Articles of the year 2011

A Tragic Miscalculation
Published on January 11, 2011

Governor Taseer was above all petty machinations, and was certainly honest in his personal and political life — a quality very seldom found in Pakistani politicians

The dastardly gunning down of Salmaan Taseer is a glimpse into the terrifying undercurrent prevailing in Pakistan today, and should serve as a wake-up call to the Americans to show how badly their policies have failed in Pakistan. The Zardari government has, by its complete abdication of governance, allowed free rein to the fanatics to gun down one of the most senior members of the PPP. Worse, the comments by some lawyers in support of the killer, with no countering move by the PPP, shows that the PPP does not have the stomach to fight back. It seems that the 'bunker' mentality of the president has emboldened the right to raise the ante; attacks on the government will increase. The Americans, targeted already, will now find it more difficult to carry out their agenda, and any liaison with any American will be considered the kiss of death.

By being shown as someone reluctant to fight, Zardari has shown his mettle. He also avoided attending the funeral of Governor Taseer. This clearly shows an abdication of governance, and is the reason for all the ills facing Pakistan today. The Americans, in their choice of Zardari, could not have backed a worse candidate in their war against the Taliban, a foe that is well known for its bravery. It is also a bad example for an army at war, which faces death every single day, to be led by an invisible president. Salmaan, astute though he was, misread the anger in the Pakistani people. The mullahs are showing a fierce reaction and support for the killer. Getting a verdict or even a judge to hear the case might now be difficult.

The visit by Vice President Biden may be an eye-opener, for the work done by Ambassador Haqqani in Washington does not reflect the reality on the ground. Our leadership here is not only in hiding but is bent upon destroying any semblance of proper governance, or a roadmap out of this quagmire. The American choice (of Zardari) is quickly destroying all opportunities for the people's right to legitimate, honest governance. We are witnessing the grabbing of lucrative ministries not just by individuals, but by political parties as well. These ministries are all part of the wheeling-dealing of the prime minister for the retention of his position. All these dealings result in a high cost to the people.

Governor Taseer was above all of these petty machinations, and was certainly honest in his personal and political life — a quality very seldom found in Pakistani politicians. He was also a very brave man — this bravery bordering on bravado — leading to his being an easy target. He lived life to the fullest, enjoying his hard-earned wealth and was able to point out to Zardari the flaws in his governance, which were sometimes heeded, but most times ignored or shelved by the interests involved. The biggest loser is the PPP itself for their dearth of leadership could hardly afford the loss of such a valuable person. His absence will lead to the further decline of the PPP, and that too more rapidly, hastening the fall of the government. No amount of soothsayers, or the sacrifice of black goats, will prevent the inexorable slide brought about by their own inadequacies.

It is indeed a pity that the PPP government has allowed the renewed emergence of a stronger pro-Taliban faction, which can now be counted upon to make life more difficult for the PPP-American alliance. It is becoming increasingly more obvious that the Americans have been led into a more difficult position by their own choice of partner. While it shows the dexterity of Ambassador Haqqani's dealings with his American handlers, it also clearly shows the PPP misleading their American partner. The stakes are high for the Americans but are much higher for the Pakistanis, as the opportunity for rebuilding our shattered economy is slipping out of our grasp. The political parties are bickering amongst each other over their share of the pie, with none realising that these shares are to the cost of the nation, but they continue squabbling. It will not be long before the redoubtable Maulana brings his flock back to the fold, having successfully negotiated the colossal Hajj scam, and being gifted the entire Ministry of Religious Affairs as consolation for his efforts, and for keeping the coalition intact.

Salmaan will be sorely missed in the coming months, for the government is not only lacking in expertise, but is lacking in will as well. This is the most difficult time for Pakistan. These political shenanigans will have an effect on the morale of the troops as well. Fighting the Taliban, on behalf of these corrupt politicians, will also affect the quality of their fight. The politicians must realise that it may not be long before the army gets invited to do away with the corrupt elements. The Taliban are already amongst us and are welcomed, it seems, in the aftermath of the Taseer assassination.