The real rulers - Saleem Safi - Saturday, October 02, 2010

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Democrats or autocrats, every Pakistani ruler has been a hostage to a select group of close circle "special friends" working as "advisers." They have proved instrumental in the formation of government policies and actions in every sphere of our collective life. However, when the government is sent packing, the group disappears for the time being. When a new regime takes over, this cabal again pulls every string to catapult itself into the important positions of "advisers" and personal "friends." Our recent political history is witness to the fact that most of our political and military rulers were ruined by this very group.

During the incumbency of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, his close circle of kitchen cabinet played the despicable role of pitching the government against the judiciary and the COAS. But during his hard times, none of these "advisers" were seen standing firm behind their leader Nawaz Sharif. Then, party loyalists like Sardar Mehtab, Siddiqul Farooq, Javed Hashmi, Pervez Rashid or Maj (R) Aamir were at the receiving end of the revengeful counter-attack from Musharraf regime, while all important characters of that kitchen cabinet were praising Musharraf or became silent spectators after establishing covert contacts with the new regime.

The story of Musharraf's fall was like Nawaz Sharif's as far as the role of such "advisers" and close circle lackeys was concerned. The most important role in the downfall of the Musharraf regime was played by this devious group acting as "advisers" to the president. The group was neither led by a general nor a politician. Rather a very mysterious character headed the group of close circle of cronies working as a kitchen cabinet of the president. The bad advices and machinations of this group turned Musharraf against capable friends like Gen (R) Ihsan, Lt Gen (R) Iftikhar Hussain Shah, Gen (R) Aziz Ahmad, Lt Gen (R) Amjad and others, and pushed him into the lap of people like Salmaan Taseer. This very group was the architect of Musharraf's deal with the Chaudhrys and the formation of the PML-Q. They also convinced Musharraf to create the MMA to counter the political clout of the PML-N and the PPP. The secret deal between the ANP and Musharraf was also a handiwork of this cabal.

Actually, Musharraf's kitchen cabinet had installed Jamali and then Shaukat Aziz as prime ministers. The leader of this group spread baseless reports regarding the chief justice and convinced Musharraf to take measures against him. After this blunder, the group constantly assured Musharraf that the Supreme Judicial Council will not reinstate the chief justice. After the reinstatement of the chief justice, some of the civil and uniformed well-wishers and advisers stressed upon the president to mend fences with the chief justice. But this group and its leader were persistently advising the president and ultimately convinced him to impose an emergency in the country. This group had also put him on the warpath with the media. In his last days, this cabal also made efforts to create misunderstandings between him and his generals, but in vain.

This group was the spirit behind the colourful nights at the Presidency in order to please the president into making decisions of their choice. The backchannel diplomacy and plans for a secret deal with India were also a brainchild of this very group. The leader of the kitchen cabinet, neither a general nor a politician, was also the sole authority to deal with the Americans as well. The media and the people vented their anger and frustration at the political faces of the Musharraf regime, while the real hands behind the scene were never exposed or targeted. Musharraf was a puppet in the hands of this kitchen cabinet which would pull strings according to the plan. At times, Musharraf even acted against the wishes and advices of the army high command. All wrong decisions were obeyed by the army command due to discipline, and the politicians due to political compulsions. The prime motive behind every action and move of the Musharraf kitchen cabinet was self-interest. Interestingly, these real rulers neither got any mention in the print media nor the electronic media, nor are they being dragged into courts of law.

This close cabal and its leader played with the destiny of this country for nine years and went into oblivion once Musharraf was ousted. One of them tried to achieve the same position which he enjoyed during the Musharraf government.

Ostensibly, Asif Zardari has been surrounded by the PPP leaders. The people, the media and the judiciary are venting their anger against these very faces. But factually, Zardari has fully fallen into the hands of this sort of a kitchen cabinet. This cabal of master puppeteers has created a distance between the president and PPP loyalists like Amin Faheem, Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani and Safdar Abbasi. They have played their hand to convince Zardari to go back on his promises with the PML-N and sent him on a warpath with the media. The same faceless group prepared him for a dangerous duel with the judiciary. They are frightening Zardari of the army. This kitchen cabinet consists of five ministers and a governor. The people and all other stakeholders must think about the accountability of this cabal so that future rulers remain on guard against such despicable faces. These criminals are readily identifiable as they include faces never seen in broad daylight. Rather, they are hovering in the corridors of power every evening making arrangements of colourful nights for their "victims".

During the Musharraf government, this group was led by Tariq Aziz, while in the Nawaz Sharif era the group was led by Saifur Rehman. As far as the Zardari government is concerned, it is not yet clear who leads the group. But it is believed that a retired bureaucrat, a doctor, a federal minister and a governor are in the run to become the Tariq Aziz or Saifur Rehman of this government.

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.

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