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Archive for August, 2000

The Godfather

Long Island and New York are a long way from Raiwind and Lahore but a recent interview with Mian Mohammad Sharif, the father of former PM Mian Nawaz Sharif, “Abbaji” as he is widely known, shows that Godfathers are alive and well, in any country and in any age they remain the same. Mario Puzo’s fictionalized saga of a prominent mafia family had “olive oil” as the core family business, for the Sharifs it is “steel”. The script of “The Godfather” is eerily familiar, the similarities are uncanny. Vito Corleone and the eldest Sharif, both dominant personalities displaced from their roots, rise from humble origins in the new country to control large, powerful “families” comprising blood relations and close associates. One does not see “Abbaji” going around brandishing a pistol knocking off people in his young age as did the elder Corleone but a notorious faction of Kashmiri origin of Lahore, generally believed to be the muscle of the Sharif family, specialized in physically taking over property, helpless widows being a special target of the “Qabza” group. It may be no mean coincidence that their “Capo” is presently residing in New York, what better safe distance from where to fulminate and conspire than the home of the original Godfather?

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The charge of the light brigade (?)

If any fighting entity in the world can be equated pro-rata to the six hundred (actually 673) who rode into the valley of death at Balaclava during the Crimean War, it is the Pakistan Army. The five British cavalry regiments 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, 11th and 8th Hussars that went into the cauldron in the famous charge on 25 October 1854 to take the Russian guns on the heights could not hold a candle to the blind obedience of the rank and file of the Pakistan Army to their Chief. This is one Army that does not question orders, all the more reason that Ziauddin Butt’s failure to register his individual authority on Oct 12 as COAS-designate for a few hours stands out in stark contrast to Pervez Musharraf’s success in sustaining his on the same day, and that also while airborne mostly in international airspace. All our coups have not only been bloodless but attempts by the lower hierarchy have always failed, miserably. Four times since 1947 the Chiefs of the Army have gone on to become the Chief Executives of the country without being voted to power, albeit with different nomenclatures, the others have had some sort of a say in the destinies of the infrequent democratic governments at least to start with. In the last decade Gen Aslam Beg packed off Ms Benazir in 1990 at the behest of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, late Gen Asif Nawaz set up Mian Nawaz Sharif for eventual dismissal in late 1992, Gen Waheed Kakar sent both the PM and the President Mian Nawaz Sharif and Ghulam Ishaq home in mid-1993, Gen Jahangir Karamat tacitly supported both Leghari’s sacking of Benazir for a second time in 1996 and then Leghari’s self-destruction of his own Presidency. Any murmur of dissent from the rank and file? That is why Jahangir Karamat’s “resignation” in 1998 is still felt by the Army as a major let down. The next time Mian Nawaz Sharif tried it, it was one time too many and his luck ran out, they were ready.

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Quaid’s Vision Circa 2000

A role model hero for all Pakistanis pre- and post-1971, Air Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan, admired in both civil and military circles for his professionalism and integrity, hosted a Seminar in Islamabad recently on “Rediscovering the Quaid’s vision”. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu immortalized the Quaid as a man who had “a sincerity of purpose and the lasting charm of a character animated by a brave conception of duty and an austere and lovely code of private honour and public integrity”.

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D plus 300

Three Hundred days into Oct 12, 1999 what is the situation existing in Pakistan, has the military regime made a difference and if so, for better or worse in the light of Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf’s seven point agenda viz (1) accountability (2) economic stability (3) de-politicising state institutions (4) promoting inter-provincial harmony (5) law and order (6) devolution of power and (7) national morale.

Recurring hiccups in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance notwithstanding, accountability is on in earnest, people have been convicted for illegal activity, some have even returned part of the money looted by them. Bank defaulters have also started to reimburse their outstanding amounts. NAB has set a good precedent by being generally impartial except that ex-PM Mian Nawaz Sharif is being hounded with same vengeance Saifur Rehman pursued Ms Benazir Bhutto within a one-target agenda. Political vendetta is possibly a hereditary thing common to South Asia, Moghul Aurangzeb went so far as to blind his own father Emperor Shahjahan while incarcerating him for the rest of his life. In the presence of many viable cases the helicopter case was a non-starter in public perception, but then the objective was not to imprison him but to disqualify the ex-PM from political activity. Barring upset on appeal that particular “technical” aim has been achieved. One takes exception to the legitimising of dishonesty included in the amendments to NABO, if a person returns the illegal money acquired by him he is set fee. This is patently immoral as it strikes at the very foundations of civilisation, tomorrow dacoits can well file a constitutional petition quoting this NAB precedence making it obligatory for the government to free them if they return goods (or part thereof) stolen by them. Moreover, giving monetary incentives to paid NAB employees is an open invitation for corruption, rewards are only for those not paid out of government estimates. Barring the fact that some NAB employees and the local reps of contracted companies are not exactly “kosher” (Amjad probably believes in the adage, set a thief to catch a thief), the accountability process is a tremendous plus point for this government.

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