that one may not ask.


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 27, 2012 - 8:09AM

    Very good piece, and as to your Question “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”, the answer is simple! It is SOOO SAFE for the Ghairat Brigade” to scream their Anti-American/Anti-NATO Rants, but to criticise THE TTP would invite a late night visit by any number of current/former “assets” of the State!


  • Mirza
    Jan 27, 2012 - 9:43AM

    I salute you KS Shaib. You are a true soldier and a patriot. How long can we keep sitting on our hands and keep taking it on the chin from Taliban and terrorists? Nobody cares about the jawans killed at the hands of terrorists. Taliban can do no wrong in some people’s opinion.


  • Nadeem Khan
    Jan 27, 2012 - 12:22PM

    Pakistan’s situation today is like that of a man who has received several severe blows to the head (read several military coups). Each blow has resulted in some part of the brain dying: either the memory, or speech control, or limbs control… will take of years physiotherapy and rehab for this patient to regain a modicum of normal bodily function – provided there are no further blows to the head.


  • gone viral
    Jan 27, 2012 - 1:03PM

    It seems that in 2012, pakistas politicians, establishment and judiciary have indeed gone viral. Time for the country to press the “factory settings” button.the country needs to start all over agiin, not from 1947, but from 1900.
    Meemogate indeed is a bomb that is waiting to explode. No wonder no one wants Ijaz to come to pakistan. Nor does he want to either, Investors/tourists? forget them! they will come after a few decades if at all.


  • wonderer
    Jan 27, 2012 - 1:40PM

    Killing by NATO can not be justified by religion. All other killings have religious sanction; ask any killer.


  • Parvez
    Jan 27, 2012 - 1:42PM

    Factual and hard hitting.
    The people are helpless observers watching the army, politicians and the senior judiciary behave in a manner that can only be described seriously lacking.


  • Satya Issar
    Jan 27, 2012 - 1:48PM

    Dear Mr Shafi if you had just written the last para of your article it would have conveyed the utter revulsion felt by all thinking people. The politicians, army and judiciary and the media have simply disgraced themselves. As far the mamo//meemo gate circus it somehow does not matter as there are only the players in the arena but no audience to watch the show.

    Please, keep on reminding the people what you continue to sayRecommend

  • Muhammad Rizwan
    Jan 27, 2012 - 2:22PM

    The way they were killed, i ask u why didnt they resist capture at all? Y did they opt to die so disgracefully?Recommend

  • Alami Musafir
    Jan 27, 2012 - 3:53PM

    Mr Shafi, you ask “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?”

    One reason may be that people realise that the TTP is the reaction to state oppression, started by Pervez Musharraf, at the behest of his US masters. The old sepoy mentality kicked in and the Pakistan army started killing its own people. What did you expect in response ? A pat on the back ? Kisses and hugs ?

    But perhaps the real fault is not the army’s but our elite feudals who have, since the birth of Pakistan, in order to maintain their perks and status, ensured that the Pakistani population remains largely under-educated…this certainly was state policy towards the NWFP. With that as a backdrop its no surprise that with individual exceptions, the broad mass of Pakistani leadership is incapable of managing the nation’s affairs.

    And now sadly we have both spilt the milk and run out of time. But lets not be too harsh on ourselves. Look at the state of the Arab world, or the United States…maybe the world really is close to the end.


  • Amjad Rana
    Jan 27, 2012 - 6:18PM

    Hats off to you Sir! You are simply superb.


  • Jan 27, 2012 - 7:48PM

    If tyrants can’t keep their subjects focused and loyal they can at least keep them confused so they can’t get their act together. I think this is what we’ve been seeing in Pakistan for the past couple of years.


  • Jan 27, 2012 - 9:49PM

    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?


  • hamza khan
    Jan 27, 2012 - 10:26PM

    agree totally on the last para. ours is a society of grave prejudice and unusual hypocrisy.


  • Liberalache
    Jan 28, 2012 - 12:37PM

    I think the entire Memogate episode somehow demonstrated that Pakistan is maturing. Instead of the government ignoring the supreme court or throwing it out, they had to respond appropriately. Instead of the core commanders storming Islamabad, they stood in their positions and let the courts to the work. Even if the courts went too far, at least the institution is now strong enough to sustain its role as an effective pillar…now perhaps the job is simply balancing rather than having to recreate from the start.

    I think your analysis fails to see the positive and focuses on the negative.Recommend

  • Jan 28, 2012 - 3:19PM

    OMG, I just watched the video of TTP killing fellow Pakistan and shouting “Allah Ho Akbar”.

    But, I am hearing of this only today when the video has surfaced days before. But, when the NATO killings happened, by all means an accident, considering the repercussions of NATO routes closing, Pakistan was on fire, almost.

    Why this terrible double standard, I wonder.


  • Sardar Khan
    Jan 28, 2012 - 7:07PM

    I doubt even Imran Khan can do anything for this country ,maybe someone like the Ayatollah Khomeini is needed ,But then the elite will say he is too suffocating and not good for us …one cannot really win..


  • K B Kale
    Jan 29, 2012 - 2:48PM

    Fantastic article, Shafisahab! Rarely one sees such superb combination of brain & courage that is needed for such masterpieces that you write so regularly.
    Keep up the good work. I hope someone could translate your articles in Urdu for ‘aam aadmi’ of your country.
    Gilani’s U-turn reminded me of Darwin’s theory of “Survival of the (un)fittest”.


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