The velvet glove

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

In my life I have often come across warped, self-serving political statements but the one coming from the third time around aspiring PM truly takes the cake on all counts. It stinks not only of self-interest but of the utter disregard of something known as the people’s will and interest. It is not only absurd in its logic, it is an outright affront to something known as “democracy”, something which this aspirant doesn’t ever tire of paying lip-service to. It is an outrageous insult to the people who have long suffered under the shabby rule of the army and corrupt politicians.

Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister and chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said on Saturday that the international community and the armed forces of Pakistan have confidence in President General Pervez Musharraf and therefore “we need to work out a solution with him”.

Even if for a moment one were to assume that the statement, “the international community and the armed forces of Pakistan have confidence in President General Pervez Musharraf” is an irrevocable truth, did this democrat at any point consider that democracy means the wishes of the people and not the wishes of the armed forces and the international community. Should this be understood as a signal to the General that as long as there are enough self-servers and toadies chanting this “mantra” of confidence, he can rule this place? If the General lives to be a hundred years, should then he continue to rule regardless of the wishes of the people? No one has ever done a greater disservice to the struggle for democracy than this lady with her preposterous statement. All this just to get into the corridors of power, once more to be able to buy even more majestic Surrey Palaces.

There are more gems in her interview with Newsweek/Washington Post. She says, “We want a balance of power, reforms for a fair election, lifting of the ban on a twice-elected prime minister (running for a third term), as well as immunity for all holders of public office prior to 1999 or 2000. Where there are unproven charges that go back now for more than a decade or two, a chapter should be closed.” She wants herself and other political leaders to be exonerated of the charges of corruption simply because they haven’t been proved. Other than patwaris and those politicians in the line of fire of the government, who else has ever been convicted here of corruption? This in unequivocal terms means if we are clever and cunning enough to avoid detection, we should be allowed to enjoy the booty.

Responding to a question whether she was expected to support the president she said, “He doesn’t want our support, but he doesn’t want us going out on the streets and agitating against him. My party says that we have to oppose the presidential election because it is illegal. I have said that if he takes confidence-building measures, then we don’t have to vote for him, but we don’t have to create a ruckus in the streets.” So it is, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back if you do not create problems for my elections. I’ll drop the corruption charges and drop the ban for your being elected the PM the third time and as far as the elections are concerned, the angels will take care of that minor irritant, as has always been the case.

She said that she had controlled the army better than any of the others. She said when she was the PM; the tribal areas were part of Pakistan. Now their control has been ceded to the militants and pro-Taliban forces. Yes, that was the time when the Taliban came into being under the aegis of Naseerullah Babar, and they became a power to reckon with under her patronship, so her claim is prevarication and misleading, to say the least.

She said that if the deal materialized, she would want General Musharraf to control the army as she doesn’t want the security services to disagree with her attack on internal militancy and get him to sack the parliament once again. So she concedes everything to the General that civil society has been fighting against since this country came into existence. She is handing the army a role very much independent of the political authority, so it will only be a civilian rule in name alone. She wants less responsibilities and less worries for herself so that she can concentrate on things of her liking and choice, which incidentally may have nothing to do with governance. She has already abdicated authority to Musharraf.

Is she really this naïve or does she think that she can create a schism between soul brothers? She said, “I think Chaudary Shujaat is setting Musharraf up for failure. He’s saying, “Seek election and I will be your cover candidate.” A lot of the people involved in the Afghan jihad are with him. If Musharraf is knocked out by the courts, guess who will be the president” Chaudary Shujaat. Musharraf thinks he needs these people but they are planning to depose him. He trusts them because he’s been working with them. To us, it’s a fight between moderation and extremism.” No one with even the minutest of political acumen would make such a childish statement. She simply wants to replace Shujaat as the henchman of Musharraf, a job she relishes because of the privileges it carries.

She also said, “If our negotiations with Musharraf fall apart, we can always turn to the other political party. But Nawaz Sharif and I had a falling out over the MMA. I think they are the supporters of extremist groups. Nawaz wanted an alliance with them and I did not. As long as he is with them and they are in government, we will go as a third force.” She forgets that Maulana Fazlur Rehman had a very influential position in her government. Why do these people think that people have such short memories?

She said the “US also wants stability of Pakistan, fair elections, and says that General Musharraf is our ally”. So are Karzai, Maliki and she too now counts among the allies of the US. So what are we supposed to do? Should we obsequiously obey the dictates of the US and accept anyone who is their ally? Should we accept those who are willing to barter sovereignty for remaining or coming into power with the blessings of the US? For sovereignty, the people will have to reject out of hand anyone tainted with the epithet of “US ally”.

The people should beware of anyone who in the name of “democracy”, “national interest”, “moderation” and the “war on terror” wants this dispensation to continue. This interview has completely exposed the motives behind the deal and if this deal is allowed to succeed, than we should bid goodbye to whatever hopes we have for securing our inalienable rights.

The Baloch nationalists should await a crackdown of an even greater magnitude than the one that has been continuing because the velvet glove of Benazir on the iron fist of Musharraf will make atrocities and outrages against the Baloch more acceptable to the West. Sindh should get ready to be deprived of water with the Kalabagh Dam and other such schemes while NWFP should wait for the water levels to rise and learn to live underwater like “the man from Atlantis”. The repression that the expanding war on terror will unleash on the people of the smaller provinces will be on an unprecedented scale.

The US knows how to play its cards well and it is not for nothing that it is backing the deadly duo. It knows fully well that these two will go the proverbial extra mile to appease it because they will remain indebted to it for providing him with an extension and for resurrecting her political future. Wherever the US gets its way, that place has never again recovered to become what the people want. This deal will be the last nail in the coffin in spite of the loud proclamations of “moderation”, “democracy” and “human rights”.

Posturing as democrats or getting patronizing accolades of the US for democratic measures and goals doesn’t make a tin-pot dictator or his sidekick, Benazir or Shujaat, whoever it may be, democrats or moderates or upholders of democracy. They will remain the tyrants and autocrats that they in essence are.

I’ll end this column with couplets from an excellent Ghazal of Hafiz Shirazi,

Na Har Kay Chehra Bar Afrokht Dilbari Danad

Na Har Kay Aaina Saazad Sikandari Danad

Na Har Kay Taraf-e- Kulah Kaz Nihad o Tund Nishasht

Kulhadari o Aaeen-e-Sarwari Danad

Hazar Nukta Bareek Tar Za Moo Einja Ast

Na Har Kay Sar Ba Tarashad Qalandari Danad.

It means,

Neither everyone with a beautiful face knows the intricacies of Love

Nor everyone who can make a mirror becomes Alexander the Great

Nor everyone who arrogantly with a tilted crown on the throne sits

Knows the obligations and etiquettes that behove the august mantle

Countless complexities slenderer than the web are involved in

Little wonder not everyone who shaves his head becomes a Qalandar.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

This article was first published on 28 August 2007

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