“Believe it or not, Benazir Bhutto has been awarded the “World Tolerance Award” for the year 2005 in Leipzig, Germany. Mikhail Gorbachev presented the award, citing “her vision, personal strength and her passion for creating a better and peaceful world in the 21st Century”. Among past winners of this award count Pope John Paul-II, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, broadcaster Larry King, former polish president Lech Walesa, entrepreneur Richard Branson, singer Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and film producer Roman Polanski. This is a motley crew. Barring the Pope, it is unclear how an opera singer, a post-modern film maker or even a soft American TV host could have fulfilled the criteria of the award. But an award is an award. And better Benazir Bhutto, the moaner and groaner about the din of democracy, than Nawaz Sharif, the wannabe Amir ul Momineen who put the media to the sword, though Pervez Musharraf might have best claimed it for his fancy footwork in Afghanistan and Kashmir if only he’d agreed to doff his uniform. At any rate, few should begrudge the long-suffering Ms Bhutto who has tolerated the tiring wiles and misdemeanours of her worst half.
Believe it or not, Mir Waiz Umar Farooq, the leader of the All Parties Hurriet Conference in Kashmir, wants to task NATO with demilitarization of Kashmir on both sides of the LoC: “NATO has a tremendous role in crisis management and conflict resolution. It has successfully contributed to Bosnia and Kosovo.” He is also arguing that after the troop pull-out, the APHC could ask militants to stop fighting and strengthen the peace process. Now this is a non-starter if ever there was one. Everyone and his uncle in Pakistan is demanding that NATO should pull out of relief work in Azad Kashmir and not stay a minute longer, and everyone and his aunt in India and China is freaked out with the presence of only 1000 NATO troops in the Himalayan region, let alone the prospect of a more substantial longer term presence. Indeed, everyone sees NATO as the classic American Trojan horse in West and South Asia, much like everyone believed two decades ago that the Russian bear was dying to take a dip in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea even as it lay on its death bed in Afghanistan! The idea that the “militants” could be persuaded to talk peace after the troop pull-out is another gem. Here they are, trying to derail the peace process by bombing civilians, here is India demanding that the militants should be quashed for good before any demilitarization can be envisaged, and here is Mir Waiz tilting at the windmills like Don Quixote.
Believe it or not, General Pervez Musharraf has promised once again that he will make a decision about the status of his uniform before 2007. Believe it or not, he also claimed that “the future of democracy in Pakistan is bright because, with the advent of a system of checks and balances in the country, the democratic system will never be derailed…My uniform is not an impediment in the development of the democratic process. I strengthened democracy and exalted the parliament by remaining in uniform. There is no restriction on any political party.” He might as well have reiterated in the same breath that by bringing the army in he has kept it out, by refusing to make a presidential address to parliament every year as required by law, he has strengthened parliament, and by baiting and banning Bhutto and Sharif he has truly laid the foundations of two party democracy. Believe it or not also, Sheikh Rashid, His Masters Voice, and Sher Afghan, the PMLQ’s parliamentary watchdog, both imply that General Musharraf is lord of the jungle and can do as he pleases, even as Senator SM Zafar, the PMLQ’s legal eagle, thinks it would be unconstitutional to do so.
Believe it or not, President George W Bush was only “joking” when he suggested to Tony Blair, the British prime minister, after 9/11 that it might be a good idea to bomb the living daylights out of the TV station Al-Jazeera in Doha for opposing US cloak and dagger policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. The targeted bombing of the Al-Jazeera building in Kabul was part of the joke, as was the killing of two Al-Jazeera reporters in Baghdad by American troops. The British Attorney General is now so taken up by the joke that he is threatening to slap the Official Secrets Act on any newspaper that publishes the contents of this original Bush joke.
Believe it or not, 34 “wanted tribal militants” surrendered last week in North Waziristan to the new Peshawar corps commander “after a deal was struck” for the umpteenth time, the miscreants were lauded for their “patriotism” and a lot of money exchanged hands. But there is no let up to hostilities in the region. Indeed, several soldiers have been killed in ambushes since the deal was spurned by Maulana Sadiq Noor, a “key Al Qaeda facilitator”, who was conspicuous by his absence when the peace pipe was smoked.
And, believe it or not, that’s only the fare for this week.