Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Who is the Boss?

By Adnan Gill

Pakistani media widely reported that during his fruitless charm-offensive in Europe, President Musharraf had a two hour long meeting with MQM’s undisputed leader Altaf Hussain and other MQM Bosses. President’s desperation to please the MQM Bosses became obvious when he ardently rolled out the red carpet for them after hastily canceling a prescheduled visit to the Cambridge University.

Apparently, instead of MQM Bosses showing the courtesy of opening up their schedule for a State dignitary, President Musharraf was so keen to meet Mr. Hussain that he bent backwards to accommodate the MQM leadership into his hectic schedule; as if MQM Bosses enjoyed a stature deserving a higher protocol.

Why Musharraf has developed a taste for making deals with politicians of unsavory character, should be a matter of serious concern. But what should be alarming to the Pakistanis is why their President is holding meetings with a person who runs his party in Pakistan through a telephone and who proudly poses for the cameras with his British passport? Altaf’s own party had been in power since 2002, and still this British Boss -- who voluntarily left Pakistan for good in 1991 -- is conspicuously living in self-exile. Naturally, a question arises, what is keeping Boss Altaf from ending his self-exile? Of course for now, he is enjoying his British citizenship and his party funds more than suffice to support his luxurious lifestyle in the UK, but sooner or later, he will have to come-clean with his followers, as to why they should risk their lives for a voice on a black phone surrounded by microphones? Critics allege, descending voices within the MQM are already questioning the wisdom of staying loyal to a leader who most of them have never seen, and who is too afraid or has no interest in returning to his own constituents? They ask, what is in for them to rot in jails for a leader who constantly demands sacrifices from them, but doesn't believe in parting with the luxury and security he has accustomed himself to?

It was nauseating to see a President of a Nuclear Power bowing to a convicted MQM Boss who has forsaken his Pakistani nationality, and even worse, who has questioned the creation of Pakistan! If we didn't know any better, it must have looked like President Musharraf was begging for mercy, or at minimum, begging for a favor from the Bosses. Why? That would be a million-dollar question. Hopefully, one day General Musharraf will enlighten his nation, why in his infinite wisdom he bent his knees in reverence to the MQM Bosses?

It was heartening to see the Commando President promising to the Bosses that the coming elections would be fair, free, transparent and peaceful. Only to see the Bosses foreordaining the submissive Musharraf to arrange compensation for those who lost property during the violence that followed Ms. Bhutto’s assassination. Then as if afraid of the wrath of the Gods, the servile President sheepishly tried to sooth the anger of the Bosses by informing them, he already ordered the setting up of a commission and directed it to process the compensations at the earliest.

Oddly enough, such a display of courage and concern for the victims of violence came from the same President, who upon learning of the loss of hundreds of lives in the May 12 Karachi-Carnage, triumphly threw his fists in the air, as he asserted, “today [MQM has] shown the real power.” It is the same president who also plainly dismissed any possibility of holding an inquiry or any possibility of finding the killers of unarmed civilians whose only crime was coming to the streets to welcome the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Instead of giving assurances to Boss Altaf, maybe President Musharraf should have dared him to step into Pakistan to monitor the elections himself. And if he did not, then we have to wonder, why not?

Nevertheless, the mystery remains, who is the Boss; Altaf or Musharraf?


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