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View from US: The Muppet Show

June 23, 2012


There’s Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Great Gonzo, The Big Bird, Grover, The Rat, Grouch and Elmo of course! You decide which of these puppets resemble our television anchors; journalists; judges; generals; ambassadors; businessmen or politicians. And don’t forget to include the sons and daughters of our VVIPs who are currently the lead characters in the Muppet Show being staged on our national scene.

The president and the prime minister are full-time participants in this coxcombry. Today, the Muppet Show, with its frogs, dogs, rats and monsters have moved to the pillars of the Supreme Court heaving against the blind lady holding scales of justice in her hands. If battered, she can totter. Her chief guardian’s reputation is at stake. Will he fall or rise, none can wager. History repeats itself once so often with a sickeningly cyclical pattern. Last time it was Farah Dogar’s mark sheet jacked up on chief justice Dogar’s instructions, so that his daughter could go to medical college. This time around it’s the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary allegedly caught gambling in the casinos of Monte Carlo and losing $12,000; or renting an apartment on London’s Park Lane, and staying with his mother and siblings at the nearby Marriott Hotel. His life style was like “a high-roller more akin to the son of an Arab prince rather than of a Pakistani judge” comments the New York Times.

Did the chief justice really believe that his son was such a great gun who could afford his mom and siblings a pricey vacation in London?

“The fact is that there is no evidence in the public domain to suggest that Arsalan Chaudhry engaged in any wrongdoing, only unsubstantiated claims by journalists of dubious credibility,” says Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch told the New York Times.

So who are these journalists with “dubious credibility?” Without working our brains, we got the answer from the horse’s mouth. A list detailing the names and bribes doled out to journalists and anchors has gone viral on the Internet. It was allegedly leaked by Malik Riaz’s office, but the journalist who testified before the Supreme Court in Arsalan’s case is alleged to have received Rs 2.5 crores and a five canal plot in Islamabad from the real estate magnate. If this is true why then would he give evidence against his alleged benefactor, insinuating “that the powerful army and intelligence services could be manipulating Mr.(Malik Riaz) Hussain in order to get at Justice Chaudhry for his relentless pursuit of cases related to illegal detention and extrajudicial killings by the security forces,” as reported in the New York Times.

The famous YouTube clip of Mubashar Lucman and Mehr Bokhari interviewing Malik Riaz. Some smart aleck made a video of the three Muppets during a break. Included in the clip is a call from Abdul Qadir Gilani aka ‘Bunny’ son of the prime minister. He is supposedly praying for Malik’s welfare! Riaz is seen sitting patiently while the two anchors squabble over who will talk more! About time our pseudo-journalists got their comeuppance…  for too long they have strutted around calling themselves kingmakers. From lowly beginnings they now flaunt princely lifestyles that showcase their deep pockets. Some own properties in Manhattan, New York. How come? Who’s paying for them? A senior editor last year circulated an email suggesting that the journalist community declare their assets. It was a swell idea. Guess what? Other than four or five journalists, everyone else laughed at it, saying the idea stinks! End of story.

Why is it that a TV anchor is always the first to light a fire that ends in a conflagration?

Go back to 2007 and recall the contents of TV anchor and lawyer Naeem Bokhari’s open letter to the chief justice (available on the net in detail) mentioning his son Arsalan’s getting into the civil service despite securing “16/100 in the English paper” and much more.

The TV anchor was further “titillated” (wow what a choice of words!) by the “appropriation of a Mercedes-Benz car or is it cars by the chief justice.” Boom! Overnight Naeem Bokhari was declared a persona non grata and a stooge of president Musharraf. We in the media went for his jugular. Assaulted, humiliated and shunned, the poor guy went into hiding in London. Well today, Naeem Bokhari and even dictator Musharraf must feel vindicated. The corruption charges on the chief justice, that did not stick then can get sticky now! The CJ is loved as an upholder of law. Hopefully, he will survive this scandal. Still the Mercedes that Bokhari mentions in his letter has a little tale behind it that was told to me by someone who stood attention while the CJ’s son Arsalan came to the official car pool to pick up a car for his dad. Arrogance, lordliness and proudness are the adjectives that were used by my source for the son.

After the historic restoration of the chief justice in 2009, I had often wondered why some stalwarts who fought with him on the streets of Pakistan had chosen to go their different ways. They appeared more critical than supportive of the restored chief justice. Lawyers like Ali Ahmad Kurd, justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood, Munir Malik, Latif Afridi, Athar Minallah and thousands of lawyers swiftly lost the zeal and the passion for the chief justice as evidenced by their frequent appearances on TV talk shows. The star and our hero Aitzaz Ahsan, shunned by the PPP, quickly faded into the background. Today he is in the Zardari/Gilani camp while stargazing as a future president or prime minister.

If there’s one man who knows the inner workings of President Zardari, Chief Justice Chaudhary and PM Gilani, it is Aitzaz Ahsan! He holds the unique position of confidant-in-chief of the three VVIPs. If he were to write a kiss and tell book, the pages would be crawling with skeletons loudly clamouring to out each other’s secrets.

Let me leave you with a thought: why do our ‘lords and masters’ allow their sons and daughters to arrogate power, wealth, authority, and status as though it is their birthright? Be it Ayub Khan, Gen Zia, Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf, Gilani, Dogar or Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary. Even Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister gave a free hand to her husband to call the shots as he pleased.

Here’s the last word from a woman e-mailer on the latest brouhaha: “When we were young, a madari would come with a monkey and start beating the drums. People would gather around him. This is now what is happening around Supreme Court — nothing but destruction all around. Who will benefit is what we want to know. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan no one is ever found guilty!”