VIEW: Integrity loot sale —Andleeb Abbas - Sunday, February 20, 2011

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The media that has played a pivotal role in creating awareness in the country has gone overboard on Raymond Davis’ case. TV channels and their star anchors have latched on to this opportunity for snatching viewership from one another with gimmicks, which have become boring

With an absolute loss of demand, a clearance sale becomes the inevitable strategy. Being a captive customer of one client makes it impossible to bargain and negotiate. Such is the state of helplessness displayed by the government. How can any foreign country or individual come into your territory, bomb or kill without fear of the consequences, until and unless they have access guaranteed, let off warranted, by men who have the power to absolve them of crimes unforgivable. For the Americans it has been easy picking. A government bankrupt, leaders greedy for all, an opposition waiting for their turn to get their share of the loot, makes it all a tempting invitation for those who want to get the maximum with minimal effort.

The Raymond Davis case is just a culminating illumination of the loss of substance and character this leadership has been consistently displaying in their three-year rule. Their perseverance with giving in to all the demands of the US has left the Americans a bit surprised on the delay in the Raymond Davis case. The ease with which all their demands on drones and the economy have been granted had made them complacent about this being another open and shut diplomatic immunity case. However, Senator John Kerry had to make an official visit to Pakistan and Obama had to make stern comments in his press conference to pressurise Pakistan into subjugation for the umpteenth time. This case has become such a trigger point, thanks to the mishandling of both the countries involved, coupled with a scandal-hungry media, that nobody really knows where it is going to end up.

The government miscalculated on many counts. First, they were confident that the ministry of foreign affairs will declare Raymond a diplomat and grant him blanket immunity and thus set him scot-free; they were rudely shocked by Shah Mehmood’s defiance. Second, they thought the families of the killed people would accept compensation and forgive Raymond, which so far also looks like a remote possibility. Third, they estimated that John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan would change public opinion in favour of the US, another random thought that proved a non-starter. The statements issued and withdrawn by Fauzia Wahab reflect a complete lack of understanding of the situation and a typically shortsighted response to a boiling hotpot. The result — let us axe Fauzia from the post and bring Kaira in. Their insecure approach has given rise to another danger within, where the fear of becoming the scapegoat is turning their own loyalists into opportunists. Shah Mehmood Qureshi has become a hero by default, who has exploited the terrible image of the party by declaring himself a dissident who did not want to lie about Raymond’s immunity status. It is not really as much a case of Qureshi’s hour of honour as much as the contrasting dishonour present in PPP ranks that has given the ex-foreign minister an opportunity to pose as a man wronged for doing the right thing. Is it actually a loss of ministry or really a revival of integrity?

The American strategy of dealing with this problem has been predictable. They have commanded and demanded that Raymond be handed over, and if not, then no money, no visas, and no political benefits that the government has been begging for in return for their acquiescence to the unethical and immoral incursions of Americans into our territory. Anything that is overused becomes stale. Obama’s dilemma with Pakistan and with so many other contentious issues has been the inability to come up with some creative solutions. His great rhetorical ability has, over time, become just another attempt to garner the quote of the week award rather than any blazing spur on dynamic new avenues of doing what has not been done before. Obama’s failure to change the way Washington operates is an admission of weak and unimaginative leadership. For years Americans have in their foreign policy nourished corrupt, despotic governments on their aid dole outs and have impoverished these countries as a consequence. What has happened in the Middle East should be evidence enough that the old strategy is obsolete and the new generation will not be subdued by the old force-and-fear style of leadership, nor be taken in by the lustre of cosmetic American consumerism. As country after country in the Middle East rejects the American-sponsored puppet governments, Mr Obama will realise that along with the domestic economy getting out of hand, foreign policy may become an irreparable embarrassment. Wherefore art thou integrity to own up to these fatal flaws?

The media that has played a pivotal role in creating awareness in the country has gone overboard on Raymond Davis’ case. TV channels and their star anchors have latched on to this opportunity for snatching viewership from one another with gimmicks, which have become boring. The integrity of some of these anchors has been pathetically exposed. Their power to influence public opinion has made them ideal negotiators for price deals for every word that they utter. Some of them have made such about turns in their stances that we all know that it is more than just an overnight change of mind and heart. Ethics and integrity for some of these stalwarts are obviously just meant for the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PEMRA’s) code of conduct book on the shelf.

The people of this nation are in the agony of suspense. The case of Raymond Davis will next be heard on March 14. This will give the government a time out to decide which way to go. They are again resorting to their original brilliant idea of calling a roundtable conference to somehow rummage a solution that will bring them out of the soup. For them it is damned if they do and damned if they do not. The public will not forgive this act of national treachery if the government tries to smuggle Raymond out of this mess, and the Americans are not going let their stooges get away with this disobedience if Raymond gets convicted. But, then, that is the penalty paid by leaders who are hollow in character, weak on courage and dithering on integrity.

For the people of Pakistan it is decision time. They can either treat it as one more “consequence of a nascent democracy” and wait for this system to become strong enough to bear fruit or to decide that matters of self-respect, self-esteem and national honour are never to be given up, are never to be compromised and never to be sacrificed. The choice of the right path will be the remaking of this nation.

The writer is a consultant and can be reached at

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