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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2038

Pakistan's Curse

By Adnan Gill

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. The purpose of this column 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 Ms. 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 Ms. 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 Ms. Bhutto and then the ensuing up. It's hard to imagine how Musharraf government could have benefited from her murder, because even a slightest notion of such conspiracy could have brought Musharraf’s government down; which may still happen.

On the morning of December 28, the day after Ms. Bhutto was assassinated the Interior Ministry told the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) that Bhutto 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 Bhutto 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 the postmortem report was completed and a bipartisan investigation submits its initial findings. Yet hours later, in yet another reversal, Interior Ministry’s spokesman Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema declared that Ms. 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 & shut the case by pinning the blame on the Baitullah Mahsud and his motives behind murdering Ms. Bhutto. Brig. Cheema boasted that on Friday the Pakistani government intercepted a phone call in which Mehsud "congratulated his people for carrying out this cowardly act." He stated, "As you all know, Benazir Bhutto had been on the hit list of terrorists ever since she had come to Pakistan... She was on the hit list of al Qaeda." Then he went on to rubbish the idea of allowing a foreign investigatory agency assisting the government in the investigations. He snubbed, "We understand our environment better than the international community. Scotland Yard cannot investigate in Waziristan. They don't understand Pashto."

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. It was the assassination of the leader of largest Pakistani political party. Therefore, one can argue that the president was, or at least should have been informed in advance about Brig. Cheema’s unbelievable press conference. And if he was not informed then it looks even worse for him, because it could give an impression that the country is run by the middle-tier bureaucracy without any supervision or control of the highest leadership.

The Musharraf government insulted our intelligence by releasing the so-called audio tapes of Baitullah Mahsud in which he allegedly congratulated his partner-in-crime on the successful assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The question arises, if the government was competent enough to have tapped and recorded Mahsud’s conversations on the telephone, mobile-phone, or the satellite-phone, why was it so incompetent in not having arrested him?

Not to be left behind, the successors of Ms. Bhutto’s party (PPP), and the leader of Pakistan's second largest political party Nawaz Sharif have also done their own best to expose their own incompetence and selfish attitudes. Citing Ms. Bhutto’s living will, the PPP crowned Ms. Bhutto’s 19 years old son Bilawal Bhutto/ Zardari as the successor of Ms. Bhutto. The passage of Crown within the Bhutto dynasty was most probably done to hold onto the millions of votes that are caste to the name, and not to the best candidate. The canonization of the King raised a hue and cry among PPP’s own ranks and among the middle class Pakistanis.

They 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. If that wasn't enough, its co-chair, Asif Zardari is uselessly insisting that the murder investigation should be conducted by an UN-sponsored panel.

In practical terms, such a demand serves no good as no foreign hand in the assassination is suspected. All it does is create divisions among the Pakistanis by sowing the seeds of doubt in a society prone to seeing shadows around every corner. 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. In a violent rage, the PPP workers ravaged the country by destroying both public and private properties. At minimum, such blind violence enraged the private citizens who had absolutely nothing to do with Ms. Bhutto’s assassination, and still they lost their loved ones and property to the violent mobs.

For his part, Nawaz Sharif stuck his foot in mouth, by insisting that he never signed a deal which earned him a luxurious refuge in the Saudi kingdom, only to embarrassingly eat his words later on. Then again, recently, he 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?

- Asian Tribune -

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