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DAWN - Features; September 30, 2002

September 30, 2002

Heard through the grapevine: DATELINE NEW YORK

By Masood Haider

WHEN President Pervez Musharraf came here to attend the UN General Assembly session , the topics which dominated the corridors of Roosevelt Hotel — where he was staying — were politics and elections in Pakistan.

While he was subjected to intense questioning by the Western news media and the world leaders about his plans to return Pakistan to civilian rule, the Pakistanis wanted the inside scoop as to who will be the next prime minister.

When news reporters speculated that it could be either Mian Azhar, leader of the PML (QA), or former president and now leader of the Millat Party Farooq Leghari, everybody seemed to suggest that neither stood any chance. “It will be a surprise,” several officials kept on repeating.

The results in the so-called new atmosphere of politics could be surprising enough that the legislators in a projected hung parliament would be constrained to make alliances to create a majority, and the women could ultimately be the winners, said one official.

Gen Musharraf, who has been saying at various forums that he would take a back seat once the elected leaders took over, also did not let his guard down to suggest his preference, one way or the other. He just said that the National Security Council created by him would be empowered to invoke Article 58 (b) of the Constitution which earlier authorized the president to dismiss the government if it falters or is found to be corrupt or mismanaging the day-to-day affairs of the government.

Many also speculated that the parties might even consider having post of a deputy prime minister if a coalition became necessary in case of a hung parliament. Others said the PPP, which is expected to win a major chunk of seats, also could sit in opposition with the likes of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf if the latter is able to secure at least 10 seats.

Speculations that the PML (QA), considered to be the king’s party, could end up winning a major chunk of seats in the National Assembly — 112, more or less — but not enough to secure a leadership spot. Hence it will make compromises.

But, through all the conversations, it emerged that the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, who reportedly have “influence” in the president’s house with Gen Musharraf’s personal assistant, Tariq Aziz, could benefit the most with the emergence of the PML (QA) as the majority party.

However, notwithstanding the election prospects, one thing became clear that the president wants continuity in his economics and reforms agenda and he is expected to demand that Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, Commerce Minister Razzak Dawood and Railways Minister Lt-Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi be retained if he is able to get them elected as senators in the new setup.

Mr Aziz, who was asked about these speculations, kept a tight lip, saying: “I don’t know what the future holds for me. It’s all up to Allah.” This is enough to suggest that a role for him in the future setup cannot be precluded.

But then there were those who see the elections in Pakistan being postponed at the last minute citing Indian threat at the borders. However, most officials travelling with the president insisted that elections would take place.

STOCK EXCHANGE: Pakistan’s stock market, specifically the Karachi Stock Exchange, has confounded the international investors and stock analysts as it continues to perform better than any other in the world.

The USA Today in an article recently noted that Karachi Stock Exchange index is up 56 per cent since the Sept 11 terror attacks, even as the Standard and Poor’s 500 has fallen 19 per cent and the Bloomberg European 500 declined about 27 per cent.

Pakistani traders were quoted as saying that one American hedge fund manager invested $30 million immediately after Sept 11 and pocketed a 30 per cent profit — $9 million — three weeks later.

The paper noted that despite the daily threats of terrorist attacks in the port city of Karachi the market keeps chugging along. It has helped the investment bankers and brokers to benefit from reforms in the country’s capital markets.

One big reason for such a turnaround is attributed to President Musharraf’s turnabout in joining the US coalition in the war against terrorism following Sept 11 attacks. Gen Musharraf’s pledged support has brought renewed global attention to a country that investors previously shunned because of corrupt markets and unstable politics.

Since then the international market investors upgraded Pakistan’s profile and gave it favourable ratings which boosted the stock market.

How long will this resurgence of stock market last? No one knows. Suffice to say that the threat of war is enough to spook the market.

ISRAELI N-THREAT: As US steps up war talk against Iraq and Israel continued occupation and attacks against Palestinians, a candidate for the Democratic party’s nomination for the president in 2004, Lyndon LaRouche, has warned that the Israeli prime minister may end up incinerating the Middle East with the nuclear weapons it owns.

In a statement, he said: “I am warning President George W. Bush and European leaders: if weapons inspectors return to Iraq and an otherwise- certain Iraq-centered new Middle East war by the US is thus averted, the governments of the United States and Western Europe must be prepared to forcefully intervene to prevent an increasingly more desperate and psychotic Ariel Sharon’s nuclear-armed regime in Israel, the world’s third-ranking strategic nuclear-weapons power, from blowing up the entire Middle East region, and beyond, with those weapons!”

LaRouche adds: “At an international webcast, before a live audience in Washington on Sept 11, 2002, I identified three hurdles that had to be overcome to avert an Iraq war that would trigger a perpetual ‘Clash of Civilizations’ religious conflict and a New Dark Age: First, the United Nations Security Council had to become the venue for dealing with the Iraq situation, and a reasonable resolution had to be drafted that would be agreed to by President Bush, overriding the Sharon-influenced ‘war party’ within his own Administration’s senior ranks. Second, the resolution had to be accepted by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, as well as by President Bush.

“With those two conditions met,” LaRouche warned, “the gravest remaining danger to overcome would be a berserk move by Sharon in Israel to sabotage the peaceful resolution and blow up the region.

“It was the threat of an Israeli nuclear attack on Iraq in 1991 that blackmailed the first Bush Administration into launching Operation Desert Storm. Today’s Israel, under the insane Sharon regime, is the only nation on Earth that genuinely fits the profile of a ‘rogue state’ armed to the teeth with ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Israel has the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal on Earth, and a triad of submarine, missile and bomber delivery systems, capable of obliterating the entire Persian Gulf. Israeli scientists have recently threatened that they now have the capability of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, meaning that no place on Earth — including the United States — is exempt from an Israeli preemptive nuclear attack. LaRouche asks you: Do you dare dismiss this threat from Sharon?”

Johnny is dead

A FORMER colleague sent this in: “Johnny is dead. Like his six co-workers at the Idara, they tied him to the chair, gagged him, and then shot him in the head. I will never see him again.

“I knew Johnny for 18 years or so — a quiet, gentle person who lived on his own in a small flat in Saddar. He began his career as a typist, later to become office assistant at Idara Amn-o-Insaf, the organization that he was devoted to, because it helped the poor and powerless — the sanitary workers, the industrial workers, prisoners and so on — telling them about their rights, providing legal aid and financial help if need be. He was active in other rights organizations too, attending meetings and giving his support to issues that he felt deeply about. Essentially he had one deep urge: to serve in whatever small way that he could. Over the years, he tried to get his friends together to help drug addicts. But it didn’t work out. He tried again to get like-minded people of his age group together so that they could help in some way — but young people starting their career like to work in places where there is money and a future — and not sit in a two-roomed flat. So his second attempt failed again.

“His memory is especially dear to me, because he helped and stood up for me. It was the end of Zia’s era. I had asked him to accompany me so I could interview the Afghans who slept on the sidewalk at night, on the street behind Avari Hotel. It was a little after eight, but the street was quite dark and the Afghans had already taken their place on the sidewalk. I had just started questioning the first person in the row when an open van pulled up and its two occupants began shooting questions at us, hinting we were up to something no good. ‘Show us your identity cards,’ they demanded. ‘Show us yours,’ Johnny retorted. Apparently they were plain-clothed policemen.

“After a heated exchange when they insisted that I could not possibly be interviewing anybody ‘in the dark’, we agreed to get into the van if they drove us to Dawn, the newspaper I worked in, just to confirm my statement that I was a journalist. Halfway, they said they would drive us to the police station instead. Johnny protested. They stopped the van. Johnny and I managed to get down from the open vehicle. Then they started beating up Johnny, punching and slapping him. He shouted, ‘bachao, bachao’. A crowd began to gather and that stopped them in their tracks. Somebody recognized me and confirmed I was a journalist. They left and we hailed a taxi. That ended the evening that could have ended very badly — in a police station.

“The last time we met, Johnny said he would like to do something for the disabled when I mentioned an organization that needed some volunteers. ‘I don’t want to work for money, I just want to help.’ But on September 25, two assassins with a twisted mind shot Johnny and his co-workers dead. A bullet ended a young life, so full of promise.”


On a recent visit to Karachi, federal interior minister Lt. Gen. (r) Moeenuddin Haider was quoted as telling journalists that the raid to arrest Ramzi bin Al Shibh was carried out by Pakistani authorities. He said that Pakistani law enforcement agencies needed help from their American counterparts mainly because they (the Pakistanis) did not have the requisite technological skills or equipment needed to carry out surveillance, say, of communications via email.

The minister was also quoted as having said that local investigators needed help especially in techniques related to the use of the Internet and (no, this is neither an exaggeration nor a joke) in using hotmail.

Do we really need the Americans to tell us how to use the Internet and access hotmail to catch terrorists?


The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) has replied to an item that came in the notebook of September 16. The story was about what has been happening of late along one side of the Mai Kolachi Expressway. Every day, anyone who drives from Clifton to Queen’s Road will see on the left side around half a dozen bulldozers spreading out and flattening over a large area what seems to be a mixture of sand and organic waste. Karachian has seen, over the past several weeks, dump trucks bring this material and dump it at the Queen’s Road end of Mai Kolachi, after which the bulldozers take over. All this is eating into the stretch of shallow water along the expressway, which has become a sanctuary for all kinds of birds, including flamingoes.

In the clarification, the public relations officer said that the KPT was a “green conscious organization and had taken all possible measures” to not only protect existing mangroves in the Mai Kolachi area but had planted new mangroves by developing suitable nurseries for them in China Creek.

It further said that boats continuously patrolled the mangroves to prevent people from cutting them for use as fodder or fuel. This is admirable but then the question arises that why is this prevention aimed only at ordinary poor people, who need the mangroves for their essential needs? What about the sewage and industrial pollution that seeps into the mangroves, thanks to factories owned by big businesses or through pipelines owned by the government? And what about the land reclamation on one side of Mai Kolachi which has basically come at the expense of the mangroves that used to exist there. Yes, perhaps the reclamation took place during a previous government but the fact of the matter is that why wasn’t it stopped then if the organization is so environmentally conscious.

The PRO also said that signboards had been fixed along one side of Mai Kolachi (facing the city) warning people not to dump waste material there. Yes, there are two such signs but their warnings have not been heeded. In fact, the KPT itself admitted that waste was being dumped despite these signs and that after this happened permanent watchmen were posted and a few arrests also made. However, anyone who takes this route to work can see for himself that there are no watchmen to be found, and if they have been hired they aren’t doing their job.

In any case, the dumping along this side was not the issue. What the notebook had tried to point out is obvious to anyone who drives through Mai Kolachi and it has to do with the work being carried out, every day, by several bulldozers and other earth-moving machinery on the western side that faces the port. To this the organization has, quite amazingly, said that “no such activity had come to the notice of KPT officials, especially during the week ending Sept 14”.

To that one can only say that perhaps the KPT officials have been either misled or haven’t been looking in the right place. It really is a matter of denying the obvious.


What does one make of a story in another English daily which said that the FBI will help the Sindh government install around 3,400 surveillance cameras in the city. We already have cameras at most airports, placed in front of where the FIA immigration officials sit and examine traveller’s passports. In case people haven’t notice, or don’t know about this, the next time you leave or enter the country look for a microphone-like apparatus protruding from the desk where the immigration officer sits as he examines and stamps your passport. He might even ask you to look towards this contraption or take a few steps back so that your photograph can be taken.

Talking of increased security measures in the city, some readers might have noticed a thick metal bar placed overhead at one end of Abdullah Haroon Road, right before the traffic signal that leads to Clifton bridge. A colleague from work quite rightly pointed out that the barrier was too low for emergency vehicles like fire engines to pass through. Security concerns must be behind its installation, probably to prevent buses and trucks from entering Abdullah Haroon Road since the US Consulate building is situated on it. But, as the past few months have shown, a bomb can easily be placed in a car, so one can’t be sure why the barrier has been placed. Maybe, some of the 3,400 cameras planned for the city will be installed on this overhead barrier.—By Karachian


Once again, a dirge for the ‘late’ KCR: KARACHI FILE

By A. B. S. Jafri

CITY Nazim Naimatullah Khan is reported to have said that this city needs another 10,000 magnum-size buses. It is indeed very difficult to believe that anyone in his right mind would entertain such utterly untenable and downright impractical thoughts. If he does not know, it was about time the City Nazim knew the obvious: that Karachi’s roads cannot take another straw, not to speak of 10,000 more buses.

Already, buses in Karachi move bumper-to bumper. The speed at which buses move on busier roads is slower than the snail’s proverbial pace. As it is, recognizable bus stops are few and far between. Even so, the few available are ignored by transporters. This class enjoys complete immunity from road rules and regulations, courtesy a well-obliged traffic police. If there is eternal chaos on the roads, so what? Who cares, anyway?

Most of the roads in the city were built three decades ago. Since then, Karachi’s population has multiplied several hundred fold. Most of the roads are in bad shape. Many have just about faded away. There is no counting the streets overflowing with gutter water, bubbling from choked sewers underneath.

Not very many streets have proper sidewalks or footpaths. As a result, the number of pedestrians dying in traffic accidents is mounting. According to the city police chief, road accident claimed 633 lives last year. This year, 468 persons have been killed in the streets so far. A full quarter of the year remains. At the present rate, the loss of life in traffic accident will equal, if not outnumber last year’s tally.

We have it on the authority of our traffic police chief that the worst offenders are public transport drivers. Last Friday saw three pedestrians killed in road accidents in Karachi. Up in the northern mountain region one bus accident killed 20 passengers. Many more were injured, some critically.

Hardly a day passes without some grim road accident resulting in dozens of deaths. What does it all really add up to? The answer is: “A shameful national scandal.” When accidents occur with precise regularity, and most of them in the same way, they are not accidents. They are predictable — and as such also — preventable killings.

This heavy reliance on road transport is a systematically plotted conspiracy that is no longer any secret, if a secret it ever really was. Road transport is big money. As compared with the paltry investment, the profit is enormous money. Every public bus carries twice its permitted passenger load. This doubles the earnings. No transport ever issues a ticket or receipt. One can only wonder how the income tax people assess their income and the tax payable. You can safely take it as a family affair.

For a moment, let us leave the Road Mafia to do as it pleases and think of the public administrators who have anything to do with public transport. From their performance to date, it would appear that their capacity to think does not exceed that of the frog in the village well. Either they have no eyes to see the obvious. Or, they pretend that they cannot see how the world is dealing with surface urban transport.

Once again, let us pose this question to the governor and his brigades of bureaucrats:

Which other city in the world, the size of Karachi, is without urban railway system and totally dependent upon road transport. Please name one city.

Another wholly relevant question that needs an answer.

How, and by whom the existing KCR was dismantled?

The typically perverse and patently incorrect bureaucratic answer is that the KCR was running in loss. Why should the KCR be running in loss when similar urban railway systems all over the world are flourishing famously?

Does the bureaucracy itself return profit on the investment the public makes in maintaining it in such grandiose style? If a business is making losses, those managing it should be cashiered and replaced with those who can make a good job of it. Those who saw the KCR running in loss and didn’t do the needful were either inefficient or dishonest. In this case it is probable that both lethal factors were in full play.

It is only fair to demand that the government set up an inquiry commission with adequate representation of those who know what urban rail transport is all about. Any inquiry entrusted to the bureaucrats would be handing over the investigation of a killing to the proven assassins. In the minds of the public in Karachi, the KCR affair is reeking with pests, leeches and crawling worms. The Pakistan Railway has nearly been done to death by the bribes of the road transport Mafia. The KCR died of the same poison. Our governor must be the only one who does not know this much.

Now stop playing with those fancy ideas that are put across every now and then only to fool the people. Even now, the infrastructure of at least a fairly large part of the ‘late’ KCR is in place. Given some honesty and a bit of dedicated effort, the KCR should be on the rails and moving within weeks. Imagine the number of flyovers built at formidable expense in the name of the KCR. But when the money that was to be made was duly made, they throttled the KCR. It has been done to death to leave the money-minting exclusively to the Road Mafia. This money is shared among the ‘KCR-killers club.’

If this sounds too bizarre and weird for the sophisticated palate of our bureaucracy, let us forget all about it. But some questions would continue to shriek for answers. These are:

1. Which other city in the world, comparable to Karachi, is without an organized urban railway system?

2. Why the KCR was not able to pay its way when comparable systems throughout the world are making money?

3. If the KCR was losing money, who was making the millions on the side?

If and when answers are made available, effort will certainly be made to present the same to the public.

Is Khushwant Singh a ‘hypocrite and a liar?’

KHUSHWANT Singh likes to quote from Urdu and Persian poetry in his autobiography, Truth, Love and a Little Malice. He begins with Hakeem Makhmoor in his prologue:

I told no one the story of my life

It was something I had to spend;

I spent it.

He does not give the lines in the original Urdu.

Then in the chapter on Lahore, he gives us these oft-quoted lines:

Paida hua vakeel toa Iblees nay kaha

Allah nay mujhey sahib-i-aulaad kar diya.

I have heard these lines thus:

Paida hooay vakeel toa Shaitan ne kaha

Lo aaj mein bhi sahib-i-aulad ho gaya.

No matter what, Singh has got the second line all mixed up.

In his interview with Tikka Khan, he quotes the general as having given him the following lines:

Shauq-i-tool-o-peych iss zulmat qadeh mein heh agar

Bengalee ki baat sun aur Bengalan kay baal dekh.

He translates them thus:

If you like to add length to a story, put a twist in its tail,

Hear a Bengali talk (endlessly) and gaze upon his woman’s long hair.


Nishan-i-mard-i-momin ba toa goyam

Choon marg aayad, tabassum bar lab-i-ost.

(You ask me about the signs of a man of faith

When death comes to him, he has a smile on his lips).

Iqbal comes next:

Jahaan mein ahle imaan soorat-i-Khurshid jeetay hein

Idhar doobey, udhar nikley; udhar doobey, idhar nikley.

These lines have been quoted so often by so many that they have lost all meaning. They don’t sound even trite now.

Saadi comes in handy, too:

Sana-i-khud bakhud guftan

Na zebad mard-i-daana ra

Choon zan pistan-i-khud malal

Kuja lazzat shavad baqi?

Singh’s translation:

It does not behove a man of wisdom

to use his tongue in praise of himself

What pleasure does a woman beget

If with her own hands she rubs her breasts?

Urdu again: Woh waqt bhi dekha tareekh ki ghariyon ne

Lamhon ne khata ki thi

Sadiyon ne sazaa payee.

(The ages of history have recorded times

When for an error made in a few minutes

Centuries had to pay the price).

Then he advises a certain Pakistani minister how to face the thekedars of Islam:

Mullah, gar asar heh dua mein

Toa masjid hila ke dikha

Gar nahin, toa doa ghoont pi

Aur masjid ko hilta dekh.

(Mullah, if there is power in your prayer,

Let me see you shake the mosque!

If not, take a couple of swigs of liquor

And see the mosque shake on its own).

Khushwant Singh quotes from Ustad Daman, too. But since some of his lines (Khushwant’s, not Daman’s), are suspect, I’ll let them pass.

Iqbal again:

Dhoondta phirta hoon mein aye Iqbal apney aap ko

Aap hi goya musafir, aap hi manzil hoon mein.

(O Iqbal, I go about everywhere looking for myself

As if I was the wayfarer as well as the destination).

An unnamed Urdu poet is then quoted:

Too dil mein toa aata heh

Samajh mein nahin aata

Bas jan gaya teri pehchaan yehi heh

(You come into my heart

But my mind cannot comprehend you

I understand this is the only way to know you).

Shaad Azimabadi comes in next:

Suni haqiqat-i-hasti toa darmian se suni

Na ibtada ki khabar heh, na intiha maloom.

(All we have heard of the story of life is its middle;

We know not its beginning, we know not its end).

Singh says that there is “an amusing saying ascribed to the Sikh trading community once settled in Potohar (now in Pakistan), which was known for its adherence to religious ritual as well as its sharp trading practices:

Jhooth vi asin bolney aan

Ghut vi asin tolney aan;

Par Sacchey Padshah

Tera naa vi asin lainey aan.

(We admit we tell lies

We also give short measures;

But O True King of Kings,

We also take your name).

Iqbal yet again:

Khuda tujhe Kisi toofan sey ashna kar dey

Keh terey behr ki maujon mien iztirab nahin (May God bring a storm in your life.

There is no agitation on the waves of your life’s ocean).

In the end, he ascribes a couple of famous Ghalib lines to Iqbal — Rau mein heh rakhsh-i-umar ...

At his age, I suppose he can plead not guilty to seven murder charges and be happily let off. Misquoting Ustad Daman? I am sure the Ustad would have been the first to laugh the matter off. As for mistaking Ghalib for Iqbal, I have known many others to have done so. But I must give a break to Truth, Love and a Little Malice and see what a friend has to say about Khushwant Singh. A. R. Nagori, the painter, calls me a ‘dear friend’. I am honoured, of course, but the letter he has written to me from Karachi has left me not a little sad.

Referring to my piece on Amrita Sher Gil (Dawn, September 16), Nagori says:

“Amrita Sher Gil died on December 6, 1941” and not in September 1939 as ‘conjectured’. As the conjecture was mine and not Khushwant Singh’s, I stand corrected. I will, however, need further evidence on Gil’s death and not merely a statement.

Then Mr Nagori says Amrita Sher Gil died on the “first floor of the Ganga Ram Mansions next to the Dayal Singh Mansions and behind Fazal Din Chemists on The Mall and not on top of the Fazal Din Building.” Mr Nagori says so because he “used to spend some time at 29, Ganga Ram Mansions facing Amrita’s flat.” I plead guilty again. But, as Mr Nagori will appreciate, all this was rather before my time.

Nagori calls Khushwant Singh a “notorious hypocrite and a liar.”

He writes: “Amrita was, like all genuine artists, straightforward (and) blunt in expression”.

Khushwant Singh says in his autobiography: “Politeness was not one of her virtues, she believed in speaking her mind....” Mr Nagori has said almost the same thing. If anything, he has used a stronger word (‘blunt’) than Mr Singh who merely wrote that she (Amrita) “believed in speaking her mind”.

Telling an untruth at 88, anyhow, is a far more forgivable sin (if sin it can be called at all) than the lie direct spoken deliberately with malicious intent.

So, I’ll say this to my friend A.R. Nagori: I don’t know whether Khushwant Singh is a hypocrite or not, but if he is a liar, he is quite the most delightful liar I’ve ever read. As he says in his prologue:

“My only chance of not being forgotten when I am dead and rotten is to write about things worth reading... I have no pretensions to being a craftsman of letters. Having had to meet deadlines for the last five decades, I did not have the time to wait for inspiration, indulge in witty turns of phrase or polish up what I wrote... All said and done, this autobiography is the child of ageing loins. Do not expect too much from it: some gossip, some titillation, some tearing up of reputations, some amusement — that is the best I can offer (emphasis added).

I ask you now: is it the writing of a hypocrite? If it is, I am one of the original hypocrites.

The only thing I don’t like about Khushwant Singh is that he has willed that he be buried rather than cremated. Just imagine!

What, after 10/10?: VIEW FROM MARGALLA

WHAT IS in store for the next parliament, if at all one would come into being after October 10? Crystal ball gazing under any circumstances is a hazardous job but in the case of Pakistan where anything can happen any time, such an exercise can lead you to any number of wrong conclusions. However, if one quickly flipped through the pages of Pakistan’s political history starting with the broad daylight murder of its first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, one could perhaps find some clues to how things would turn out for the yet-to-be elected parliament. Here are some of these clues:

1. The people of Pakistan have been allowed a number of times in the past to elect a government in; but they were never allowed to vote a government out. All governments have been dismissed by the all powerful civil-military Establishment.

2. Every military takeover has been ‘welcomed’ by the so- called ‘silent majority’.

3. No military ruler has ever willingly transferred effective power to a civilian setup.

4. The rule of each General in the past had ended either when the man in the saddle had passed away (Gen Zia) or when another (Gen Yahya) had come in to stake his claim. Gen Yahya’s rule was brought to its end by his own close crony generals who forced him to hand over power to a civilian to avert the wrath of the ‘silent majority’.

5. Every Army chief in Pakistan, except four, has had a hand in the dismissal of at least one government. General Musa Khan and General Tikka Khan did not achieve this distinction because they had come up from the ranks and, therefore, were perhaps not as ambitious as their colleagues from the officer corps. General Gul Hasan was caught in the act and was dismissed by Bhutto. General Asif Nawaz had all succeeded in his attempt but fate did not allow him to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of his labour. General Waheed Kakar finished what General Asif had started.

6. Since the day when Ghulam Mohammad became the governor general of Pakistan in the early 1950s, no civilian or elected government in this country with the exception of ZA Bhutto’s was allowed any effective say in shaping the national policies including foreign and economic. Bhutto was lucky because he had come to power when the civil-military establishment in this country was down and out following the ignoble military defeat at the hands of India in 1971.

7. Every one of the three military rulers of the past has fought at least one war during his tenure. We lost two of them to India and the third one, the Afghan war, was won by the Americans.

8. Every civilian government in this country was dismissed on the charges of corruption, even that of Mohammad Khan Junejo, which itself had the distinction of firing two cabinet ministers on charges of corruption!!

9. Gen Zia had the singular distinction of dismissing two elected governments, one of Bhutto’s and the other of Junejo’s. But he could not survive for long the second dismissal.

10. Pakistan’s superior courts have never ruled against military takeovers. Yahya Khan was declared usurper only after he was removed. An anecdote has it that in the post-Zia period when the superior courts were about to restore the Junejo government declaring its dismissal by Zia as unconstitutional, the then Army chief Gen Aslam Beg allegedly intervened to get the restoration part of the judgment withdrawn before the final verdict was announced. And when General Kakar removed Nawaz Sharif even after the superior courts had restored his government dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the courts kept silent.

11. By luck or coincidence, whenever the military has directly intervened and took over the government the so-called ‘free’ world, led by the champion of democracy the United States of America, has extended a helping hand to the dictatorship and provided it with massive economic and military dole. That is the reason why we as a nation have become thoroughly addicted to foreign dole. During Ayub’s time the dole was extended in return for the help made available to the ‘free world’ in containing Chinese communism. During Zia period, it was in return for our help against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And now it is for fighting on the side of international coalition against terrorism.

12. After every takeover, the general, who came to power has tried to manufacture a new breed of politicians after consigning to the limbo those from whom he had taken over. Ayub exiled Iskander Mirza, EBDOED the politicians of his generation, floated his own Muslim League (Convention) and promoted the likes of ZA Bhutto. Zia hanged Mr Bhutto and got ‘unwanted’ politicians out of the arena by tricking most of the political parties to boycott the 1985 elections. He allowed Mr Junejo to float a Muslim League of his own inside the partyless elected parliament and promoted the likes of Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf has exiled Sharif and is now designing all kinds of laws to keep the self-exiled Benazir Bhutto and most of the other pre-October 1999 politicians out of the game and at the same time he has launched a process to manufacture through the PML-QA his own Bhuttos and Sharifs. Yahya had tried to manufacture a hung parliament, instead got a hostile one and, therefore, could not rule more than a couple of years.

13. Both Bhutto and Nawaz who were the products of the Army rules attained mass popularity only when they were seen to be taking on the Establishment. Bhutto became popular when he challenged his mentor, Ayub, when the latter was still an all powerful dictator. Nawaz turned from a quisling into a national hero when he refused to take dictation from his mentor No. 2, the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who then had the full backing of the Army.

14. Contrary to common perception it was Army’s own man, Nawaz Sharif, rather than Benazir, the daughter of populist Bhutto, who had had a highly strained relationship with the successive Army high command during her two tenures. Both Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Jahangir Karamat had to go home under a cloud. Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar could not get Nawaz to resign until he persuaded President Ghulam Ishaq Khan to resign as well in the trade off. Sharif’s bout with Gen Musharraf is too recent to be recalled here. Benazir on the other hand gave a medal of ‘democracy’ to Gen Beg who had a hand in the dismissal of her first government and she still insists to this day that Gen Karamat had no hand in the dismissal of her second government.

Tailpiece: When a dictator persuades himself finally into believing his own fiction of sub achha hai, he starts throwing his nation’s hard earned money on putting up misleading signboards of progress and prosperity. The day President Gen Musharraf laid the foundation-stone of 75-foot high National Monument at Shakarparian in Islamabad (What would the IMF and the World Bank, the financiers of poverty alleviation programmes, have to say about this waste?), we at Dawn received a call very late in the night from a highly disturbed citizen who narrated a woeful story and wanted us to do something about it. He said on Septemebr 24, he saw a man in tatters sitting on Qasai Chowk at Tench Bhatta, in Rawalpindi, with his little girl-child. The man, to the horror of our informer, was offering the girl for sale in full view of all the passers-by. After some time, a woman came up and purchased the girl for Rs250. As the new ‘owner’ was dragging the unwilling ‘commodity’ away from her father, the child was heard appealing in a completely choked voice: Baba! don’t let her take me away!!!—Onlooker