Articles of the year 2006

True Friendship
Published on March 03rd, 2006

The Bush visit is over and the post mortems had started even before Air Force One had taxied out. The newspaper columnists had a field examining and comparing three portions of the trip. We Pakistanis kept comparing the Bush program in Pakistan to that in India. I, for one have a different view of the entire Bush trip.

Let us first understand the American way. This is always dictated by their commercial interests, and is in turn controlled by Big business i.e. General Motors, IBM, Microsoft. Far too many to be counted, but more than enough to use the Presidency of the US to give a sales pitch to the huge and growing Middle class of over 300 Million people, with a purchasing power equal to that of Europe in numbers alone. This huge, and growing number is attraction enough for the US commercial interests to fight for its market share. It is the US business forces that are instrumental in framing American Policy. The complete reverse of Pakistan where business policies are formulated in Islamabad in total isolation, the general rule being that Government knows best. It does'nt and Pakistani business is bludgeoned with one disastrous decision after another. The Bhutto Nationalization, the devaluation are only two of such disasters from which we have not yet recovered—thirty years on. The main point being that in the US,Business and Government act together and are in constant consultation. And so the Indian visit of Bush was carefully orchestrated to highlight the economic benefits that both sides could achieve in the most efficient manner. The inclusion of imports of Indian Mangoes to the US was one such detail, and though small could be a huge commercial bonanza for the Indian Farmers. This market has been denied to Pakistan, even though our quality is far far superior to the Indian varieties, and our quantities are far greater. Again this is not a particular gift from the American administration, but must have taken years of assiduous work by the Indians through the US Ministries of Agriculture and Food, two American agencies that are notorious for their inflexibility, and for their strict enforcement of probably the toughest quarantine regulations in the world. This only serves to highlight the incredible failure of our EPB where we have failed to develop any new markets, or any new products. However the Chairman has succeeded in projecting himself far beyond his performance.

The Presidential trip should be seen as an eye opener, for it shows if the economic rewards are large enough the President himself will visit.. With Qazi Hussain Ahmed --- the lead Hawk followed by the other lesser members of the ARD leading demonstrations in the streets and on the TV screens, culminating in the Bomb blast at the US Consulate in Karachi a bare 48 hour before, the arrival of Mr. Bush. It was indeed a purely personal victory for President Musharraf, not #to mention the American President's bravery in the face of such a vicious message. His continuing his trip against the advice of his security, shows his commitment to President #Musharraf. Nothing less. He did not come bearing gifts, or Treaties. He came only because he had told President Musharraf he would. This to my mind was a personal trip, and his playing cricket showed his making it very clear that this was not a working trip, he was here just to show his support for President Musharraf. The other important aspect of this friendship is that the 'Neo-Cons' have been kept at bay. Without the Bush support, these hardliners would have us targeted the way they targeted Saddam, and the manner in which they are stalking Iran.

What one did object to was our politicians trying to involve the US President into asking Musharraf to step down. Surely we have a constitution, assemblies, Courts? Why must we insist on washing our dirty linen in front of others? Why must we try and enlist the support of foreigners to remove a Government or get a Foreign Government to ask for and guarantee asylum? Are we Pakistanis not ashamed of making trips to Washington and London just to bad mouth our leadership of the hour. This is indeed a very unfortunate trait that is exercised by all Pakistanis. In no other country does this occur. Only in Pakistan do we indulge in this shameful practice of beseeching foreign Governments to intervene in what is essentially an internal matter, and should be of no concern to others. Post Script: If President Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz had gone to the Airport with with three cars apiece, two being decoys and three for Bush along with the various Guards--- all on red alert---in the dark.—It had the makings of a Groucho Marx set, with all three security agencies trying to outdo the other, the outcome could have been hilarious.