Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pakistan's musical chairs

Pakistani politicians are a filthy rich and terribly mischievous.
The poor country is torn between its wealthy leadership. They jockey for power shamelessly and once they grab it, they abuse it like their mistresses. They mostly talk about democracy but don’t mean it at all. ‘Pakistani Awam’ [the people of Pakistan] is a recurring theme in their speeches but in effect they are so full of themselves. They bicker in the open like whoremongers. Jinnah’s dream has gone sour.

The country is in the throes of a vicious power struggle. The wealthy ex-PM-cum-Amir-ul-Momineen designate [Leader of the faithful] Nawaz Sharif is a bitter man these days. He is frothing because Benazir Bhutto’s widower, that colorfully shady character who cuts off-color jokes with foreign female politicians, has not lived up to his word. Zardari and Sharif hugged tightly last year as they forged an alliance to restore democracy in Pakistan after long years of military rule. It appears now, Sharif feels, that Zardari had a dagger in his achkan [long coat] when they hugged.

Zardari, on his part, has been saying to his aides [there are only his men now, he is slowly doing away with his late wife’s and father-in-law’s most trusted supporters: Raza Rabbani is out of favor, Aitzaz Ahsan cannot be trusted, Makhdoom Amin Fahim has been completely sidelined, Sherry Rahman is not happy] that he cannot afford to trust the ex-Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhari. The ex-CJ who dyes his hair each morning, like Sharif, is more of a rakish activist rather than an honorable justice. The corrupt Zardari is more than sure that once Iftikar is reinstated, he will let the Damocles sword loose on him.

The truth be told Sharif is no great fan of judiciary. Perhaps the only common strand between him and the tough nut Iftikar is their love for the black dye that they apply -- in the characteristic subcontinent style -- in an effort to hide their years. Sharif wants to use Iftikar to stymie Zardari’s rise in the Pakistani politics. The president’s men realized this and attempted to check- mate the wily Sharif’s. Zardari’s hand-picked judiciary recently disqualified both Sharif brother’s from holding any political post in the country because of a nine year old high jacking charge [that joke when Musharraf was returning from Sri lanka in a plane, low on fuel]. As soon as the court gave its loaded verdict, Zardari moved swiftly like a predator on an empty stomach to dismiss the PML-led Punjab government.

Sharif was left totally miserable. Since reinstating judge Iftikar was one of his poll planks, he decided to join the lawyers and threw in his lot [and he’s pretty influential in Punjab] behind the lawyer’s movement. The long march [March 12-March 16] was planned. Sharif wanted nothing short of a revolution. Since he trucks comfortably with the Islamic parties, the right-wing got behind him. They too feel sidelined by the whisky-sloshed President. Zardari, despite his foibles, is deeply secular, like his party. The feud for Pakistan is taking place at many levels.

Zardari, though petty minded, too has a point. The hitherto dominating north Punjabi elites don’t like the idea of a Sindi, non-Punjabi administration and they are doing everything to undermine his presidency. The Iftikar drama is part of the same game. In any event, the argument goes, the judiciary is never a vehicle of change. It is at best a referee. Nawaz is singularly fixated on the idea of installing the ex-CJ because he knows that it may well prove to be Zardari's fall. Hence the President is balking.

As it always happens in case of Pakistan, America intervenes.
Their own fucked up strategy, now called war on bad Taliban, not war on terrorism [Obama is such an aesthete] in neighboring Afghanistan may go completely haywire in case Pakistan implodes. Holbrooke last night made desperate calls to both Zardari and Sharif.
Media reports suggest that a fevered backroom give-and-take is on.
A compromise may be in the offing soon. For the while, the army though increasingly impatient, may stay put in the barracks.
Kiyani is not exactly Mush.

The amusing power games in Pakistan are hugely distracting its leadership from tackling the real problems that confront it – the unholy tangle of terrorism and economic depression. Left unsolved they may well sink Pakistan along with the Islamists and liberals.