What the butler saw - Ardeshir Cowasjee - December 5, 2010

Source : www.dawn.com

THE temptation is too great: WikiLeaks deserves comment. The finest description of the impact of the quarter-million ‘leaked’ US diplomatic cables (the majority from the past three years) comes from the New York Times: “To read through them is to become a global voyeur.”

Pakistan may be jumping up and down in excitement at being one of the leading players in the WikiLeaks saga, which has titillated the local taste buds that voraciously devour gossip and any possibly negative views expressed about their fellow
countrymen, high or low. But it is far from alone on the stage flooded by the massive leaks.

It needs to be admitted that this flow of information is the lifeblood of democracy which demands transparency — and we have it, but only of course to a certain extent. There is undoubtedly more to come but there is much that will remain hidden.

Few countries at the forefront of world affairs have escaped and even lesser players, to mention but a few, such as the island nation of Kiribati, Slovenia, Eritrea, Panama, Belgium, Zimbabwe, Kazhakstan, Dagestan, Qatar are caught up in the net.

World leaders are fair game — Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron, leaders of North and South Korea, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, Muammar Qadhafi (complete with blonde Ukranian nurse), Hamid and Ahmed Wali Karzai, Benjamin Netanyahu. Nouri Maliki, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and of course King Abdullah and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed both of whom have provided the Pakistani nation with entertainment tinged both with mirth and shame.

The custodian of Islam’s holiest of holy sites, the king that matters, has not surprised the Pakistani nation as he has merely confirmed what many have said about the current leadership. That the head is rotten is nothing new (we have suffered decades of rotten heads).

But what do we have as an alternative? Well, according to Prince Zayed, something that is dangerous but not dirty (which is highly questionable) as opposed to what we have which is dirty but not dangerous (Zardari has, to the best of our knowledge, not purposefully endangered the life of his fellow citizens though he must bear responsibility for the fragile state of the nation).

Scathing remarks about our head of state have come from Britain: a former UK chief of defence staff labelled him as “clearly a numbskull” and a permanent undersecretary of the foreign office observed, pretty much to the point, that he has “not much sense of how to govern a country … he talks and talks but not much happens”.

But yes, we have learned something about how the leadership thinks and functions. Apparently Zardari, entertaining intimations of mortality, at one stage admitted that he had “instructed” his son Bilawal that should the worst scenario emerge he, the young lad, was to ensure that sister Feryal Talpur took over the presidency.

This appears to convey the impression that the PPP-Z owns Pakistan. Who and what is the juvenile PPP chairman that he can
‘fix’ the appointment of head of state? And admirable is the confidence with which Zardari informed former US ambassador Anne Patterson of his intent. This would indicate that the Zardari clan is claiming all rights to the party supposedly
bequeathed to its main player, that the Bhutto name is destined to disappear at some stage, and that those hailing from a tribe “with little social standing in Sindh” (Guardian, Nov 30) are set to usurp not only the party but the country.

Poor old Mian of Raiwind comes out of it all in rather a sorry state. It seems he is not universally beloved by the western powers, nor by the most powerful man in Pakistan, army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani.

Found to be untrustworthy and with ambitions that would not fit in with even Pakistan’s style of democracy, the odds seem right now stacked against him getting a third stay in the mock-Spanish hacienda prime-ministerial residence. But he does have one lone champion batting for him — his old friends the Saudis who favour his skills in dealing with the religious elements, extremists or otherwise.

Admirable also is the chutzpah of Maulana Fazlur Rahman who in a cosy chat with former Anne Patterson offered himself as prime minister of Pakistan, obviously guaranteeing that he would play ball and fit in with American aspirations.

Sadly, the offer was spurned and the best he could do, through his crafty wheeling and dealing, was to have his brother installed as minister for tourism and party man Maulana Sherani, in direct conflict, as chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology. What a lark!

The Saudi monarch has made no bones about his preference for military rule in Pakistan, the army is regarded as the “winning horse” in the local stakes. The general has no opponents it seems, but we must shudder at his judgment of manpower.

During the lawyers’ movement, in which Asif Zardari played a waiting, almost paralytic role, apparently Gen Kayani, fed up with the situation, at his fourth meeting within one week with Patterson suggested replacing Zardari with Asfandyar Wali Khan (who later distanced himself from any hint of danger in his home province).

What does it all tell us about ourselves? That Pakistan has resigned itself to becoming a mere satrapy of the powers that play with it in their own national interests — particularly of the world’s sole superpower?


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