What the but­ler saw

It needs to be ad­mit­ted that this flow of in­for­ma­tion is the lifeblood of democ­racy which de­mands trans­parency - and we have it, but only of course to a cer­tain ex­tent.

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Ardeshir Cowas­jee

The temp­ta­tion is too great: Wik­iLeaks de­serves com­ment. The finest de­scrip­tion of the im­pact of the quar­ter-mil­lion ' leaked' US diplo­matic ca­bles (the ma­jor­ity from the past three years) comes from the New York Times: "To read through them is to be­come a global voyeur."

Pak­istan may be jump­ing up and down in ex­cite­ment at be­ing one of the lead­ing play­ers in the Wik­iLeaks saga, which has tit­il­lated the lo­cal taste buds that vo­ra­ciously de­vour gos­sip and any pos­si­bly neg­a­tive views expressed about their fel­low coun­try­men, high or low. But it is far from alone on the stage flooded by the mas­sive leaks.

It needs to be ad­mit­ted that this flow of in­for­ma­tion is the lifeblood of democ­racy which de­mands trans­parency - and we have it, but only of course to a cer­tain ex­tent. There is un­doubt­edly more to come but there is much that will re­main hid­den.

Few coun­tries at the fore­front of world af­fairs have es­caped and even lesser play­ers, to men­tion but a few, such as the is­land nation of Kiri­bati, Slove­nia, Eritrea, Panama, Bel­gium, Zim­babwe, Kazhak­stan, Dages­tan, Qatar are caught up in the net.

World lead­ers are fair game - Vladimir Putin, An­gela Merkel, Silvio Ber­lus­coni, Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron, lead­ers of North and South Korea, Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh of Ye­men, Muam­mar Qad­hafi (com­plete with blonde Ukra­nian nurse), Hamid and Ahmed Wali Karzai, Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. Nouri Ma­liki, Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad and of course King Ab­dul­lah and Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Zayed both of whom have pro­vided the Pak­istani nation with en­ter­tain­ment tinged both with mirth and shame.

The cus­to­dian of Is­lam's holi­est of holy sites, the king that mat­ters, has not sur­prised the Pak­istani nation as he has merely con­firmed what many have said about the cur­rent lead­er­ship. That the head is rot­ten is noth­ing new (we have suf­fered decades of rot­ten heads).

But what do we have as an al­ter­na­tive? Well, ac­cord­ing to Prince Zayed, some­thing that is dan­ger­ous but not dirty (which is highly ques­tion­able) as op­posed to what we have which is dirty but not dan­ger­ous (Zar­dari has, to the best of our knowl­edge, not pur­pose­fully en­dan­gered the life of his fel­low cit­i­zens though he must bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for the frag­ile state of the nation).

Scathing re­marks about our head of state have come from Bri­tain: a for­mer UK chief of de­fence staff la­belled him as "clearly a numb­skull" and a per­ma­nent un­der­sec­re­tary of the for­eign of­fice ob­served, pretty much to the point, that he has "not much sense of how to gov­ern a coun­try … he talks and talks but not much hap­pens".

But yes, we have learned some­thing about how the lead­er­ship thinks and func­tions. Ap­par­ently Zar­dari, en­ter­tain­ing in­ti­ma­tions of mor­tal­ity, at one stage ad­mit­ted that he had "in­structed" his son Bi­lawal that should the worst sce­nario emerge he, the young lad, was to en­sure that sis­ter Feryal Talpur took over the pres­i­dency.

This ap­pears to con­vey the im­pres­sion that the PPP-Z owns Pak­istan. Who and what is the ju­ve­nile PPP chair­man that he can 'fix' the ap­point­ment of head of state? And ad­mirable is the con­fi­dence with which Zar­dari in­formed for­mer US am­bas­sador Anne Pat­ter­son of his in­tent. This would in­di­cate that the Zar­dari clan is claim­ing all rights to the party sup­pos­edly

be­queathed to its main player, that the Bhutto name is des­tined to dis­ap­pear at some stage, and that those hail­ing from a tribe "with lit­tle so­cial stand­ing in Sindh" (Guardian, Nov 30) are set to usurp not only the party but the coun­try.

Poor old Mian of Rai­wind comes out of it all in rather a sorry state. It seems he is not uni­ver­sally beloved by the western pow­ers, nor by the most pow­er­ful man in Pak­istan, army chief Gen Ash­faq Kayani.

Found to be un­trust­wor­thy and with am­bi­tions that would not fit in with even Pak­istan's style of democ­racy, the odds seem right now stacked against him get­ting a third stay in the mock­S­pan­ish ha­cienda prime-min­is­te­rial res­i­dence. But he does have one lone cham­pion bat­ting for him - his old friends the Saudis who favour his skills in deal­ing with the re­li­gious el­e­ments, ex­trem­ists or oth­er­wise.

Ad­mirable also is the chutz­pah of Maulana Fa­zlur Rah­man who in a cosy chat with for­mer Anne Pat­ter­son of­fered him­self as prime min­is­ter of Pak­istan, ob­vi­ously guar­an­tee­ing that he would play ball and fit in with Amer­i­can as­pi­ra­tions. Sadly, the of­fer was spurned and the best he could do, through his crafty wheel­ing and deal­ing, was to have his brother in­stalled as min­is­ter for tourism and party man Maulana Sherani, in di­rect con­flict, as chair­man of the Coun­cil of Is­lamic Ide­ol­ogy. What a lark! The Saudi monarch has made no bones about his pref­er­ence for mil­i­tary rule in Pak­istan, the army is re­garded as the "win­ning horse" in the lo­cal stakes. The gen­eral has no op­po­nents it seems, but we must shud­der at his judg­ment of man­power.

Dur­ing the lawyers' move­ment, in which Asif Zar­dari played a wait­ing, al­most par­a­lytic role, ap­par­ently Gen Kayani, fed up with the sit­u­a­tion, at his fourth meet­ing within one week with Pat­ter­son sug­gested re­plac­ing Zar­dari with As­fand­yar Wali Khan (who later dis­tanced him­self from any hint of dan­ger in his home prov­ince).

What does it all tell us about our­selves? That Pak­istan has re­signed it­self to be­com­ing a mere satrapy of the pow­ers that play with it in their own na­tional in­ter­ests - par­tic­u­larly of the world's sole su­per­power?.

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