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Archive for December, 2002

How the Rot Started

US Secretary of State Colin Powell recently called US President George Bush, Jr. with some good news and bad news about UN inspections for Iraq’s weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), “Mr President, the good news is that Saddam Hussain has agreed to unconditional across-the-board inspections, the bad news is that he has asked for “Arthur Andersen” to carry out the inspections.” That joke sums up the backlash of the ENRON financial scandal that has afflicted a score of previously untouchable US blue-chip multi-billion dollar companies like Worldcall, Tyco etc, almost all major international accounting firms like “Arthur Andersen” are under pressure because of “creative accounting” and/or fudging financial numbers. When World Bank President Wolfensohn accused the Ms Benazir Regime in 1996 of fudging statistics, he was being discriminatory, almost all governments are guilty of this “soft” white collar crime of inflating their revenues and masking their expenditures, India regularly puts military pensions and border fortifications under innocuous “Heads” other than “Defence Expenditures”. In this new world of accounting “glasnost” it is becoming harder to mask the financial shenanigans of the kind that this country (and the world) has been witness to.


Good Governance Versus Populism

Good governance and populism cannot co-exist for long. History is replete with instances of (1) popular leaders failing to give good governance and (2) leaders who give good governance being hardly popular, at least during their lifetimes. While it would be too simplistic to say that popular leaders are not capable of good governance, that is only possible by leaders who are prepared to be unpopular i.e. have the ability to take tough decisions. Sher Shah Suri, who drove the Moghul Emperor Jahangir from his throne, was hardly as popular as the royal potentate he deposed, yet the short five years of reign before he died (and Jahangir was welcomed back by a fickle people as a conquering hero) is quoted as the one rule in the history of the sub-continent that is seen as the best period of South Asian administration. For that matter the two hundred years of British rule till 1947 over India was hardly populist in nature, it was tough but fair and counted as an example of good governance.

If we are to add up the “good governance” scorecard of the military regime uptil Oct 12 there are many more pluses than minuses, if we were to go back further to the days before the President started his Referendum campaign, then those pluses are far more than those visible today. The “Referendum” can be said to be the watershed of the Musharraf Regime; his rule being divided into the period “before Referendum” (BR) and “after Referendum” (AR). On the balance sheet the military regime has done extremely well BR but in public perception it has failed the acid test of credibility AR. While there were some misgivings before the elections as to supporting of favourites, a lot of people who supported Gen Musharraf wholeheartedly have been turned off AR by the goings-on of the last 9 weeks or so. The Oct 12 results dictated a PML(Q)-led coalition in the Centre, an MMA government in NWFP, Balochistan with a “pot-pourri coalition” inclusive of the PML(Q) as a senior partner and PPP-led coalition in Sindh. This master plan was scuttled by the “Fazlur Rehman spanner” that Ms Benazir threw into the works, thereafter the regime’s wise men decided that the PPP did not deserve any democratic consideration. In the process they used the “Patriots” to shoot down the PPP’s aspirations for having their man as PM, they then got carried away and put paid to any PPP hopes to making the government in Sindh. While this may be good in the short run, the compromise choice of Chief Minister, Ali Mohammad Maher, does not excite much confidence in sustaining this coalition rule for any length of time. He may well surprise us by having strength presently not visible on the surface, at the moment he is very much a “puppet on a string”.


Flying Gladiators

President General Pervez Musharraf will present ‘Flying Brevets’ to the officers of P-43 Army Aviation Young Officers Course at a ceremony today at Army Aviation Base, Gujranwala Cantt. We will try and attend this event, it brings back nostalgic memories. Thirty-three years ago both of us graduated from the Army Aviation School, Dhamial in March 1969, only 12 surviving the initial intake of 27 officers in Army Aviation Young Officers Course P-10. The then Commander-in-Chief Pakistan Army Gen Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan pinned flying wings on our chest, a few days later he became President of the country. In 1967 we had the distinction of topping (out of 350 officers) the Infantry Weapons and Tactics Course at Infantry School, Quetta, in 1969 we missed out on the “All-Round Efficiency Trophy” and “the Flying Trophy” respectively, Capt (Retd) Pervez Yousuf (Miss PMA 1963) and Brig (then Maj) Farooq Ahmed Khan (Ironhead) being the deserving winners. We were both posted to 1 Army Aviation Squadron which was then on the move from Dhamial to Mangla Cantt. (Saeed) served as QM with Col Hashmi, (Ikram) became the Squadron Adjutant. We spent wonderful days at Mangla, mainly due to the presence as Corps Commander 1 Corps of one of the finest officers that the Pakistan Army has produced, late Lt Gen M Attiqur Rahman.

During this period, the ratio of pilots to aircraft was not adequate, there was a tremendous shortage of pilots in a “demand” situation. (Saeed) was sent post-haste to do the PAF Flight Instructor School (FIS) at Risalpur while (Ikram) did the OH(13)S Basic Helicopter Course (dead man’s curve) at Dhamial. (Saeed) went onto instruct several batches of Army Officers how to fly, as the youngest VIP-qualified helicopter pilot in Army Aviation in 1970, Ikram flew Alouette-3s officially and a host of other aircraft unofficially (for operational reasons) from Khunjerab Pass to Teknaf, south of Cox’s Bazar. (Saeed) got his “Sitara-e-Jurat” directing air sorties and artillery fire in Chamb in 1971. In relative economic terms both of us have been extremely fortunate but the finest period of our youth was that spent in the service of the country as officers of the Pakistan Army, the “aviation” transition period was certainly “creme de la creme”. The quality of our colleagues was outstanding, the camaraderie was excellent! Former infantry officers with extremely strong attachments to our parent units, we rated our Army Aviation service as “superlative” in quality. Whether (Saeed) teaching his students to come out of a “spin” or (Ikram) lifting casualties from a mountaintop in Azad Kashmir or Gilgit, we risked our lives daily and thought nothing of it. Therefore one can well appreciate the much more manifold risks today’s Army Aviators face! People like “Uz”, later Maj Gen (and High Commissioner), Saeeduz Zaman Janjua kept us forever in a state of good aerial humour, the integrity, competence and indomitable spirit of officers like (then Lt Col) Maj Gen (later Governor NWFP) Nasirullah Khan Babar and (then Maj) Maj Gen Inayatullah Khan Niazi was a source of great inspiration to us. How can one forget (Ikram’s) beloved Flight Commander in Log Flt Eastern Command, Maj (later Brig) Tirmizi, an unsung symbol of quiet courage, fairplay and determination, the perfect Aviator CO in the most adverse circumstances.


South Asia on Edge

If exit polls in Gujerat are to be believed, BJP will win nearly a hundred seats in the Assembly compared to the 70 for the Congress Party. This is bad news not only for India but for the rest of South Asia because the BJP victory is based on blatant exploitation of Hindu chauvinism, anathema to the concept of secular India. Having lost almost all State elections since coming to power, the electoral success will not only be sweet for BJP, it will unfortunately serve as their model for future electoral campaigns. To the credit of the Congress Party they stuck to their secular stance despite pre-polls suggesting that the BJP-inspired carnage of muslims in Gujerat was in line with what voters in the State wanted. Narendra Modi, who can easily be tried in the Hague for genocide in inspiring and inciting violence against the minority muslims while being the primary authority in the State as Chief Minister, was shamelessly paraded by BJP through the electoral hustings proclaiming his “Hindutva” credentials. BJP’s victory in Gujerat is not only a disaster for India, the two muslim countries in South Asia will begin to feel the heat as BJP articulates its immediate “east” and “west” foreign policy to go with its virulent domestic anti-muslim stance.