Posted on Friday, June 24, 2016
in The Friday Times (Editorial)
There’s never a dull moment in Pakistan. But even by our political standards, last week was a veritable carnival of fools.
Khawaja Asif, the defense minister, called Shirin Mazari, the PTI’s information secretary, a “tractor trolley” in parliament for constantly heckling him. He had to eat humble pie in public but remained unrepentant in private.
Marvi Sirmed, a rights activist, and Senator Hafiz Hamdullah of the JUI, had a verbal spat on TV that provoked the mullah to abuse and threaten her physically. Marvi protested before the Senate chairman and filed an FIR with the police. But the senator is unrepentant in public even if he has been chastised in private.
Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, had heart bypass surgery in London at the Harley Street Clinic. But a couple of TV anchors wondered how heart surgery could be performed at a “clinic” instead of a “hospital”. A few actually said that all this was a sham just to earn sympathy from a public disgusted with Pananaleaks. Some advised him to call it a day. Others speculated whether Shahbaz Sharif or Mariam Sharif would inherit the PMLN.
Ayyan Ali, the supermodel charged with currency smuggling, has accused Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the interior minister, of contemning the Supreme Court (SC) by refusing to let her leave the country. Both the Sindh High Court (SHC) and the SC have ordered the government to remove her name from the Exit Control List but the gent who determines the ECL just wont let go. This has provoked the Chief Justice of the SHC to threaten the interior secretary with prison and SC Justice Azmat Saeed to ask why, when smugglers and tax cheats and assorted criminals can come and go freely, a fashion model who has obtained bail from the Lahore High Court has aroused the ire of the interior ministry.
But Chaudhry Nisar has other fish to fry. He is busy scolding Sushma Swaraj, the Indian foreign minister, for trying to put a spoke in civil-military relations in Pakistan by alleging a rift between the government and military establishment on making peace with India. This is rich, considering that civil-military estrangement is the talk of Pakistan, and the world, not just India. Chaudhry Sahab has also ordered the Sindh Chief Minister, Qaim Ali Shah, to ascertain the source of the leaked video confessions of Dr Asim Hussain, a PPP stalwart and confidante of the PPP chairman Asif Zardari. This is richer still, considering that Dr Hussain was in the Rangers’ custody before being remanded to NAB, both of which are operating in Sindh with the backing of the federal government, and the videos were taken during interrogation by these very agencies. It is also adding insult to injury, not so long ago, when Mr Shah had protested the innocence of the good doctor, Chaudhry Nisar had publicly boasted of being in receipt of such confessional videos.
Meanwhile, Mr Sartaj Aziz, the foreign advisor, is nursing his wounds. It seems nobody is treating him like a real foreign minister while blaming him and the Foreign Office for Pakistan’s mounting foreign policy failures. Mr Aziz has, perforce, to take responsibility for strained relations with neighbours Iran, Afghanistan, India and superpower America. But he can’t very well explain why Iran is mad at Pakistan (an ISPR tweet upset the Iranian President when he last visited Islamabad) because that would further strain civil-military relations. For much the same reason, he cannot explain why Pakistan hasn’t been able to deliver the Taliban leadership to the quadrilateral table with China, Afghanistan, America and Pakistan (Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says General Raheel Sharif promised to do so by the summer of 2015).
What takes the cakes, however, is Mr Aziz’s explanation for the dismal state of relations with America. Mr Aziz holds Pakistan’s ex-Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, responsible for single-handedly thwarting the heroic and untiring efforts of Prime Minister Sharif, COAS Sharif, Pakistan’s Foreign Office, Mr Tariq Fatemi, and our Ambassador to Washington to mend relations with America. Lest anyone forget, Mr Haqqani was charged with treason in Memogate in 2011 and banished from Pakistan by the same national security establishment (in cahoots with the PMLN) that later conspired with Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri to try and oust fellow Memogate petitioner Nawaz Sharif via dharnas in 2014. If Mr Haqqani is such a super lobbyist, why can’t Mr Aziz bring himself to admit the error of making a traitor of him, and put him to good use working for Pakistan instead of against the establishment that outcast him earlier and is now scapegoating him for its abject failure to strategize an effective foreign policy?
Fortunately, there was one case of ascending from the ridiculous to the sublime. Asma Jehangir told the SC that the ISPR should be “monitored and regulated” because it was “allegedly maligning politicians and civilians”. But the chances of this happening are as slim as those of a snowball in hell.