Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The pir who coudn't be the king

The day Benazir was assasinated; BB and Makhdoom talk to Prez Karzai
Now that the Queen is no more, her man Friday can be kicked around by the king’s men. Poor Makhdoom sahib. He won’t be the prime minister after all. That he served Benazir all his life, like an able adjutant, holding together the PPP flock when Mohtarma and her wily hubby were enjoying Mediterranean cruises, didn’t eventually work for Makhdoom Amin Fahim.

The King [that’s Asif Zardari in his new guise] perhaps feeling a notch vulnerable decided -- in his infinite wisdom -- to sideline the affable Fahim. A tête-à-tête in the holiday resort of Muree saw every PPP heavyweight worth his salt breaking bread with their foe-turned-pal Nawaz Sharif. Asif, obviously, led the pack. The only conspicuous absence was – no brownies for guessing this – Fahim sahib. While the big guys clinked glasses [imported juice, no liqueur when media is around] celebrating their victory, nobody thought about the man -- who competently led the winning party in these elections.

Now Nawaz’s folks are going about town [Asif’s men can’t do that directly, stupid] saying Fahim is unacceptable because he has met Musharraf in the past. Oh, I forgot to add, the act [of meeting Mush] is a cardinal sin in Pakistan these days. But wait a second; Fahim met Mush in the past because he was talking on behalf of Benazir. So why is everyone out to hit Fahim? It is no secret that Mohtarma was conniving to enter an agreement with the General. Fahim, as a loyal guy, was just a go-between. What is the fuss about? Do we really need a scapegoat? Why slaughter the old poet? This is, for God's sake, a man who refused the PM's post in the past.

The first press con after BB’s assassination [when the Bhutto kid was crowned heir apparent] saw an emotionally charged Asif announcing Fahim sahib as the choice for PM's slot. A dignified politician, as Fahim is, remained quiet at the occasion. Now under fire from left and right, the poet is finally speaking out. Asked by media men why he didn’t attend the Muree meeting, Fahim waxed poetic: I am a hermit; I don’t go to the mosque unless the Azaan [Prayer call] is called.

Meantime Asif’s men in their attempt to lionize Mohtarma’s widower are now saying that the ex-playboy-turned-peacenik can become the PM in the next few months. That is when he quickly installs a friendly-inept chap as regent for the moment. That would give Asif time to consolidate his grip and contest from a safe seat.

So, some quick lessons to be learnt here. Pakistan’s politics remains very much a feudal charade, as the gifted British intellectual Tariq Ali likes to call it. We may soon see an Asif crony in power while the old boy will control him backstage.

And the clamor shall continue.