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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Some Really Burning Questions

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: July 05, 2012
Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\05\story_5-7-2012_pg3_3

There is a whole generation of Pakistani youth who are oblivious to what our history is truly about. With all due respect, they tend to live in a self-created bubble and overlook some of our harsh realities. Each year, when July comes, my mind automatically takes me back to the year 1977. Many of my overly charged and hypnotised youth were still somewhere in heaven, waiting to be conceived, when Pakistan went through one of its worst transformations. To date, it has not come out of the shadows of what went so utterly wrong in that one particular year.

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went for early elections in 1977, his circle of ‘yes men’ gave him an overly optimistic picture. They said he was guaranteed a hands-down victory. In March of that year, that is exactly what he seemed to have received. The opposition parties had formed an election alliance called the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). It was an alliance of nine parties, mostly religious, and all anti-PPP. Their flag had nine stars, strangely resembling the flag of the United States, but green in colour.
The PNA, after the results of the National Assembly were announced, immediately boycotted the provincial assembly elections. Their claim was that the entire election was rigged. Then it almost felt like all hell broke loose. The country was engulfed with agitation and protests. No one, however, knew where the money was coming from.
I still have a clear memory of my late father pacing up and down in our home listening to the BBC’s Urdu transmission on the radio to get updates on what really happened in Karachi and around Pakistan. My 12-year-old mind often wondered that the British were supposed to be the villains — at least, that is what our textbooks taught us, yet we relied on a country thousands of miles away to hear the truth about what transpired within miles from our own home. Schools, colleges and universities were closed for the rest of the term, as conditions deteriorated around the city very rapidly. Then we heard that Mr Bhutto and the opposition parties had agreed on dialogue and negotiations. All of us took that as a positive development.
By mid-June or so, there was relatively good progress. Towards the end of that month, in principle what the PPP and PNA had agreed upon was a fresh election and decided to work on the details and modalities. That ill-fated morning of July 5, I was in Rawalpindi. Something was different that day. The Asghar Mall Chowk had that cunningly different tone to it. Traffic headed towards Murree Road was unusually light. The noisy buses headed towards Pir Wadhai were fewer than normal days. Later that day, the rumours started to fly that ‘our valiant army’ had taken over the reins and martial law was being imposed. That evening, PTV started to play anthems praising the Pakistani military.
Then he came on the screen, a spectacled General Zia in his khaki uniform, and started to unleash his pack of lies. His honest and sincere demeanour fooled many. Again, there was a 12-year-old who was not able to swallow his cleverly crafted story. Had the military moved in back in April or May, his story would have been partially believable. His timing and narrative was not making sense at all. I still remember his words to return to the barracks in 90 days and his promise to hold free and fair elections on October 18, 1977. One had to be dumb or an idiot to buy that one, because if that was the goal, then both government and opposition were capable of doing that on their own. Who needed the general and why?

What transpired after that was a sheer mockery of our faith and its real values. The memories are bitter and most of our overly patriotic youth would like to brush them aside as partisan rants. But one op-ed is inadequate to share the miseries of thousands who became victims of a butcher in that military uniform. But what is relevant is to clearly demonstrate that nothing much has changed.
Here are some very pertinent questions that I would like to raise here and I would like the learned, talented thinkers, historians, politicians and above all, the patriotic youth, to ponder and perhaps opine on.
a) Who brought a coalition of mostly religious parties called the PNA together?
b) What happened to the call of the PNA, which was cleverly termed as Nizam-e-Mustafa? Why did it abandon the system of what they called the Prophet’s system, out of fear of the general’s stick?
c) If the PNA was sincere and keen about the elections and demonstrated their street power in April and May of 1977, then why did they accept Zia’s martial law? Why were they not able to carry out the same agitation post-July 1977 and demand that Zia keep his word?
d) Why did the honourable judiciary aid and abet a general’s unconstitutional act by reference to the ‘doctrine of necessity’?

My list of questions is much longer, but for the sake of brevity I will stop here. History is undoubtedly a rearview mirror that enables us to focus on the present and to chart the future. Those of us who are still naïve enough to buy the commonly peddled narrative being sold by the patriots and righteous of the land ought to dig into my burning questions. I am afraid the answers are going to be very painful for them. In the end, a relatively obvious and recurrent theme would emerge. The comparisons and deductive reasoning should lead to some very obvious yet extremely dark answers.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some Obvious Disconnects

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: June 28, 2012
Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C06%5C28%5Cstory_28-6-2012_pg3_3

Oh well, things have changed a bit, after all, but not a heck of a whole lot, after all. In the past, the khakis came in and took over, typically in the wee hours of the morning. Or thanks to our 'beloved' General Zia's 58 2(b), the mighty presidents dissolved parliaments on their whims, and sent prime ministers packing. The charges were typically 'corruption and nepotism'. Even back in those days, I used to wonder, why was it that the accused was not given the opportunity to defend himself in front of the executive or the sovereign parliament. But that would have meant democratic norms. I used to pinch myself to remind myself that reality and my dreams were truly poles apart.

So now the game is a bit different. The honourable apex court has decided to play the role of the chief executive. The prime minister (PM) was allowed to defend, but let us just leave it at that. The apex court has respectfully infringed on the territory of parliament and the Election Commission of Pakistan to make a point. Of course, the exercise of this unprecedented and again with utmost respect, unconstitutional measure has put this nation on a wrong footing. Much like the dictatorial 58 2(b), this will be remembered not so fondly.

Let us revisit the distant past for a moment. Four years or so ago, the honourable judiciary was trying to reinvent itself by defying a dictator and his dictates. The underlying premise was that a dictator wielded undue influence and exercised unlimited and unquestioned powers. The concept in theory was fairly novel and praiseworthy. Very respectfully, I saw it quite differently. The overly chastised dictator was found to be a 'dictator' after approximately seven years of his rule...why that was so is my question. Do you see as I see a 'disconnect' here? All was well until the dictator exercised his constitutional power to question one of the respected members of the judiciary. By the way, the same honourable judiciary awarded the so-called dictatorial power to him. So yes, the 'greatest movement' swayed many people, but a few were extremely sceptical. I count myself in the category of the latter.

I often wonder how our common people are so naïve or tend to live in a world of their own where pretty much anything goes. So long as someone can impress them, whichever way possible, they just give an 'affirmative' nod, without rationally analysing the situation or the motive. Using my previous comments, no one is a complete angel or devil; everyone is just trying to use events and situations to their advantage. It is plain and simple. Some use victimhood, some religion and, some let us say, the law, so long as they can influence the public perception in their favour.

Is it me or has someone else questioned this as well? The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was declared unconstitutional, yet the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) of 1999 was not. Again, the obvious disconnect there. Similarly, the PCO of 2007 was not kosher either: why was that accepted? The common denominating factor in all these situations was the same dictator and his overzealous measures. If it is still not abundantly clear, that all regardless of who they are use certain events to their advantage to mould public sentiment in their favour, then nothing will.

The recent verdict has many far-reaching implications. Some of the folks who are rejoicing this move are really missing the point here, viewing this from the narrow prism of their political differences. My humble request to all of them is to put themselves in the situation and picture what this may feel like to them. Mian Nawaz Sharif had a jolt of reality in 1999, when it came to bite him too. As much as I disagree with him, he was the elected leader of the people. Only people and not the military had the right to remove him from office. Oh, I guess it is time for another pinch for me.

The present situation is a bit perplexing but by the same historic token. A non-military executive and his party are trying to follow the constitution fully. Yet the usual forces are against the stability of this government. There is no denying that a healthy political environment requires a partnership of the majority and the opposition parties. Both may be at odds most of the times, yet it is necessary for the public to view both sides of the story. In our case, very sadly, we are still in an initial stage of political development. The incumbents, with all their faults, flaws and follies, will be going back to the public soon for a fresh vote. People have to make their decision and all players in the arena ought to wait for that day.

As far as the honourable judiciary is concerned, it has to play the role of the 'ultra neutral' umpire. Again, with utmost respect, it is not up to the honourable judiciary to decide who makes it to elected office. As someone very beautifully said, on an election day, all citizens regardless of who they are, what position they hold, have only one vote. One can sincerely hope that the honourable judiciary will exercise its vote like any other citizen on that particular day. As it is, it has a monumental task on its hands --the task to interpret the law. Let us hope that we head towards an era of clear and unbiased thinking, from all quarters.
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The Show of All Shows

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: June 21, 2012
Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\06\21\story_21-6-2012_pg3_3

A show' is always a show. It is a display, an act, a make-believe scenario if you will, mixed and laced with some reality, but a show nevertheless. The recent development in the Pakistani current affairs talk shows is a compelling testimony for my usual abstinence from this mind numbing and perhaps, mind-'dumbing' exercise. Anytime my twitter timeline lights up, either complaining or praising, then I am out of luck and reluctantly succumb and subject myself to such a 'cruel punishment'.

Before my readers get an unsolicited take on the recent 'earth shattering' developments that are 'cleverly' dubbed 'mediagate', I offer my unconditional disclaimer. I am not employed (not even at this venue) at any print or electronic media organisation in any capacity. Nor have I ever known personally, worked or served at any business concern of, say, the 'Donald Trump of Pakistan', Mr Malik Riaz. Therefore, my commentary solely represents my personal views, and in no shape is meant to ridicule any parties at all — be it any plaintiffs, defendants, media or the respected judiciary. It is solely independent and unbiased, purely based on an objective analysis.

I witnessed the on and off-camera 'episodes' of the 'show' that brought such a firestorm of criticism and the usual bashing from our public. Somehow, respectfully, I do not agree with the public's expected and 'plainly reactionary' attitude. The shock displayed by many, to me, is worth a shock. By the way, I disagree with both anchors vehemently on most occasions and criticise them on Twitter very regularly. In this particular incident, I believe both are being made a 'scapegoat' and here are my reasons.

If you recall, the whole incident between the two parties, Mr Riaz and Dr Iftikhar is a 'purely civil' matter. It is a case of the 'alleged monetary transactions' between the two. In other words, the respected Supreme Court (SC), when it discovered this issue, should have directed the parties to go to the lower courts or another proper venue to hash out their differences. When the respected SC intervened in the name of the public interest, it actually jumped the gun, thus making itself a party into a matter that is shrouded with 'conflict of interest'. Then the Honourable Chief Justice's subsequent recusal and formation of a two-member bench added more questions, rather than answering them. Thus in my humble opinion, by making itself a party in the case, the august bench has actually hurt the cause of an independent and unbiased adjudication of the matter.

Moving on to the great discovery of the unauthorised footage of the 'shock and awe' show of the two aforementioned anchors. Firstly, a stolen property, in any reasonable country, will be considered 'inadmissible evidence' in a court of law. Try taking Wikileaks as a sole basis of your complaint; more than likely, it will be thrown out as in most western courts. The basis is, if any evidence is obtained without prior consent of the parties, their right of privacy protects it. Any footage that is meant to be off-air, is exactly what it means. The conversations, comments and actions are thus private. So legally anyone who let those out is not a hero, but for lack of a better word, a thief. It is almost equivalent to stealing cash from a vault, as the company suffers from monetary damages due to negative publicity. Lastly, it is a breach of any company policy to share its material with others without its prior consent.

Now to the so-called smoking gun and as they say, if you were to go to the kitchen of a restaurant, you would perhaps think twice before eating out again. What goes on behind the scenes on a set is no exception. Everyone knew that Mr Riaz was going to deliver his side of the story in multiple instalments; as a clever businessman he knows that the primetime slots will be the prime spots for his 'revelations'. If sensation is what sells in town, then all he was trying to do was sell it, perhaps to the highest bidder. To demonise him is very disingenuous, to say the least. Granted he is no angel, but as I indicated last week, he is not a devil either, at least, as per my feeble interpretation.

Any high profile guest who wants to appear on TV has a certain vested interest, regardless whether he is a PM, president or the chairman of a political or religious party. He wants to get his point of view across in a way that it resonates with the intended audience. Thus if a question was 'planted', or for that matter, the entire show was planted, what is the big deal? Please, re-read my opening sentence. After all, it is a show. A show is not a court of law. The evidence, assertions, revelations or statements technically are not under oath, and not within a jurisdictional venue. Thus, those statements are nothing more than a citizen's right to free speech. Let us reverse the role; had it been Dr Arsalan on the airwaves, there would have been many who would want certain questions to be asked, which would clarify his side of the story. In the era of live TV and crazy ratings, there would have been almost the same amount of pressure to let him speak as much as possible.

Those who read me here will recall that on memogate, I had said that "truth always resides somewhere in the middle, any time we face a contentious issue." This one is no exception. Sadly, we have mortgaged our brains. The fun of reality TV has overpowered us. The heart of the matter here is an allegation of 'financial impropriety'. The proper venue for its redress is available. Very respectfully to those who are marketing this as an 'attack' on any institution, they are actually inflicting an irreparable harm to that institution. As I said last week, no individual is greater than an institution. Principles, not individuals, drive an institution. The matter in question is not implicating the individual at all. If we obfuscate and not let the proper legal process at a proper legal venue take its appropriate course, then we are active participants in this so-called show. Yes, I repeat, this show. Very respectfully, a show of so-called justice.

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When "It" Hits The Fan

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published : June 14, 2012
Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C06%5C14%5Cstory_14-6-2012_pg3_2


In our land, dearly known as the 'land of the pure', let us make no mistake, we are very straightforward. We have two distinct groups of people: angels or devils. There is no room for anyone in between. Anyone who we disagree with or want to be shredded to pieces is immediately transported to the depths of hell. After all we are the only nation supposedly built in the name of a divine faith. We chant the meaning of Pakistan and equate it to the oneness of the Almighty, but God forbid, love to play as one ourselves, very conveniently forgetting that heaven or hell are concepts beyond our utter comprehension. It is a decision that solely rests on the Almighty's discretion.

Last week, I had briefly made a comment about myself that I consider myself a realist. I do not consider myself a liberal or conservative. I have shades of both within me, depending upon what I encounter, what the issue at hand is. When the Almighty sent close to 1.24 million messengers to this world, the idea was to forewarn mankind. The messengers were couriers of the Divine. They were sent as a guide, a model, or an educator. No messenger made the claim that he would eradicate evil. Because, in our system of belief, we agree that good and evil reside side by side. Always have, always will. Until the final day. The Holy messengers guided us how to decipher the two, and where to seek refuge when desires and temptations overpower us.

Without drifting into any major theological debate, I would say that good and evil are parts of all of us. I know, at least a sinner like me carries both of these forces within myself. No wonder the concept of the angels accounting for all our actions was explained to me in my childhood. At this age, I have realised that all humans perhaps share the same experiences within themselves. The faith teaches us how to suppress the negative forces within ourselves, as there is a fear of complete accountability ahead. Hence, in summation, I do not consider any person living or dead perfect, except the ones who belong in the category of the 'Couriers of the Divine' or their immediate followers. The rest of us are all mere mortals, full of flaws and sins.

So if the readers are thinking that I have lost my marbles and I am hell bent on giving them some sort of sermon, let me clarify. A few days ago, in the Twitter sphere, some 'psyops' started to surface. Some noted journalists started to forewarn that a 'mother of all conspiracies' was about to unfold. I will touch on the conspiracy mantra some other day, but I laughed at that psychobabble as those people started to peddle that all hell would break loose, and this and that. Come to think of it, our nation has gone through so many scandals and so-called conspiracies that I somehow had an unyielding faith in the shock absorbing resilience of our nation.

Then came a YouTube discussion and what ensued subsequently is common knowledge. However, the sky is still intact and all seems to be fine and dandy. What I found amusing was how some nightly opinion makers had declared it a 'conspiracy to malign the judiciary'. I just questioned myself. How can one individual be the entire judicial system? So in any sport its tantamount to saying that if a captain is perhaps unable to play for whatever reason, the entire team will be unable to function. Silly logic, and with a due apology, I do not buy it. It is not the individual but institutions that matter. No person, no matter how strong he or she may be, represents an entire institution.

The same nightly anchors take the politicians and their offspring to task almost every night. No holds are barred and a Pandora's Box of aspersions, innuendos and doubts is opened in front of the public with relative impunity. Yet, the underlying theme of this affair is that it is perhaps a brainchild of the same evil and conniving politicos. I am not here to defend anyone because I do not place anyone, whether it is a politician, general, religious leader or a jurist on any holy pedestal. All of them are mere mortals, with their share of good and evil within them. I judge people based on their actions and not their rhetoric. With that being said, I do not buy into any conspiracy theory.

In this day and age when information is at our fingertips, only people with low self-worth and esteem can classify people into an absolute angel or devil category. They create this imaginary persona of an angel and try to rationalise everything within their imagination to paste on their so-called 'demigod'. So everything that demigod does is justified, whether it is right or wrong. I repeat this is another form of psychobabble.

Moving on to the concept of entrapment in this particular case, I laughed so hard that I almost fell off my chair. Let me offer this as a very simplistic example. When you turn your idiot box on, the advertisers are bombarding you with enticing offers almost 24/7. Do you go and buy everything that the 'evil' capitalistic advertisers are trying to convince you to buy? No matter how cute the jingle is and how attractive the model may be (female or male, I want to remain neutral here), you make your buying decisions based on logic, reasoning and personal need. Any impulsive buy typically hits you in the pocket book and you often regret it. Many gifted analysts have opined on this issue so I will follow their lead. There is something that our mothers teach us at a very tender age. It is not to accept candies or any other goodies from strangers. I am sure, most of us were taught that and it is a foundation for our basic critical thinking skills. So was the lad set up? I think not. Even if he was, he knew or should have remembered the basic lesson of his mother.

With this episode, a new conflict has emerged as well, the conflict within the nightly ringmasters of the tube. The mud-slinging campaign has begun and the dirty laundry of one another is being aired. Barbs are flying, legal notices are being served and as they say, 'it' has started to hit the fan. The recurring theme to subdue one another is the connection with any foreign agency or people, or dubious elements within the local society. In sum, the patriotism, morality and ethics of one another are being questioned. As the saying goes, patriotism is the last refuge of you know who. Exposure and expose are the operative words here. Reminds me of the old fairy tale chant of 'Mirror mirror on the wall.' Let it be. Let us see the real faces of many, no matter how ugly they may be. After all we are humans, with all our flaws. Let the piety and righteousness of some and perhaps all, hit the proverbial fan. In the end my point will be proved, that there are no absolute angels or devils within or around us.


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When Doing More Is Not Enough

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: June 08, 2012
Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C06%5C07%5Cstory_7-6-2012_pg3_3


From the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the present Mrs Clinton, or for that matter, President Bush to Obama, there is a recurrent theme of diplomatic messages emanating towards Pakistan. It is the theme that we are very familiar with and perhaps hate to hear repeatedly for Pakistan to 'do more'. It just irks us beyond comprehension; what else can Pakistan do or offer in this so-called 'Bush's war'? In my humble opinion, the message is somewhat lost in translation.

Before my hyper-patriot brothers and sisters start chastising me, let me offer a rather simple but perhaps a plausible explanation. At this venue and a few others, I have argued that it was perhaps a not well-planned strategy of President Bush to lodge a full-scale military operation in Afghanistan, but at Centcom or at the White House, no one cares about my opinion! So, unfortunately as they say, it is what it is.

People who have read me here and elsewhere are aware of my views about the former president Musharraf, but it is disingenuous to blame him for complying with Dick Armitage's call and reverse the course with the Taliban. Any one, military or non-military, in his shoes at that time would have done exactly the same. There is something called a 'reality check'. Apparently, Mr Musharraf knew that the Americans meant business and to go against their call was asking for some serious trouble.

The US gave military and non-military aid to Pakistan in Mr Musharraf's tenure. The aid was what was loosely termed as a blank cheque. There was an economic boom in the US, due to the artificially inflated real estate market. The effects of that boom were felt around the world, including Pakistan. Many attribute all of that to the policies of the earlier finance and then prime minister, Shaukat Aziz. I beg to differ. No matter how much we disagree, one cannot dismiss that there was a gravy train at that time. Mr Aziz and Mr Musharraf were just the fortunate ones at the right place and at the right time.

In that era, the 'do more' mantra was still on. The drones started to fly in, causing their havoc. The security agencies picked up people and deprived them of due process. Mr Musharraf did boast about the bounties he collected on some of those heads in his book, In the Line of Fire. At that time, people on our side kept on peddling the narrative that Osama bin Laden was either dead already, or must have died later due to his kidney ailment somewhere in Afghanistan. The Americans kept on placing him somewhere in the border region of 'Af-Pak'.

Then came the downfall of Mr Musharraf's regime and the Americans changed their tone. The real estate bubble popped on the US side and shook its financial markets to the core. The Kerry-Lugar Bill and the concept of accountability were invoked. All hell broke loose and from there on it has been a downhill slide for both the US and Pakistan. If you are following my build up, it is all about the money. Because I am neither a liberal nor a conservative but a realist, I repeat, it is all about the money.

When checks and balances were introduced, and conditions were placed, we saw a strong wave of anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. There was the Raymond Davis affair, which was blown out of proportion, all to whip up a desired result. No one can deny that Pakistan has suffered a catastrophic human loss in this war. By the same token, no one can deny this either that many high level al Qaeda members, including bin Laden, were found on our territory.

The US's context of doing more is perhaps a hint to go after the 'big fish', which are perhaps in or around our neck of the woods. When we ask for intelligence or proof, we are ridiculed. I personally disagree with drone strikes, but look at these pesky drones from the other side's perspective. They are the most economical and precise option in lieu of putting boots on the ground, that too in the tribal region. What often boggles my mind is, we cannot launch any operation in that region, because it is an 'autonomous tribal region'. When the drones fly in, it becomes a violation of 'our' sovereignty. There is some disconnect in this narrative.

In a rather interesting development, now the Chinese have started to tell us to do more as well. Apparently, some militants on their side have started to trickle into our end. Here is our 'all weather ally' about to distance from us if we do not hunt those militants down. By the way, no calls of 'shut up, China' are trending on the Twitter verse. We know that our honour is only at stake when the call comes from the US.

If the recent appearance of the 'man in white', Mr al Zawahiri in a video is any indication, it is clear that this conflict will continue in the years to come. The bigger question is, are we going to really do what is necessary to get us out of this mess? Nothing more, nothing less.
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The Rookie Chairman

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 31, 2012
Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C05%5C31%5Cstory_31-5-2012_pg3_3


Bilawal may be young and inexperienced, but so far, he speaks of the values and ideals that his slain mother had once embodied. Most youngsters his age would be engaging in everything except politics. Or if they do, they would be following someone else and considering him their sole messiah. However, like his late mother, he is different. As fate has it, someone else writes the script of our lives. His energetic mother was faced with similar circumstances a few decades ago. What a strange coincidence, but as they say, life is full of surprises. The more things change, perhaps, the more they stay the same.

After listening to the youngest, let us say the 'rookie' chairman of the largest political party of Pakistan, one can deduce that hope and optimism are still alive. His haters and detractors call him the heir to the 'ancestral' throne. I beg to differ. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is no heir, as without the people's will or vote, he cannot move an inch. Above all, without any substance within him or his message, he cannot resonate with the masses. Devoid of real substance, spark and connection with his people, he can perhaps continue his cosy life abroad. He may be an heir to his family, but not to his country. It may be a political dynasty, but without the people's will, it is nothing more than a comfortable nest.

To illustrate my point, Ayub, Yahya and Zia left their heirs too. They tried their luck, hoping to hit the bullseye in the newly found notoriety of theirs, but failed miserably. Why was it such a debacle? Simply speaking, it was a lack of substance and a real fire within. Without that, a leader is unable to reach the most important element of the electorate. Without that connection, no matter what their track record or message may be, people remain indifferent towards them.

Bilawal may be young and inexperienced, but so far, he speaks of the values and ideals that his slain mother had once embodied. His recent visit to the US and various interviews to TV channels give us a glimpse of what he really stands for. People may criticise all of that as a clever media ploy in the US, implying that as always, he is trying to impress the 'real masters'. On the contrary, whatever he has said on multiple channels here is in fact the popular Pakistani narrative. He has maintained the official stand on many US-Pakistan related issues — very understandable in the context of a broader national interest, and yet seen and analysed with immense scepticism by many within Pakistan.

Speaking of Bilawal's rather synchronised lines that he cleverly uttered, I do respectfully take exception. On the recent conviction of Dr Afridi, he repeatedly brought the precedent of Jonathan Pollard into his interviews, which is rather misplaced. Pollard allegedly transferred state secrets to Israel. One may find Dr Afridi's conduct objectionable but to equate that with Pollard's action is erroneous. Of course, it makes perfect sense if Osama bin Laden was in fact considered a 'state secret'. I have argued earlier on this issue at this forum therefore I would refrain from repeating the same lines ('Speaking of Spies', Daily Times, March 29, 2012). Furthermore, Dr Afridi's conviction based on treason and waging war against the state would not hold in any reasonable court of law. Had the Navy Seals who took out bin Laden attacked any military installation in their raid at the Abbottabad house, only then the charge would hold. Again, if we consider the 'lair' where the 'Late Mujahid' lived as a military fortress then I rest.

Next, Bilawal's insistence on the US apologising for the Salala incident has to be viewed more objectively from both sides. At the expense of being called an 'apologist of the US', a 'CIA agent', and a 'traitor' by my critics, I would urge Mr Chairman to give it a second thought. (By the way, people who truly want a gist of that incident when it occurred can Google me and 'Bonn Conference' before awarding me with some additional 'prestigious' titles.) As unfortunate as the incident may be, one has to review the track record. If it was deliberate, as many hyper-patriots want us to believe, then why did it just occur at Salala? Much like drones, why did NATO not continue its flagrant violation to teach Pakistanis some more lessons? Deductive reasoning, which we often lack in our blind passion, would lead us to believe that it was perhaps a misunderstanding on both sides. To move the relationship forward, we have to continue engaging the US in such a diplomatic manner that the apology comes from both sides and we have closure.

On Musharraf, whom Mr Chairman considers responsible for his mother's assassination in part for not providing her adequate security, it may be added that Mr Chairman has resided in the UK and may very well know that both countries do not have an extradition treaty. In light of that grim reality, how can he bring former President Musharraf to Pakistan to answer those charges? If I remember correctly, Pakistan and the UAE signed a Prisoner Extradition Treaty very recently. I think Mr Musharraf enjoys a respectable life there; he would definitely be not imprisoned there. Based on these facts, one may sincerely hope that Mr Musharraf voluntarily comes back home to clear his name of such allegations. The chances though are very slim.

The Chairman demonstrated a praiseworthy quality of confidence in front of many cameras here. He presented the vision of a progressive, democratic and positive Pakistan. On CNN's Wolf Blitzer, there were some nostalgic moments, where Blitzer shared his late mother's interaction with him. From his demeanour and rationale, Bilawal handled it fairly well. Yes, many would call him a 'prince', but to all of them again, neither a prince nor a pauper deserves to lose their mother in the manner that he did. If he has picked up the mission of his slain mother, then h
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