Published in Dawn 11th August 2007
It is no surprise that in the current whirlwind of imminent political realignments the usual adventurers have started salivating at the prospect of yet another bite at the cherry, while those who have had an absolute ball at public expense for the last eight years, see an escape from accountability at the polls through an immoral and shady deal.
But it is really depressing that our society as a whole is caught up in the slipstream of the fraud that is being perpetrated against the nation. The Musharraf and Benazir linkup, must raise many serious questions, based on the record of their past practices, and it is up to the sane elements, particularly the media, to honestly analyse what all this means for Pakistan.
Of course, both sides to the deal are at pains to hoodwink the people once again by professing to join hands for the restoration of democracy and the good of the country. No one is fooled as the record of the two on both counts is dismal. Suffice it to point out here that the general came into power by violating the Constitution and destroying the democratic set-up while the so-called daughter of the East does not tolerate democracy even in her own party and ruled the country for five years through henchmen and stooges.
It requires no sharpness of perception to comprehend that the deal makers are motivated only by the desire to stay on in power, even by swallowing what they have spit out, on the one hand and to save billions of ill-begotten wealth and sneak into power by the back door, on the other.
Now that Musharraf is sinking, he is no doubt ready to grasp at any straw, although previously he had no time for Benazir who spared no effort to move in since the day he took over. He often publicly ruled out the possibility of any links with her, spending millions to make her accountable for corruption.
But Benazir is a deal maker by nature. During the Zia days, she made a deal to be shifted from Sukkur jail to Karachi jail and then to her residence. From there, she made a fresh deal with Zia, through the good offices of the late Habibullah Piracha and an American named Peter Galbraith, who was imported from the US for this purpose, to leave the country and remain silent.
On these conditions she was allowed to go. Then again, even though she won the 1988 election, she came into power through a deal brokered by the Americans with the then chief of army staff General Aslam Beg, in which she agreed to continue Zias policies and induct his ministers and followers into her government and party.
All this was done even though she publicly held the Americans and the armed forces (whom she later awarded the Tamgha-i-Jamooriat) responsible for toppling her father and murdering him.
The deal is motivated by their desire to stay in power, even by swallowing what they have spit out
In between there was the deal with the MQM to share power in 1988 during which Sindhis were killed to eliminate them from Karachi. Lately, there is her deal with Nawaz Sharif, who is the last of the Zia men and who filed all the corruption cases against her in which she is absconding.
Of course, she has already broken this deal and the Charter of Democracy and the ARD have gone down the drain. It is inevitable here that her conduct must be contrasted with that of her father, in whose name she survives, who rejected all deals and took on and defeated two most powerful military dictators and refused to make a deal with the third, despite the latters overtures, even though it cost him his life.
As for deal making for the good of the country, eight years of Musharrafs rule have turned Pakistan into a deprived and vanquished battlefield in which no one, least of all he himself, is safe, while the five years of Benazirs governments are remembered only for the dozens of corruption and murder cases against the Zardari couple and their closest confidants. Some of these cases, such as those pertaining to the Surrey palace and money laundering in Switzerland, stand proved.Thus let us take stock of what the nation gets if these two lend each other a shoulder and once again impose themselves on the people: Musharraf continues to fight George Bushs war against extremism and place the country in increasing jeopardy culminating in rivers of blood. Lawlessness, corruption, unemployment, rising prices and poverty continue to escalate while municipal functions and the basic facilities of education and medical treatment are practically non-existent.
Criminals with mass murder cases against them and notoriously corrupt individuals with convictions and on-going cases fill government offices.
They put on designer suits and tour the world at public expense with absolutely no benefit to the nation. They publish bogus figures of progress which are contradicted by the manifest misery of the people. All elections held during the last eight years have been recklessly rigged, bringing to the assemblies the usual turncoats and time-servers who are nothing but a disgrace and are now looking for new moorings.
All public institutions have drowned in incompetence and corruption, leading to uselessness and collapse. Those absconding from the country to escape accountability for corruption and charges of multiple murder, will return as conquering heroes to recommence their nefarious activities from the point where they were compelled to stop and run.
Each party to the deal is insufferable separately, together they will be a prescription for a bloody revolt by the agonised masses.
Moreover, when the chips are down and the time comes for the leaders to make a stand, this lot will, instead, make a hasty exit on their well-trodden paths to hide in safe havens abroad, which they have built for such eventualities. From there, they will watch and wait like hungry vultures.
The redeeming hope in this scenario is that the deal will not materialise. Even though Benazir is ready to become Shaukat Aziz, the armed forces, which still remain the paramount political force in the country and will continue to play a leading role in any dispensation, will not be happy.
Even though he is sponsoring the formation of a secular front against the MMA, George Bushs only interest in Pakistan is to have a set-up which effectively implements his edict and it does not matter that this means the wholesale killing of innocent citizens in the country. This is a requirement which no civil leader, no matter how willing, can meet.
While Benazir, in the end, will be more then willing to support a politically dead general in return for escape from the corruption and murder cases against herself and her spouse, the deal really does not give an indication of jelling.
Hence, whether they know it or not, the ball rests in the court of the people. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry made a heroic stand which was bravely supported by the legal profession. But it was the overall backing of the people that brought victory.
The people are masters of their own fate and there is no political force greater than them. They must not allow shady deals between untrustworthy individuals to take the country over the precipice. They must stand up and exercise their right to elect new capable and clean representatives who may go forth and salvage the sinking ship of the state. In this, the role of the media is of fundamental importance and it must play it to the hilt or share responsibility for the sad fate of the nation.