Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pakistan’s Curse

Adnan Gill, Arab News

Pakistan is cursed in many ways; rampant corruption, religious and ethnic divisions, religious extremism, feudalism, social disparity, frequent military rules, corrupt bureaucracy, and the worst, most corrupt politicians. This is not to pin blame on any one politician; rather it’s to highlight the inefficiencies of seemingly rudderless Musharraf government and the rest of political leadership. Their torpid inefficiencies range from opening Pandora’s box by needlessly igniting cover-up theories, to failing to protect public and personal properties throughout the Pakistan.

Just when seas appear to be calming down for clear sailing, somehow, someway, the Musharraf government manages to steer up a storm. Musharraf government has developed a knack for snatching the defeat out of hands of the Angels of Mercy. Since March 9, the Musharraf government can’t tell the head from the tail. Its, one after the other, blundering decisions have won it utter embarrassment and notoriety of the worst kind. The latest feathers in Musharraf’s cap are the back-to-back reversals of his Interior Ministry’s statements on what caused Benazir Bhutto’s death. President Musharraf had to address the nation to cover Interior Ministry’s humongous faux pas. The blunder forced him to grudgingly invite Scotland Yard to investigate Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, which he would have never agreed to, had his top-heavy bureaucrats hadn’t shot his feet off so thoroughly.

The Musharraf government could have weathered the storm by simply laying low for a few days. But the government stirred the hornets’ nest by unnecessarily hairsplitting and disputing the pervasive theory on what killed Benazir Bhutto? Had Musharraf’s overzealous bureaucrats kept their mouth shut, his government would have been criticized for incompetence and dereliction of duty; but now it has to defend itself against the allegations of its hand in the murder of Benazir Bhutto and then the ensuing up. On the morning of Dec., the day after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated the Interior Ministry told the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) that she died of a gunshot wound to her neck. Later in the evening, the Interior Ministry changed its earlier statement. It told APP that flying shrapnel from a suicide bomb killed her and that she suffered no injuries from bullets shot at her. At this point, the government could have still caught its balance by refusing to give out any more details on the possible causes of her death, till after a bipartisan investigation submits its initial findings. Yet hours later, in yet another reversal, Interior Ministry’s spokesman Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema declared that Benazir Bhutto died after fracturing her skull on a sunroof latch.

Rule of thumb is, stop shooting if you have already shot one of your feet off. Apparently, the government wasn’t satisfied with playing musical chairs with its statements, Brig. Cheema decided to open and shut the case by pinning the blame on the Baitullah Mahsud and his motives behind murdering Benazir Bhutto.

Probably, by trying to belittle the gravity of the situation, Musharraf’s panicked bureaucrats vainly tried to assert control over how the history would be written. But what remains unclear is how the middle-tier bureaucrats could have gone to such an extent of holding press conferences without the consent, or at minimum, without the knowledge of the highest leadership? It is quite understandable, that the president cannot and does not micromanage investigations every time a suicide bomber strikes, but this was no ordinary act of violence. The Musharraf government insulted our intelligence by releasing the so-called audiotapes of Baitullah Mahsud.

Not to be left behind, the successors of Benazir Bhutto’s party have also done their own best to expose their own incompetence and selfish attitudes. Citing Benazir Bhutto’s living will, the PPP crowned her 19-years-old son Bilawal as the successor. Pakistanis are now questioning the wisdom behind bringing a party in power, which is more of a monarchy, whose leadership does not practice the principles of democracy themselves. Finally, the PPP did a great disservice to the nation when, in a deafening silence, it failed to ask its workers to remain calm when faced with sorrow and grief. For his part, Nawaz Sharif showed his true colors when he ordered his media manager Pervaiz Rasheed to seize tapes of an interview in which, when faced with hard questioning, he made a fool of himself by losing his cool and composure.

Whether the Musharraf government will survive the latest storm remains to be seen, but one can already see how it has left humongous cracks in the foundations of his government, which can be reduced to rubble even by the slightest tremors.

Naturally, Pakistanis wonder, what have we done to be cursed with such an incompetent and self-serving leadership?

— Adnan Gill is a freelance columnist living in the US. He writes on US foreign policy, Middle East and South Asia.


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