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The Deep State and technocrats

September 28, 2010

ANYONE seen the list being circulated on the Internet containing the names of the 'technocrats' who are being touted as our newest saviours in the “national government” that is to take over after the present dispensation is kicked out? Makes your skin crawl, I'll tell you.

Most of them have been in the various and varied engineered dictatorial/caretaker/ so-called governments of which we've seen more than our fair share; governments that failed in every which way, made a bigger mess of things every single time that they “rescued” us, and after whose failure and subsequent departure the political leaders thrown out came back into the assemblies with larger majorities than they had when they were shown the door.

So why are these names making it to the lists being “prepared and finalised” when they were such abject failures in their earlier incarnations as ministers and advisers to dictators? It is not as if manna fell from heaven when they were ruling the roost, nor was there a chicken in every pot in the land. So, who are these people that pop up every now and again whenever the Deep State decides democracy has to take yet another setback?

No prizes for guessing, reader, for the matter is a simple one for any Pakistani who knows the shenanigans of the powers that be in the Land of the Pure: they are the handmaidens of the Deep State, who are always waiting in the wings in the 'sit/stay' position, ready to leap at the next command. They are the darlings of the establishment, the actual inheritors of this country who can do no wrong, who are pure as driven snow. And whose acts of omission and commission when in (extra-legal) occupation of their offices have never been inquired into, let alone being prosecuted. Never mind that one of them virtually bankrupted Pakistan Railways.

No, sirs; no, prosecution is only for the elected representatives of the people who stand against dictatorship and the dark doings of the Deep State. Prosecution is only for those who get elected — never for those who inveigle their way into power through the back door, through the dictator's pantries. But, really! Are we Pakistanis so naive that we simply cannot understand what is happening around us and to us? Are we so far gone that we haven't had our fill, and more, of these false prophets? Don't we know that to a man (and woman) that these people were against the restoration of the superior judiciary to please their boss, the Commando?

Hold on, though. I have only brought up the matter of a new dispensation because it is being bandied about. Let us see who wants this so-called 'change'? I see no great demonstrations in the streets, neither against provincial nor the federal governments. So why this tsunami, this cacophony for 'change'? What, and who, drives this demand? Again no prizes for guessing: it is the Deep State itself which wants this change primarily to puncture the democratic balloon one more time and relegate rule by parliament to the backstage so that any advances made are brought to naught. And, secondly, wants to have absolutely untrammelled suzerainty over foreign affairs as the Afghanistan imbroglio heats up. The Deep State would want no interference whatever from an independent parliament as it goes about playing the Great Game, no matter how disastrously.

And now for a bit of fun. According to this newspaper of record, Rehmatullah Memon, an official of the Pakistan Standards Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), raided the army's CSD superstore in Karachi along with a team of inspectors and found several consumer products such as chilli powder, cooking oil, ghee, turmeric powder, CSD tea and other such items being sold illegally because these products had not been registered with the PSQCA. The worst news for customers of the superstore was that the CSD cooking oil manufactured in Multan was found to be substandard, containing higher quantities of Free Fatty Acids (FFA) than permissible.

For his pains, Mr Memon and his team were harassed by the CSD management and even held hostage for a while after being berated on the telephone by an angry Col Zakaria, probably the manager. The management also pulled down the shutters and shut the doors to the store, panicking the customers that included women and children. Sense soon prevailed, however, and Mr Memon and party (which included media persons and representatives of NGOs, which was probably why he and his team weren't beaten black and blue!) left the CSD. Mr Memon should immediately be awarded the Sitara-e-Khidmat for entering what is virtually a lion's den, a Pakistan army retail shop, and doing his duty.

A word about the Omar Cheema case: a round of applause for my friend Najam Sethi who, during a protest meeting in Lahore, quite rightly called upon the ISI to tell us just who kidnapped, beat and humiliated Cheema. It is my experience from the time that I worked for Benazir Bhutto so many years ago that the ISI was indeed the Mother of All Agencies, even in those far off days. The IB is but a poor relative, its spooks followed and observed relentlessly by ISI operatives. Those were the days when the ISI was notionally reporting to the prime minister, mark; it now reports to the COAS and as such is a far more powerful organisation. So who would know better than the ISI who was responsible for Omar Cheema's kidnapping and torture?

I have made this observation before and I will make it again. We, all of us, are citizens of Pakistan. The ISI is a department of the government of this country and therefore belongs to us. Can it please civilise itself, and consider lesser mortals human beings too? If it has a problem with one of us citizens, can it please open a dialogue on the basis of respect and mutual esteem? Can it please get off its high horse?