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Archive for June, 2007

Presidential Options

The countdown to general elections has begun. In any third world country there will always be an element of rigging (in the first world also e.g. US Presidential Elections 2000 Florida), the mood of the electorate is unlike that of 2002, the public will not accept any process less than fully fair and transparent. Intelligence agencies that have a compulsive penchant for “s-electing” favorites will find their effectiveness vastly limited in the prevailing environment, mass manipulation on the scale witnessed earlier is not possible, even “judicious” injecting of funds will invite a very strong street reaction. Those who break the law in the conduct of fair polls should expect to be prosecuted under those laws. The ability of civil servants and the police to locally influence elections in their area of responsibility must be (but probably can’t be) curbed. Mandatory statutory punishments for those trying to desecrate the electoral process will act as a deterrent. To those given unlawful commands to rig the electoral process, there is only one advice, “Just Say No!”.

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Master Of The Game?

Thirty six years ago almost to the day a good friend, Capt (later Maj Gen) Amin Ahmad Chaudhry (of Bangladesh), told me about Telemachus, a Christian monk who jumped into the ring at the Roman Coliseum to separate two gladiators fighting to the death with swords. The gladiators turned on him and he was run through by their swords. Shocked into silence at the tragedy, the crowd left the Coliseum. Some historians disagree, they say he was set on by the crowd, furious that he should prevent their entertainment they stoned him to death. Whatever the real version, because of his selfless act Emperor Honorius stopped all further gladiatorial events from Jan 1, 404 A.D. The moral of “Telemachus” is don’t try mediation, you will either be set upon by both the warring parties or by the bystanders. Normally one shoots the messenger bringing bad news, in the super-charged political atmosphere presently in Pakistan, the polarization is so defined and acute you shoot the mediator. As much as we decry President Bush for it, his doctrine is alive and well in Pakistan, “you are either for us or against us!”. Being even-handed and objective is not smart in Pakistan!

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A Very Good Budget

Every Federal Budget is usually better than the previous year, this year even more so. Presented by the Federal Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub on June 9, 2007, it had a three-fold purpose viz (1) to try and alleviate the poverty of the common man (2) provide incentives for greater investment, and lastly (3) provide a favourable environment for general elections at the end of this year. Glaring anomalies exist, bigger incentives should have been given for the agriculture sector, the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy.

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A Question of Image

Only a cursory browsing of Dr Ayesha Siddique Agha’s book “Military Inc” reveals it to be a motivated attack on the Armed Forces, a sophisticated embellishing of facts, intertwined with pure fabrication. Even for those not subscribing to conspiracy theories, it comes across as a part of a bigger plan. Moreover the book will sell well in the present environment. Some remarks attributed to me are such blatant misquoting that one calls into question its credibility. My views about the military’s involvement in business other than the four welfare institutions, Fauji Foundation, Army Welfare Trust, Bahria Foundation and Shaheen Foundation are well documented. I do not need Dr Agha as my mouthpiece.

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