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Thursday, April 21, 2011

The chirping birds flying from the Presidency

With a PPP coalition with the dying and discredited PML-Q now almost ready for a takeoff, the brilliance, or some say bankruptcy, of PPP politics has now been fully exposed, if there still was any doubt in any mind.

The largest party of the country, which has a creditable record of struggles and sacrifices for democracy, has lost its political direction, has shown very little ability to govern but has displayed an unmatched capacity to blackmail and survive. Practically the party is hostage to the whims and machinations of one person with a twisted and troubled mind with a bagful of tricks.

Whatever ZA Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and many stalwarts fought, believed and meant by democracy, certainly does not match up with what their party has shown by its actions. The current PPP has proved that its definition of democracy means absolutely no scruples, no principles, no respect for any institution or any democratic tradition, no larger political vision except bulldozing and blackmailing individuals and institutions, cheating political allies and friends in self-interest, buying or bullying opponents, browbeating those who cannot retaliate and surrendering to those who can hit back.

The underlying and prime objective of the party has shifted from the larger goals of democracy, a clean and sustainable polity aimed at bringing betterment and prosperity for the impoverished people, to survival of the present gang of leaders, saving their illegal assets and properties at home and abroad, making as much gains as possible through indiscriminate and almost daredevil loot and plunder for everybody at the helm.

To make this possible, the party’s gung-ho leaders have devised the strategy of using provincial cards, personal threats, confronting and browbeating every institution that threatens them, launching deception plans, diverting attention from critical issues to non-issues, wasting time of the nation and the people and keep hanging on to power, by hook or by crook.

Though government officials deny, people talk about, right or wrong, that all its major political and economic initiatives have one thing in common —- the lucrative prospect of commissions and kickbacks of millions and billions, whether it is the money-wasting Benazir Income Support Programme, rental or offshore power projects, stuffing thousands of PPP workers in collapsing and dying state-run corporations, signing hundreds of MOUs with Chinese companies or appointments of cronies to key posts in the financial and corporate sector like the NBP, ODGC, PSO, petroleum ministry, PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills and dozens more.

All postings, transfers and appointments in the government-controlled institutions have been with one single purpose - to protect the past and present criminal conduct of the leaders. Thus the FIA, NAB, HEC, police, intelligence agencies (barring those which are not under their thumb and can hit back if tinkered with) have been manipulated not to perform their normal work, but to do the opposite.

These policies and appointments come from one source of power, the Presidency, which has found a very cooperative and accommodating sidekick in the Prime Minister House, who signs on the dotted line and on the side has consolidated and improved his and his family’s gains with initiatives of a lesser kind, lucrative nevertheless.

On the political side the aim is clear —- we must stay in power, no matter if we have to sleep with the devil, share the house with rogues or shun any friend or foe. There has to be no second thought if in the perverted deals our immediate and short-term interests are protected, even for a few days.

What then the PPP has not done in the last three years is to take care of the State and national interests on the larger canvas of political, security, economic and strategic decision-making and governance. What it has done is to surrender these important national policies to the security establishment with the thought that if there were failures, they would be to blame, not us.

In practice political sovereignty, or parliamentary upper hand for some, has been given up knowing that it was beyond its capacity to handle.

For a time the security establishment was happy with the arrangement as it stabilised the country with politicians in the front, apparently in control, but the main strings being pulled from behind the scene. The hope was that the political class will improve its performance, would learn some lessons and with time it will take charge. That did not happen but things galloped in the opposite direction.

People say though officials deny that the PPP led the pack and thinking that the present tenure may be cut at any time, shouted “wolf” at every moving shadow and made a sprint towards money making, right or wrong, with friends, jail mates, personal providers, even house servants unleashed to run state organisations and make hay as long as the sun shone. The Opposition too could not grasp the reality or stop the PPP.

Three years thus passed and now every one is realising that the country and the state has been the biggest loser and these runaway robberies have to be stopped. The economy has gone for a six, out of the ground, nay the stadium. Even a military takeover cannot bring it back on its feet.

In this scenario and faced with the blackmail of JUI and MQM and no longer a free lunch offered by the PML-N, the PPP has quickly invented a new definition for the PML-Q, from “Qaatil league” (Killer’s party) to “they are not guilty, Musharraf was” and big carrots are being offered to get it on board before the budget.

On its part the Chaudhrys of Q-League have got the chance of their life. They have never been a political party but a bunch of individuals assembled by Musharraf under a party name. When he was gone the party disintegrated, with some still undecided where to go, as they had nowhere to go.

Now that corruption cases have caught up with their mainstream leadership, Moonis Elahi being the poster boy, the desperate Gujratis need a safe haven and what better place to hide than the Federal Government, with a prospect of toppling PML-N in Punjab as well. They will grab even half the carrot at double the price being asked by the PPP.

But once the budget is passed, what kind of minced meat the PPP will make of the Gujratis can only be guessed. The case of MQM vs Zulfikar Mirza is a good example. There are many Mirzas in Punjab to take care of Gujrat if there is need to keep them under the thumb.

How the security establishment is looking at all this is interesting. Many chirping birds are flying in every TV talk show these days disclosing what is happening. These birds don’t fly abroad but some informed people tell us the establishment is not creating another IJI with MQM, Imran Khan, JUI and some Q-leaguers and the birds spreading these rumours are flying direct to the TV houses from the Presidency to scare Mian Nawaz Sharif and others.

What is deplorable is how some of the more respected media persons have started pushing the agenda of the corrupt and the discredited by raising these bogeys.

As the opposition led by Nawaz Sharif has no plan or vision to stop this rot, the key responsibility comes back on the shoulders of the establishment. But where does it stand and what will it do is a big question.

But those who know say that they will ensure that an independent Election Commission is set up, a free and strong judiciary stays on course and its judgments are implemented, the corrupt are punished and disqualified and a free election is held under a genuinely neutral and fair caretaker administration, sooner or at its time.

Then the chips may fall where they may. No one should be scared of these scarecrows sitting in talk shows.