Articles of the year 2009

Ratified Corruption
Published on October 31st, 2009

We Pakistanis can revel in the dubious distinction of being the only country in the whole world, where corruption and corrupt practices have been the acknowledged norm, but will now be ratified by a Parliament that has amongst its members: a credit card thief caught on camera while making a purchase on the stolen card, and an attorney general under trial in the Supreme Court of Pakistan for accepting a three million rupee bribe. This ratification of corrupt practices will now enshrine Pakistan as the only country in the world to have admitted to and exonerated those politicians and bureaucrats who were under criminal charges.

The danger in the passing of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) will lead to revulsion for the leadership by all sectors of the Pakistani society. Including the 650,000 man Pakistan Army, who are very much part of the social fabric of our country. Being barricaded in 'Fort President' will not protect the beneficiary or his cohorts from punitive action that awaits a chink in the presidential armour.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Pakistan will be an eye-opener for her, as the acerbic exchange with the journalists showed that the feedback to Washington on the Kerry-Lugar Bill did not accurately reflect the ground realities present. There is also a huge disconnect between the US perception of the popularity of the president, and the reality. It is the will of the people that is important, and that must have come as a rude shock to Secretary Hillary Clinton. No doubt, some of the staff at the embassy will have to be changed as a result of this visit.

Nothing is more dangerous to a state than wrong intelligence. And in this instance the Americans are suffering from their distancing from the Pakistani people as indeed is the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. Does he know what the people feel?

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is wisely distancing himself from the association, sensing that the army will not stand by for long, and watch the nation put through this shameful turmoil. However, the good news is that Ronan Farrow, the son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, has been appointed by the US administration's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke as the liaison between the non-governmental organisation's (NGOs) working in Pakistan, and the US aid. "....while he's is only 21 (he turns 22 in December), Farrow's biography describes him as something of a prodigy, who has worked in some unspecified capacity for Holbrooke since he was a teenager. It says he was admitted to Yale Law School when he was 16 years old, but deferred admission until 2006 to 'work as a Special Assistant to Richard Holbrooke, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations' and for additional work as a UNICEF spokesperson for youth. He apparently recently graduated from Yale Law School."

Moreover, according to reports, the State Department official "confirmed the appointment, and said Farrow was qualified for it, and brings solid NGO experience with Save Darfur, and UNICEF...He's very qualified for the job, and has already helped explain the current situation re: Pakistani procurements to key NGOs, including a meeting he organised today with InterAction and its affiliated NGOs." "Kid's a friggin' genius," another official said. "And a true activist for Darfur...Went to college at age 11 and then to law school at 16." Another associate of Farrow's writes, on condition of anonymity: "I know and have worked with Ronan Farrow...I can reveal that his actual title at State is as Special Advisor on Humanitarian and NGO Affairs...He has the policy chops. He wrote columns on human rights issues for the Wall Street Journal, LA Times and International Herald Tribune for years."

While many Pakistani civil servants may complain about his tender age, his CV above says it all.

For Pakistan, our biggest benefit will be in Ronan Farrow bringing Pakistan to the world map, as a centre of importance and not just an exporter of terror. He will no doubt highlight the positive, and surely will bring to the notice of important decision-makers to invest in Pakistan. With his famous lineage, and his undoubtable access to corridors in Washington, he is worth many Haqqanis, and the motley crowd of lobbyists at present representing Pakistan, with such disastrous results. He would never have been a part of crafting the NRO, which was then thrust upon an unsuspecting Pakistani people. The US administration will have a lot to explain as to their role of the NRO, and the damage caused to the Pakistani people. Unless Pakistan can become economically vibrant and learn to live on its own earnings, and not on handouts, we shall always be an easy prey for the terrorists.

Economically strong, we will be able to sustain the poor in our region, lift them from their miserable lot. We have the expertise and the energy, and with people like Farrow to bring in business partners, we can do it.