DAWN - Features; October 14, 2002

Published Oct 14, 2002 12:00am

The dangers ahead!

In order to understand the results of the October 10 general elections in the country and predict how politics would shape up in the coming weeks, one must first find out the true nature of relations between the MMA and Musharraf. If the two are still as thick as ever and the visible animosity between the two was only an election gimmick to cut into the huge anti-Musharraf vote which otherwise would have gone entirely to the two mainstream political parties, then, perhaps, the PPP would be sitting on the opposition benches in no time at all. And perhaps the PPP would be denied a government even in Sindh where it has bagged the largest number of seats but not large enough to form a government on its own. Persecution of the PPP would continue with renewed vigour, this time in the name of ‘true’ democracy. And most probably, Qazi Hussain Ahmad would be offered the Prime Minister’s slot by the PML(Q) in the trade-off for MMA’s entry into coalition governments with it at the Centre, in NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh. This is the safest bet for Musharraf. He can then rule as long as he would want to and also can keep the international community, led by the US, on his side by making it appear as if without him at the helm of affairs the country with its N-bomb would fall into the hands of the religious extremists. And Musharraf is a great salesman. He can sell this too. Remember his claim which he used to make prior to the elections that he has successfully convinced the West and the US that the kind of democracy he was fabricating for Pakistan was the only one his country was suited for!! And also one recalls vividly the way he had almost convinced our foreign ‘friends’ that Taliban were a harmless bunch of Islamic zealots who could be brought back into world’s mainstream by closely engaging them rather than shunning them.

In fact, if 9/11 had not happened, Musharraf would have sold Qazi sb to the West without any problems. One recalls that Qazi sb had visited the State Department in Washington and also appeared before the top officials of the Japanese government in Tokyo sometime before 9/11. He had, perhaps, also met the Europeans. And it is believed that he had received endorsements from all these centres of the world power. In the Cold War days, both the Pakistani Army and the US had used the local religious elements to promote their respective agendas. In the post-Cold War days, while the US had abandoned these elements, the Pakistani Army wooed them rather more ardently to keep the moderate political elements from challenging its political pre-eminence inside the country and also to promote its foreign policy agenda in Kashmir and Afghanistan. And, perhaps, if 9/11 had not happened, Musharraf would not have had to fall back so blatantly on the bunch of opportunists called the King’s party in order to keep the PML(N) and the PPP out of the reckoning. The religious elements would have done his job much more efficiently and much more credibly.

However, if the relations between the MMA and Musharraf have gone sour for good due to the latter’s U-turn after 9/11 and the former meant what it said during the electioneering, then perhaps the country is in for some nasty jolts which may, God forbid, turn even as hazardous as the ones we had experienced following a similar ‘transparent, fair and free’ election held by another General in 1970. Qazi sb has made it clear in a number of his interviews and statements since the elections that MMA would want the restoration of the 1973 Constitution. He has also made it clear that he does not regard the amendments made by General Musharraf as final and insists that these would have to be considered and voted by the parliament to become a part of the Constitution. And one could very clearly feel while listening to one of his TV channel interviews that he was trying his best to avoid calling Musharraf ‘the President’ and ended up identifying him as simply a Pakistani ‘leader’. This, perhaps, is a signal to General Musharraf that MMA would be challenging the constitutionality and legality of his claim to presidency. All this would not only mean that there would be a direct confrontation between the MMA and Musharraf, but the PML(Q) too would find itself on the opposite side of the fence vis-a-vis the MMA and their dream of forming coalition governments with the help of MMA at the centre and the provinces would remain only that.

Claiming monopoly over wisdom and patriotism as did his military predecessors, Ayub, Yahya and Zia, General Musharraf spent most of his three years in power trying to destroy the two mainstream political parties and their leaders. For a change the politicians put up a gallant fight and side-stepping every move made by Musharraf to keep them out of the electoral arena they succeeded in entering the contest and even succeeded in reaching the Parliament in good numbers. When the alternative he was trying to put together by floating the King’s party did not appear to be delivering, Musharraf, perhaps, quickly switched to the plans he had made prior to 9/11 and got all the religious elements which had always taken their cue from the Army to join into one single alliance to fight the forthcoming elections. If one went back to the six months prior to the elections one could clearly recall how the MMA was allowed to hold big rallies and public meetings in almost all the major cities and towns of the country while the other mainstream political parties were barred from doing so not only by law but also by persecuting them with everything the Army Junta had. Musharraf, who used to point out frequently after 9/11 how miserably these religious elements had failed every time they contested elections, perhaps, thought that if he could get them all together they would at least win enough seats at the cost of PPP and PML(N) to become junior partners of the King’s party in coalition governments at the Centre and the provinces. But, perhaps, his minions on the ground did not see the situation getting out of hand in the NWFP. So, with a religious group hostile to Musharraf in complete command of a province bordering an unstable Afghanistan where trigger happy American soldiers are roaming with guns at the ready, and at the centre the same group holding the balance of power, things do not look all too happy for Musharraf and for Pakistan as well.

The chances of MMA joining hands with the PPP and PML(N) to form governments also appear non-existent because of MMA’s unbridgeable ideological differences with the PPP on the one hand and its loathing for Nawaz on the other. However, there is one thing common among these three parties. They have all won by seeking anti-Musharraf vote. They could, therefore, join hands on some basic minimum like getting the 1973 Constitution restored, requesting the Army to go back to barracks, adopting the seven- point agenda of Musharraf as the bipartisan policy plank of Pakistan for the next 15 years, sending all laws to Islamic Ideology Council to seek expert advise on how best to Islamise these laws and the time-table for their Islamization and finally to hold the next elections in two-year time. This is, perhaps, the only way out of the logjam the elections have landed the country into. —Onlooker

MMA victory: a message for Talibanization!

THE process of Talibanization of Balochistan has got a big boost with the emergence in the Oct 10 election of the JUI-dominated MMA as the single largest party in the Provincial Assembly, as well as with its victory on the National Assembly seats reserved for Balochistan. This is a clear message of the voters.

In one of our columns we had made the projection that the JUI would emerge as the single largest party, and this has now been confirmed. It was quite clear when the JUI had launched its poll campaign by nominating party stalwarts for NA seats — Maulana Rehmatullah from Panjgur, Maulana Sherani from Zhob, Maulana Ghafoor Hyderi from Kalat, Maulana Mohammad Qasim from Qila Abdullah, Maulana Noor Mohammad from Quetta, Gul Mohammad Dhumar, a former MNA, from Loralai-Pishin and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed from Chaghai-Quetta. They are all big names in the JUI politics. All other known personalities — Nawab Ayaz Khan Jogezai, Mohammad Khan Achakzai, Habib Jalib Baluch, Saifullah Paracha, Amanullah Gichki and Fateh Hasni — have lost the election.

The JUI leaders knew that if they succeeded in neutralizing the administration, they could win. So, they singled out the ‘military’ governor, who happened to be the chief executive of the province, through a sustained campaign against him. They levelled serious charges against him, accusing him of involvement in pre-poll rigging. Sympathizing with the JUI, the public functionaries helped the party to put the government on the defensive and leave the ground open for the JUI stalwarts to address their voters only. It did break the resistance to the JUI winning the seats.

The JUI leaders also accused the government of doing selective accountability, of betraying the Taliban and Afghanistan and of selling out Pakistan’s sovereignty to serve the regional and global interests of the US, but they seldom spoke on political, social or economic issues. Even they linked the insanitation problem in Quetta to the US interests in Afghanistan and its military presence in Balochistan. One of the top JUI leaders had even spoken about this in a BBC Urdu Service interview a few days before the polls.

In order to secure a maximum number of seats, the JUI leaders fully exploited the religious and national sentiments of the people against the government, as well as against the US designs in the region. Thus they would criticize the indiscriminate bombing by the US of unarmed civilians in the border region close to Balochistan.

The politics of death and destruction in Afghanistan benefited the JUI as most of the people caught, taken prisoner or killed in Kunduz or in a fort in Mazar-i-Sharif in US bombings were loyal to the JUI. A sizable number of them were from Balochistan. Many of the dead were brought to the province and buried, while the injured were treated elsewhere in the country.

Ulema of the JUI were the mentors of the Taliban. Many ministers in the Taliban government had got education in the JUI’s madressahs in Balochistan, Karachi and the NWFP. Still many more from Afghanistan and Iran are getting education in these madressahs in the province. Thus the links between the JUI politics and the people in the border regions of Iran and Afghanistan are close and strong.

It is a significant change in the regional politics as the election results highlighted this aspect that the people residing in the border regions of the three countries — Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan — think on the same line, opposing the US designs in the region. It is further proved with the extension of power and influence of the JUI from central and northern Balochistan to western parts of the province where Maulana Rehmatullah, a JUI stalwart, won from the Panjgur-Kharan constituency. Both are border districts, close to Iranian Balochistan.

However, the Makran coast and central Makran, including the entire Kech Valley, remain outside the influence of the JUI. Zubeida Jalal, a former federal education minister, has dislodged the liberal Balochistan National Movement from its traditional power base. In addition to it, a former MPA has also won the Provincial Assembly seat for the coastal district of Gwadar.

Presumably, the international poll observers and Western diplomats posted in Pakistan did sense such a situation long before the election. They had exchanged views with political activists, lawyers and journalists during which they tried to collect evidence of ‘pre-poll rigging’ by the government in Balochistan. The international observers were from France, Austria and other south European countries who exchanged views with a cross-section of people in Balochistan by travelling to remote areas.

Besides them, political officers from the US embassy and men from the British high commission visited Balochistan and discussed the election and its possible results. They had expressed their concern, though in a guarded manner, that the conservative religious elements could emerge victorious in this sensitive province. Some of the interlocutors had also substantiated their concerns, making a similar assessment.

However, there is a sense of doubt about the JUI forming government in the presence of a large number of independents and those who won the tickets of the National Alliance. Naturally, the independents would soon join the ruling party while the National Alliance has a poll alliance with the PML (Q), outwitting the JUI in the matter of government formation. It is certain that the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, the Balochistan National Movement and the PPP would not join the coalition government and instead opt for the opposition benches. It could not be known whether the BNM, with its four seats, would join the coalition or not. However, it is said that the group would tacitly support the government, though formally occupying the opposition benches.

In short, the only consolation for those who are worried about the JUI politics is that this party would not be allowed to lead the coalition government as the PML-NA combine would emerge as a larger group, claiming the post of chief ministership, for which there are two contenders — Jam Mir Yusuf of Lasbela of the PML (Q) and Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind of the National Alliance.

The temptation I resisted

TWO weeks ago, a cousin of mine came calling at around tea time and we got to talking politics. This cousin of mine loves politics and politicians and things like that. My share of the dialogue on the few occasions we meet is a discreet ‘I see’ or ‘come again. I missed that you were saying because of the infernal racket created by that rickshaw...’ or some such excuse.

This strategy never fails. I make him repeat himself in order to impress upon him the fact that I am giving him my utmost attention. But I don’t do it too often. Just once or twice per hour and the trick works. That’s why I have always been very popular with cousin. In fact, I am his favourite cousin and that’s saying a lot because I am only one among the many cousins he has got.

He began by saying that a friend of his invited him to dinner. “So I went along with my wife. But I was surprised to find a lot of important people sitting in groups and discussing politics and coming to surprising conclusions.”

“For instance?” I asked

“Well, it was not my kind of evening so I was not applying my mind to what was being said around me,” said my cousin.

“Even so, you must have heard something in spite of yourself,” I persisted. The story that my cousin told me of this re-election dinner was that the Very important people who were present on the occasion confided in his friends that an understanding had been reached between the People’s Party and the powers that be that the former would be acceptable to the latter without Ms Benazir Bhutto. Accordingly, a deal was struck and it was agreed that Makhdoom Amin Fahim would be the next prime minister and that he would be more than ‘amenable to reason’.

Now, plausible as this story appeared, I was not willing to buy it because of the many ifs and buts involved. But my cousin laid a wager which would have been too attractive for a compulsive gambler to reject but I resisted the temptation.

Whatever the future holds for us, of one thing I am reasonably sure. You see, it was written in my stars that the Chaudhrys of

Gujrat should rule the roost in the Punjab towards the fag-end of my not very distinguished career. I don’t know anything about the Chaudhrys but I find the prospects embarrassing in the extreme. I don’t know what did I ever do to deserve this ignominious end. But then, if Tony Blair can be the British prime minister, so can the Chaudhrys rule the Punjab. But I am an optimist. Something will assuredly turn up before my day is done. One lives and one hopes.

********

I HAVE Prof A R Nagori’s second letter on the subject of Khushwant Singh. It is being presented here unedited and unabridged. Prof Nagori says:

“I am a little sad. You perceived my earlier letter in the wrong mood and corrections on Amrita Sher Gil, meant for art students, were converted as a personal diatribe directed against Mr Khushwant Singh, with screeching headlines. I do not know Mr K.S. personally so, in order to belie Mr Singh for his remarks on Amrita, I quoted Dr Zakria and a lady journalist of India Today who had filed a suit against Mr KS in some court having used such words in her defamation case. I am equally an admirer of Mr KS’s writing whom Lahori mentions as a delightful liar. I enjoyed KS columns, once appearing in Dawn, containing merry frolics, mirth and especially the Sikh jokes.

“Of my statement Mr Lahori wants proofs for dates on Amrita. I refer him to see interviews of A.R. Chughtai, and Agha A. Hamid, reproduced in Amrita’s biographies by Ahmed Salim and the best account of her life in a book by Iqbal Singh. None of my expressions are without substantial support nor are they mere statements, as suggested by Mr Lahori in his notebook. Photographs of her flat and reproduction of paintings done from the window, appear in the book by Ahmed Salim. Presently, the flat is still intact, even if we did not live in times of Amrita. Mr Lahori need not rely on my statement for I spend time at Ganga Ram mentions facing late Amrita’s flat. It is only few minutes drive in his chauffeur driven limo and see himself the validity of my statement.

I assure you Sir, my admiration for Mr KS writing remains identical to yours (despite Mr Kuldip Nayer’s reservation on his English), notwithstanding KS remarks on Amrita’s personal character, which I defended and was the gist of my letter that you preferred to ignore. There is nothing to call imagination in willed that he be buried or cremated, as Lahori finds in the will of KS. Ismet Chughtai and our N.M. Rasheed (sic) willed just the opposite, in any case, KS is a self-proclaimed atheist.

“P.S. I know bit of research methodology and how references, quotes, lines and numbers books and authors are mentioned with index and bibliography. On the basis and strength of my research publications, I was appointed professor at the university. But for short letters and brief comments, we don’t use research methodology. Your comment on authenticity of my statement in absence of documentary evidence, really surprised me.

“My blunt expression seems a stronger word to Lahori, by-passing remarks and vulgar insinuation such as lying naked and attempting seducing used by KS for the dead lady.”

Not a word has been changed. It is Nagori-ism pure and unadulterated. I have have half a mind to send a copy to Mr Kuldip Nayer, asking him, koi batlao ke hum batlaen kya?

Out on election day

The temperature may have been soaring, but the atmosphere at Karachi’s polling stations was distinctly tepid all morning. By the afternoon, however, things seemed to be picking up. Crowds of intending voters were seen milling around the camps set up by the various political parties. There was mass confusion at many polling stations, with many irate intending voters unable to find their names on the electoral lists. Some people were seen doing the rounds of various stations, desperately looking for their names in vain. The party workers seemed equally helpless and unable to help, as tempers began to rise.

A highly unscientific random survey of these camps across the city provided a hint of the gathering storm. What was noticeable was that the number of people at the camps set up by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal were more or less at par with those of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, at least in certain parts of the city, including Saddar, Clifton, PECHS, Bahadarabad and Dhoraji. In Lyari, the overwhelming sea of PPP flags suggested that the area’s traditional voting pattern was not about to change.

As the evening progressed, the MQM discovered that its once solid bastions were in danger of crumbling under a highly organized assault from the religious parties. Karachi, like the NWFP, was witnessing a seismic shift in its political alignment. Or, as the main loser claimed, a conspiracy had been hatched to deny it the lion’s share of seats.

Leaving aside the contentious topic of rigging, the MMA had managed to simultaneously present itself as the main rival to the MQM in Mohajir-dominated areas as well as the party of choice in areas with a heavy presence of settlers from the north. The main losers in the Punjabi-Pukhtoon areas of the city were the PPP, PML (N) and ANP. The Sindhi-Baloch support for the PPP, however, remained more or less firm in the face of this trend.

Fears and

worries

Some of my female friends have become quite worried about the MMA wave. A friend from Lahore sent as SMS saying that she was quite depressed about the results. Several others in Karachi were even more upset, fearful — a bit unrealistically perhaps — that their personal lives might now be affected. The friend in Lahore was shocked to hear that the Clifton and Defence seat had gone to the maulvis. However, I tried to explain to her that these areas were just part of a much larger constituency and that while it Clifton and Defence might seem larger areawise on no account did they hold the majority of voters in NA-250.

In any case, though, there might be several reasons why the MMA has won. Other than those that have already been mentioned — vis-a-vis America’s so-called ‘war against terror’ and Afghanistan — part of their success comes from the government’s biased policy of dealing with the mainstream political parties since most of them weren’t even allowed to hold rallies. In any case, there was a ban on political activities for much of the past three years, while no one stopped the religious parties from demonstrating, at one time, every day against the attacks on Afghanistan and the policy of the Musharraf government. So, in that sense those demonstrations, because of the stand that the MMA used for its election campaign, were like political rallies.

Commuter’s plea

The city is in the process of getting some new buses which, thankfully, will be run on CNG. The first batch has arrived and apparently more are expected. Some might feel that this is a bad idea because it will only cause more congestion and traffic jams. Others, however, think that it’s about time we got new buses that also happen to be environmentally friendly.

A reader from Gulshan-i-Jamal near Rashid Minhas has sent in details of a problem — typical of most commuters — it is related to this whole matter.

Every morning at around nine he waits near a CNG filling station in Gulistan-I-Jauhar for a Metro bus. He takes the bus to Saddar every morning and finds it quite convenient. Normally he waits for 15 minutes or so and of late each time that a Metro bus comes its completely full. There is only room to stand for passengers and if your in a hurry to get to work, as most people would be in the mornings, you have no choice but to stand.

He says: “Karachi is a heavily populated city and to this date we don’t have any proper transport system. Many plans have been made but I see people still going in a bus standing all the way. We have the Metro bus service which is quite good but we need a fleet of coasters to be added more because many people have to wait more than 30 minutes for transport. I hope the authorities concerned authorities will tend to this problem.”

‘Visa revoked’

People talk about how much Karachi has changed in the past decade or so. That’s roughly around the last I moved from New York, where I was studying, back to my old city. New York has probably seen more a lot of change and transformation in the past one year. And like in Karachi, some of the change has been for the good, some for the worse.

At least when you’re Pakistani and live in Karachi there can’t be too much of a problem. Yes, you might have your car stolen or your home robbed — which probably happens as much as would happen in any city the size of Karachi — but you probably won’t be racially profiled or subject to taunts.

Of course, since Sept. 11 there is bound to be, some say, increased suspicion of people from this part of the world. Unfortunately, this need for caution in dealing with foreigners has of late been taken to unnecessary extremes.

Take the following case, taken from an American newspaper, details of which a friend emailed from Lahore. The story, written by Julia Levy, appeared in the New York Sun on Sept. 26. Headlined ‘US revokes visa of Pakistani banker’, it detailed the sad tale of Naeem Ahmed, a brilliant student and commencement speaker at the reputed Bowdoin College in Maine. It said: “Naeem Ahmed... had worked for almost two years at a New York-based investment bank when he received a letter from the State Department telling him his visa would be revoked the next time he left the country, because he might be a national security threat.

Mr. Ahmed, a 26-year-old Muslim and a citizen of Pakistan, stayed in America for about a month after he received the letter. In that time, he called the State Department to find out how he had violated the provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that forbids terrorists from entering the country. He consulted lawyers. He got no answers. ‘It’s like I had hit the brick wall of national security,’ he told the New York Sun. ‘It was this impregnable wall where no one could get any information.’

“Finally, after his employer fired him when it heard about the letter, he left his fiancie, deferred graduate school at Columbia, which he had planned to start this fall, and went home to Lahore, deciding it was better to leave the country than end up behind bars.”

“...Immigration lawyers estimate that between 300 and 700 foreigners living in America have recently received letters like the one that came to Mr. Ahmed’s Upper East Side mailbox. A State Department spokesman, Stuart Patt, acknowledged that having the same name as someone allied with terrorists could have prompted the letter, but he said the cause of the revocation doesn’t matter. The State Department isn’t in the business of servicing foreigners with an innate right to come to America, he said. Rather, it looks out for national security.

“A Columbia Law School professor who consulted with Mr. Ahmed, Ted Ruthizer, called the visa revocation ‘absolutely disgraceful and completely illogical’ and said it ‘ruined his life without giving him any way to defend himself.’

“Mr. Ahmed said he first came to America to study math and computer science at Bowdoin College in Maine... In 2000, Mr. Ahmed graduated magna cum laude [a high distinction allowed only to a small percentage of graduating students] and spoke at his college’s commencement.”

“Currently, he’s in Lahore, where he has applied for a new visa... Mr. Ahmed’s fiancie, Mehvesh Mumtaz, also from Pakistan, who got a master’s degree at Princeton University, is still working in New York City... She said she doesn’t know why Mr. Ahmed wouldn’t receive a new visa, but she said if something goes wrong, ‘We’ll just have to re-plan our lives, I guess.’”— By Karachian

Email: karachi_notebook@hotmail.com


Do you have information you wish to share with Dawn.com? You can email our News Desk to share news tips, reports and general feedback. You can also email the Blog Desk if you have an opinion or narrative to share, or reach out to the Special Projects Desk to send us your Photos, or Videos.

More From This Section

Comments (0) (Closed)