Daughter of the West?

More or less like in India, one must not have even an iota of conscience, must not believe in political ethics, must know the art of taking U-turns and must be 100 per cent shame-proof, if one eyes the top job in Pakistan. Otherwise how would you define the green light given by the Musharraf…

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More or less like in India, one must not have even an iota of conscience, must not believe in political ethics, must know the art of taking U-turns and must be 100 per cent shame-proof, if one eyes the top job in Pakistan. Otherwise how would you define the green light given by the Musharraf government to the arrival in Karachi of scam-tainted former premier Benazir Bhutto on October 18? Benazir has been shunting between London and Dubai for a decade evading arrest in Pakistan on corruption charges.

After grabbing power, Gen. Musharraf had made the mention of graft during the governments of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif an integral part of his speeches. He said: “They have been tested twice. They have looted, they have destroyed this country.” He promised to his people that he would never hand over power to a government headed by any of them as they have “plundered the country mercilessly”. He asserted: “Both of them have to face trial and be made accountable for what they have done.”
In his autobiography In the Line of Fire, Gen. Musharraf described Benazir’s father as a “fascist” using progressive rhetoric to promote regressive ends. And in a blunt counter-attack, Benazir described Musharraf’s memoirs as a cheap attempt to gain popularity at the cost of Pakistan’s vital national interests. She said it was regrettable that Gen. Musharraf was abusing his official position to boost his personal interests. She charged the military ruler of spending millions from the state exchequer on financing his visit to the US.

On every international forum Benazir lambasted the military set-up of Gen. Musharraf. Attending a conclave in New Delhi, she blamed Musharraf for growing radicalism and violence in the country. She said, “It is an open defiance of the oath he has taken as a military officer, which prevents him from interfering in political matters” and that “such gross violation of the Constitution by successive military rulers has endangered the very existence of Pakistan.” Muhtarma, as she is affectionately called by her partymen, said “generals are quick to surrender under foreign pressure, but are defiant in opposing any submission to civilian authorities.”

Plundering of national wealth and the government-protected deep-seated corruption marked Benazir’s two stints as the prime minister of the country. In 2006, Interpol issued red notices for her and her husband Asif Ali Zardari at the request of the Pakistan government. A swiss court convicted both of them in 2005 for taking kickbacks.
The High Court of Justice, Queens Bench, held that money used by Zardari to purchase the Rockwood Estate and Surrey Palace was corruption money. Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau always maintained that the couple had secretly bought the Surrey Palace with the black money and that its ownership was concealed in a secretive network of trusts and offshore companies.

Benazir’s rule from 1988 to 1990 was renowned only for mismanagement. Zardari acquired the less-than-impressive nickname Mr 10 Per Cent – a reference to the cut he took for approving government contracts. Her government was fired for graft. But, thanks to gullible masses, she returned to power in 1993. And her second government proved no different, – except that Zardari’s nickname changed to Mr 30 Per Cent. In an (in)famous incidence, once a PIA Boeing-747 was diverted to Argentina to bring back a dozen of Zardari’s favoured polo ponies.

Benazir lived up to her image when she junked the “charter of democracy” she signed with Sharif in London under which both pledged that the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) would join forces against the military rule and would work to revive genuine democracy in Pakistan.

Musharraf’s difficulties are many. After the two setbacks namely the restoration of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the bloody raid on Lal Masjid, his position has considerably weakened even in his own circle. The legal fraternity, political parties, civil rights groups, NGOs, students and more lately and notably, Pakistani women in hundreds have been out in the streets clamouring for restoration of democracy and exit of the military ruler. Musharraf is besieged and needs Benazir’s support to contain the right wing.

Benazir’s compulsions are also compelling. She has been out of power for over a decade and has been physically absent from Pakistan for about the same period. Both factors dilute her hold over her party and also her bargaining power with the establishment.
She is persona non grata with the pro-Taliban Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a major constituent of the opposition. The MMA’s chief and the leader of opposition, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, has off and on caused Gen. Musharraf serious headaches. Hence Benazir’s political deal with Musharraf, however unsavoury, and however much it involves betrayal of the democracy movement, is a sure bet for her political revival and survival.

The Musharraf-Benazir power-sharing deal has not been publicly announced for political reasons. But Benazir has herself committed in a London newspaper interview that “such a deal is in Pakistan’s interests.” Technically they may be correct that no deal has taken place in that until it is formally announced it is not a deal. Benazir’s scheduled arrival has been set for October 18 keeping in view the day of Musharraf’s election so that the PPP has no role in it.  Gen. Musharraf, who revels in a delusionary belief that he indispensable for Pakistan, wants to get re-elected by the present parliament and state assemblies.

Even a layman would understand the games both are playing. At a critical juncture when the civil society looks within a stone’s throw from getting real democracy, it is treacherous for Benazir to be striking a deal with the army chief in return for her absolvement from corruption charges and for a hassle-free homecoming. Since the governing PML (Q) is a bunch of opportunist turncoats, Benazir sure has plans to see her PPP as the ‘Kings Party’ in the governing apparatus.

The army chief brazenly pooh-poohed the Supreme Court’s verdict on Sharif’s return by bundling him out four hours after he arrived in Islamabad as the PML (N) could throw a spanner in the new scheme.

The Musharraf-Bhutto governing coalition would suit the US and the West as well. Both have strong vested strategic interests in the region with reference to the US and Nato commitments in Afghanistan. But Benazir’s betrayal of democracy will have two casualties: a) the democracy movement, which has been building up for the last three months, will get disrupted, and (b) she would ditch her own cadres who for more than a decade have kept up the political fight despite her physical absence from Pakistan.
Going by the title of her autobiography, Benazir claims to be the “Daughter of the East”. But going by her recent political turnarounds and secret deals under the affectionate wings of Washington and London, she seems to be headed for qualifying as “Daughter of the West”.


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