Friday, November 30, 2007

Old man and the sea

Why do we run into cul-de-sacs in life? Why do we change course suddenly only to go into maelstroms? Why do we run smooth and then tumble as we walk? Eventually we realize our mistake but it’s often too late. We sob as we look back on life, perhaps, because we know that deep down all of us are inherently human. Flawed. Animated. Shaky. Emotional.

Plato, the ancient Greek thinker, one of the world’s most influential philosophers, who walked on God’s green earth between 428-348 BC, waxes eloquent, “All learning has an emotional base.”

It didn’t come as a surprise to me that Musharraf choked with emotion and shed a tear, betraying his usual bravado, two times in as many days: First, as he bid farewell to his army and second time when he took oath as the civilian President of Pakistan. [The first military Gen to do so]

Often enough when there is an intense bout of wits between two warring factions and the more powerful one is made to eat humble pie, a sense of dreariness follows. Methinks Musharraf must be contemplating – and lamenting may be -- the enormous goodwill he earned when he took control of the rudderless ship -- called IRO [Islamic Republic of] Pakistan. Like an able captain, he put together a smart crew to navigate through some very rough waters. Everything looked right on.

Then something extraordinary happened. Another mighty ship [big, opulent, powerful like the Titanic] called America was attacked. 9-11. The day changed the world. NYC’s twin towers – iconic symbols of America’s corporate might were brought crumbling down in a matter of minutes. Pentagon – the military jugular of US power was set ablaze in broad daylight. It looked surreal but it was happening – across the Atlantic – on live TV. America got dandered up like that proverbial Spanish bull that is shown a rag. Bush’s war team decided to go rampaging. Their target was clear: Afghanistan.

The good old captain – Mushy -- was contacted mid-night and given a now-famous ultimatum. ‘You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists’. Period. Swiftly and prudently, a wooly-eyed Mushy got the message. He understood, as army commanders are expected to, rather quickly, that something major has happened. That geo-strategic alignments have altered overnight. Briskly, like a keen sailor, he decided to go with the favorable winds. With the west.

The war on terror was won, partly thanks to Mushy’s intelligence folks. They yanked the baddies out of their sleeping beds and turned them over to the US. Once more in history Pakistan rose to the occasion -- providing top level intel, bases, support and backup against the war on terror. Major terror networks and finances were frozen. This greatly angered the Islamists, who hate US for its double standards vis-à-vis Palestine. Also a war on fellow Muslims, however irrational, was not done. OBL had a new foe.

The pragmatic captain’s ship had again meandered into rough waters. Between devil and the deep-sea. US, flush with a victory in Afghanistan, went onto mission Iraq, briefly forgetting about Pakistan [like post-soviet-Mujahidin times]. The attention ebbed. And the Islamist tribe in Pakistan grew. Their writ ran large. Suicide bombing became fashionable. They attacked Prez Mush a couple of times, even getting close to him. He survived each storm. The ship wobbled a little but sailed on.

Suddenly a judge from Baluchistan, who used to dye his hair and moustaches black every morning, decided to play tough. He wanted the names of tribals and other blokes who went missing during the war on terror. Now some of these guys had already been handed over to the US, some imprisoned in Afghanistan and some very high value detainees lodged in Guantanamo bay. I am sure some guys must have been eliminated by the military intelligence – either during the round up or in gun-battles. Judge Ifty was summoned to Army House, Rawalpindi and as is the norm in military, told to put in his papers. When he refused [and the army is not programmed to hear Nays] he was suspended.

The decision was to prove shellacking. Around this time, the captain of the ship alienated some of his passengers. Most of the people traveling aboard the ship had been a secular majority but they thought of the captain as being too tough, too pro-west, too dictatorial and hence planned to thrown him into the sea. The tide turned. I wonder what went through Mushy’s head as he shed the first tear this Wednesday. Was he recounting those ill fated hours when he decided to kick out the corny judge. Soon after the lawyers rebelled. Nawaz came back from exile and was promptly dispatched back. Another mistake. Another tear.

And then the beauty – Benazir -- sashayed down the aisle of the ship. The ramp didn’t burn. Instead 150 people were incinerated. It was a clear message of how far the extremists could go. The court, with the dyed hair judge in control once more, was playing truant again. The captain decided to change direction of the ship and instead made the judge with a grudge, annoying journalists, several lawyers and other trouble makers walk the plank. Another fluke. More Tears.

The rest, as they say, is history. As the countdown to the D-day [Parl elections -- Jan 2008] begins, the crew on the ship has changed and the captain, like Archibald Haddock, is more sober now. Big bro, US is pleased again [often a good sign]. In the next 40 days, we will see a mixture of good, bad and the ugly happening on the ship. Fisticuffs may break out. The beauty [West backed], the old warhorse [Saudi blessing], two brothers from Punjab called the Chowdarys [Mushy favor] and other motley crowd. The captain stays albeit his guns have been taken away from him. We have a new first mate -- Kiyani -- on the ship. He, they tell us, will control the direction now. The captain will only guide. No more flukes.

The ship sails on.



Hussian, Hyderabad said...

Fantastic blogging
Mr Sameer you are one hell of a blogger.

Arjamind, karachi said...

yea good imagination
very smart, stylish writing



w.tan, antwerpen said...

we must think about the taleban in the backyard of pakistan;this
general keep every thing in pakistan under control;then pakistan
is devided into little pieces.

w.tan, antwerpen

POSullivan, London said...

Great piece. Will Pakistan now go the same way as Iraq - split three ways. The loss of their nuclear arsenal will probably be the next step in knee bending. How much will Bhutto & Sharif get for doing this to their own country and people? And from whom are they going to get it?

POSullivan, London

Waseem Salik, Kitchener, Canada said...

Who can be good for us? one who has nominated, the most professional person as his successor? or those who always nominate their children as their sucessors? why, the people who are dieing for democracy do not bring elections in their own parties?
At least musharaf is not as much corrupt, ineligible and mean as BB and sharif are. BB and sharif are a slap on the face of 160 milion people. Alas musharaf's hand are going dirty in dealing with these corrupt politicians.

Waseem Salik, Kitchener, Canada

Umer Mumtaz, Islamabad said...

Agreed Mush made a few mistakes. But none were so bad as to ask him to step down and replace him with the likes of benazir or nawaz. Had the country been in their hands, this would have been another Iraq because America would undoubtedly have had attacked us. The country has had very good economic reforms. The mullahs have been forced to come out of their hiding places and fight the authorities, and soon they will be crushed.

Umer Mumtaz, Islamabad

Karuna said...

The irony of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is that it is neither Islamic nor a Republic. Whether Musharraf is in charge of the army or the country is NOT the issue. The issue is 'can the army stay away from politics?'

KISHOR DERE, India said...

One can certainly hope that President Musharraf will bring the predominantly military virtues of discipline, rigour, hardwork, professionalism and dedication to the otherwise anarchic, luxurious, self-serving and self-righteous world of politics.