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Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Triumphant Loser Part 2

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: October 18, 2012
Original Link:\10\18\story_18-10-2012_pg3_4

If you have been to a school, (which I am certain most people reading my gibberish have), you can recall your childhood squabbles with your classmates. When the fallout of the Kargil misadventure hit the nation, the Prime Minister (PM) at that time and his Chief of Army Staff (COAS), reminded us of two quarreling schoolchildren. A war of words followed and the usual blame game began. Of course, you and I were not in the power quarters of Islamabad, so we just have to rely on the reported ‘he said and again, what he said’.

A simple deductive reasoning begs us to dissect this so-called conflict between the two. The PM insisted that he was kept in the dark about the military operation in Kargil, feigning complete ignorance. The COAS rebutted by stating that matters of national security were discussed with the PM as per protocol. Hence, I repeat again, it was he said and again what he said. Who knows what was discussed behind closed doors, but it sure seems like it was a major embarrassment. Yes, deductive reasoning would lead us to believe that a civilian PM is the boss and a COAS is answerable to his civilian boss. There is a caveat to this: under normal circumstances in any other country that is the standard operating procedure. Those who think that Pakistan is any ordinary country ought to think again.

The macho PM was perhaps trying too hard to grow too fast for his boots, and that too, in a special country like Pakistan. I think I read somewhere that the former PM’s late father warned him about the ‘untrustworthy’ general. The general had paid a visit to the PM at his Jatti Umra ‘palace’ and the late Mian Sharif with his decades of experience may have read something in the general’s eyes that made him uncomfortable. The macho PM perhaps decided to give heed to the sage advice of his late father, but the way he went abount it was, to say the least, very unprofessional.

Indeed, it was within the constitutional powers of the PM to replace the general, but why did he wait for him to leave for Sri Lanka? Rumour has it that he had to summon the stars and medals that go on the chest of the chief from a supply store of Raja Bazaar in Rawalpindi. But had the PM dealt with this in a more professional manner, perhaps Pakistan could have been saved from another so-called bloodless coup. When I touched on this subject previously, at a different venue, I was told by one of my readers that General Butt was from a different division of the army and the top brass would have objected to his appointment. I sighed and said at that point that it is all about the top brass, isn’t it?

So from there on the macho PM just kept on repeating the comedy of errors, but I have a different take on the entire episode. As wrong and as unconstitutional as the outcome was, perhaps it was meant to be. It was perhaps divine intervention to show the PM that history could repeat itself. The PM, who was the product of another general, was deposed by none other than a general. In Urdu there is a line that goes like this: Dekho mujhey jo deeda-e-ibrat nigah ho (Pardon me for my poor translation: Look at me should you need to seek any lesson).

Supposedly, a general on a commercial flight from Colombo to Karachi was not granted permission to land in Karachi. He went into action ‘in the air’ and the PM’s government was folded up within an hour and a half. If you buy the story that it was all done hovering over Karachi, then I have to sell you the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China and the magnificent Taj Mahal, all three for the price of one dollar. Frenzy was created about the ‘hijack’. This was the first hijack in the history of all hijacks where there were no hijackers on board and had no demands. But again time to pinch myself, I am dealing with a special country called Pakistan.

From there on a triumphant ‘chief executive’ was sworn in by a rather very familiar figure. In a typical Mughal style, the deposed PM was thrown into the dungeons of the Attock Jail. We were told it was not a martial law. Thus, the moderately enlightened general started his journey by inventing the title of chief executive of the most profitable venture for a certain institution. Maybe he should have also renamed the place as Pakistan, Inc. The former PM was sentenced by rather familiar faces and sent to zindaan (dark prison), in a typically Mughal king’s fashion.

I remember seeing the former general justifying his act on TV: “How dare you remove a chief of the armed forces? Mind you, he is not a peon. It is not a joke.” Sure Sir, only in Pakistan this joke is possible where a loser (in the literal sense of losing a war and putting many in harm’s way on a flawed strategy) can turn around and become the king. It is one of those jokes that can only make you cry. Yes, I had tears in my eyes when I saw clueless people dancing on the streets of Lahore chanting, “Saddee fauj ayee pyari” (Here comes our beloved army) on the ‘triumphant return’. As clueless as the PM was, he was the leader chosen by the people. But legend has it, might often is right and tends to exert its right. Laugh or cry, it is your choice. After all, we are no ordinary people, are we? 


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