What are you moaning about?

Ayaz Amir:

If you can’t take your mother and daughters-in-law to the Holy Land at taxpayers’ expense, what is the point of being prime minister of Pakistan? After being appointed PM for 45 days, Chaudry Shujaat Hussain took 134 free-loaders for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the list including: “Begum Ch Shujaat Hussain, Musamat Shahzada Begum (mother), Ch Shafay Hussain (son), Ch Salik Hussain (son), Ch Shafaat Hussain (brother), Mrs Sumeera Ellahi (sister), Ch Rasikh Ellahi (Punjab CM’s son)…” And so on.

When you pay your own fare you are like everybody else. When you go riding official airliners you emphasise your elevated status. If you think Shujaat is the only one to blame, think again. Junejo did it as did Benazir, Nawaz Sharif, Jamali, even Shaukat Aziz, taking a planeload of people for an umra trip to Saudi Arabia, billing the cost to the exchequer.

Karachiites have been moaning about the huge traffic jams caused by President Musharraf’s recent trip to the city, in connection with the opening of some kind of Expo exhibition or the other. They should know better. This is how things work in Pakistan: convenience, real or faked, of the rulers, never of the ruled.

God knows it takes much less firepower than that deployed in Karachi to stage a coup in Islamabad. Three or four not particularly fired-up truckloads of soldiers from 111 Brigade in Westridge, Rawalpindi moving to seize the TV station and surround the presidency or the prime minister’s house, as the case may be, and, presto, you have a coup with not a bullet fired. Indeed, about the most slovenly-executed coup in our history, and therefore a gross slur on army efficiency, was Gen Musharraf’s attempt at saving Pakistan on 12 Oct 99. An army contingent sent to seize the TV station disarmed by a unit of the Islamabad police under the command of Nawaz Sharif’s military secretary, Brig Javed Malik. Subsequently court-martialled, Malik keeps Nawaz Sharif company in Saroor Palace, Jeddah, where the former PM lives out the days and nights of his excruciatingly slow-moving exile.

On a happier note, congratulations to younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, first for flying the Saudi coop for the second time and second for his marriage to the lovely Tina Durrani who thinks of herself as an intellectual heavyweight which is where the trouble starts. Why did her romantic idyll with God’s gift to Pakistani womankind, former Punjab governor and chief minister, the redoubtable Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar, come to an end? Amongst other reasons, because she wanted to share the limelight with her macho husband. It doesn’t work that way, not in Pakistan. Men don’t like competition. Nor for that matter do women. A woman becomes prominent and the first thing you know her husband is hugging the shadows.

Nawaz Sharif cooling his heels in Jeddah while Shahbaz Sharif, assisted by Tina, plotting a political comeback away from the austere climate of Saudi Arabia. Benazir cooling her heels in Dubai as Zardari gets all primed to lead the PPP and make a bid not for power but for sharing the crumbs of power. What is the upshot of all this? The mullahs already tamed. They content to pick up scraps from the military’s table. The two big parties kowtowing to the priorities of military planning. Yet Pakistan’s politicians want to be taken seriously even though the mountains can be heard laughing at their performance.

Ayaz, a columnist for Dawn, writes for THT from Islamabad