PRIME MINISTER Shaukat Aziz was duly freely and fairly elected as a member of the National Assembly on August 18 from two constituencies. The margin of victory in Tharparkar should have been somewhat of an embarrassment for him, as it was way out of realistic range, whereas in Attock his success was far more modest and possibly more claimable as a genuine triumph.

His choice of constituency may thus be explained. His election as prime minister in that most honourable of houses, the National Assembly, was competently stage-managed. The general chose well. Shaukat has been duly installed.

His electioneering in Attock cost the lives of three PPPP ‘activists’, law and order being a desired absentee. In the wilds of Sindh, despite the incredible margin, it was thought fit to harass members of the contesting PPPP. Aftab Shahban Mirani and Qaim ‘the Commuter’ Ali Shah were both detained on several occasions whilst on the move in the area.

Nisar Khuhro was held near Mitthi for over two hours, Manzoor Wassan was arrested (no sympathy on that front) and six other MPAs were locked up in various police stations on the way to Mitthi. Sassu Palijo, that most active and vociferous MPA, was thrown out of a polling station in Diplo and then detained by an additional sessions judge of Tharparkar until the polling had ended.

This, of course, is meek and mild in comparison to how democrat of democrats Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of the then ruling PPP, now the much abused PPPP, dealt with his imagined opponents in the March 1977 elections which he would have won in any case. Why he was mad enough to decide to rig will never be known, but that was the beginning of his journey to the rope’s end. Qaim Ali Shah was active even in those days, busy printing ballot papers for his constituency at the government press at Khairpur.

In Zulfikar’s own constituency of Larkana he was opposed by Jan Mohammad Abbasi of the PNA, a completely harmless man with not a hope in heaven of winning, or even of getting anywhere near the Bhutto vote count. Abbasi arrived in Larkana on January 17 to obtain a certificate of enrolment as a voter. He was unable to do so as, apparently under orders, the district commissioner had sent the election officer off on leave to Sukkur. That same day, whilst Abbasi was sitting addressing a gathering of students he was summoned to the house of the superintendent of police.

On arrival, he was told that the SP had gone to Dokri. Abbasi was taken to Dokri by an armed escort and confined in the Seri Dak Bungalow with six other Jamaat-i-Islami leaders who were standing against Mumtaz Ali Bhutto. They were held there until the evening of January 19, and released after the expiry of the nomination period and the announcement of the unopposed return of the Bhuttos.

When Abbasi moved the Election Commission, affidavits prepared by dour-faced attorney-general Yahya Bakhtiar and Ghulam Ali Memon testified that Abbasi was very much in Larkana, free as a lark, on January 18.

So, we have made progress on one front over the past quarter of a century. The electioneering process has become more civilized. Fixing may still be a fixture in the national system, but confinement and abductions are things of the past — we hope.

Shaukat Aziz is a good man, a capable man. Now, in the polluted atmosphere of Pakistani politics and adrift in the sea of sycophancy surrounding him, he will need all his skills to keep his head and his balance. He has had an eventful professional life, constantly on the move, from post to post; he knows the world from west to east, from north to south.

Educated as he is, his priorities are right. Law and order he puts first on his list (which General Musharraf should have done five years ago). Shaukat is naturally geared to economic progress under which heading lies human development and all that this covers — education being its core, together with poverty alleviation which requires stringent population control, plus health care, sanitation and all public amenities due to the people.

Born in Karachi, 55 years ago, schooled initially at St Patrick’s, under the guidance of the good Fathers, Shaukat moved on to Abbotabad Public School, and then down to Rawalpindi where he graduated from Gordon College. Then back to Karachi, and to the Institute of Business Administration, where he was taught by my old friend Professor Adi Spencer.

Adi is the son of Lovji Spencer, a class mate of my father, Rustom. Lovji sent Adi to schools and colleges in which the teachers were highly educated and qualified — a prime essential lacking in our educational system. He was schooled at the BVS whose then principal was Dr Maneck Bejonji Pithawalla, D.Sc., followed by Behram Sohrab H. J. Rustomjee, B.T. Eng. Adi did his HSC in 1955 and then joined St Patrick’s College from where he graduated in 1959. Amongst others, his college teachers were Father Stephen Raymond, M.A. (Oxon) (Judge Edward Raymond’s son), Father Luperc Mascarenhas, M.A. (Oxon), his brother Oswin, also M.A. (Oxon), and the Dutch Father Elzyerus Bonke, PhD.

In 1959 he moved on to Karachi’s Institute of Public and Business Administration (as the IBA was then known), established by USAID helped by the United States Education Foundation, where at that time visiting professors from Wharton and USC taught and lectured. After graduating he worked for a while in his family business, then at the FNCB (as Citibank was then known) and in 1967 went back to teach at the IBA.

Shaukat Aziz was one of his star pupils, and under Adi’s guidance and instruction he was one of the young men head-hunted by the visiting Citibank officers keen on enrolling talent. Shaukat, an humble man, keeps in touch with Adi, still addressing him as ‘sir’ (old habits de hard). When Adi once protested and suggested to Shaukat that he drop the old habit, he was politely told, “I have always called you ‘sir’ and will continue to so do.”

He now manages the finances of a vastly overpopulated country housing some 160 million, the large majority afflicted by poverty and a total lack of civic amenities, education and health care. He has limited funds at his disposal, the major portion being dedicated to the defence of the realm. Unless that fact undergoes a miraculous change he may not be as successful in his political career as in his private. Granted, when General Musharraf offered him the finance ministry in 1999, things on our economic front were grim and remained grim until 9/11 brought its sea-change.

Luckily for Pakistan, and for Shaukat, when the call came, Musharraf did the right and proper thing. Pakistan fulfilled the needs of the US, our men abroad considered their country to be a safe haven and funds flowed in. This time round, they had a competent and scrupulously honest manager so the money did not wander off course.

Given what is available on the ground, the president general has finally made the correct choice to fill the prime ministerial slot. But the political system under which he has chosen to operate demands that payoffs be made, that rewards be handed out, that blackmail be answered with bribes. Now Shaukat has the unenviable task of dealing with and shuffling a pack of cards — more than 52 of them, plus a full hand of jokers.

Yesterday Adi and I raised a jar to him, wishing him a safe journey.

E-mail: arfc@cyber.net.pk

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