The Day of the Jabal

His cronies call him ‘Jabal’, the mountain. It’s an appropriate enough name given the body mass. Currently heavyweight Zafarullah Jamali is enmeshed in a battle royale with lightweight Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, master of the ruling cabal and his cheerleader Mushahid Hussain Sayyed, the brand new secretary-general of the most bilked name since our independence – the Pakistan Muslim League Party.

Ripostes the ‘Mountain’ he won’t be dislodged from the Prime Minister’s House that easily – he will skew his enemies, warning them not to mess with him. Back off, bellows the Baloch boy, whose unspectacular record as head of government hardly deserves a spirited defence. ‘Jabal’s’ removal may be a slam dunk. Godfather Pervez Musharraf, the President, many say, has already given his thumbs-down to ‘Jabal’ because he’s been “clumsy and leaden” in the art of fox-trotting with the pack of hyenas whose howls grow louder each day, and their hunger for power more insatiable, both inside and outside the Parliament.

“If Humayun Akhtar (son of Zia’s top intelligence general killed along with him in a plane crash) tipped as  Musharraf’s hot favourite, becomes the next prime minister, then I am going to give up my Pakistani citizenship!” declares Air Commodore (retd) Sajad Haider, the hoary decorated war hero who soared across the Lahore skies to stave off Indian fighter jets in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war.

“These sons (Messrs Ejazul Haq, Gohar Ayub and Humayun Akhtar) of dictators and generals have it real good, while folks like us risked our lives,” bristles the ace pilot, utterly disgusted with them and the publicity they receive in the press. “When I handed over my resignation from the Air Force to Gen Ziaul Haq, the President then, citing my reasons that the press was stifled and the people throttled, he was very surprised and angry with me. Do you know what he told me?” asks Sajad who is in the US to attend his son’s graduation ceremony.

“The press is like a child – give it milk and it starts puking,” was Zia’s comment, recalls Sajad. “Zia hated a free press because he was convinced that it could not stomach freedom.”

“Now Musharraf and prime minsiter Jamali have given the press all the freedom it wants, and still many journalists have blinkers around them – they are rooting for people whose fathers made millions during the Afghan jehad against Soviet occupation. What has happened to investigative journalism … the ministers are making millions and nobody shines a light on their evildoings?”

Is Jamali then the fall guy?

“I have it from the horse’s mouth that Musharraf tries very hard to keep a tight rein on corruption. He recently ordered Jamali to control his two federal ministers – Aftab Sherpao and Faisal Saleh Hayat … obviously this has drawn fire against the PM.”

Knowledgeable circles here in the US think otherwise. Jamali, they say, is not the “aw-shucks kind of guy he pretends to be … he’s active in the money grubbing game, except he works only for himself!”

Sajad, who has just walked out of a Broadway theatre in Manhattan after watching Bombay Dreams, America’s latest love affair with India, says: “Look at these Indians – they can sell ultimate garbage and still everybody wants to buy it! Seats as steep as $150 each were sold out weeks ago.”

And look at Pakistan, “steeped so deeply in the vortex of religious fear” … the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal) sympathizers, “sporting little Taliban-like beards are mushrooming like a nuclear cloud, proliferating the egregious rays of ignorance, extremism and fanaticism all over.”

He cannot, for the life of him, fathom Musharraf nominating MMA secretary-general Maulana Fazlur Rehman a.k.a. Maulana Diesel (he is alleged to have made tons of money in oil permits during Benazir’s time) as the parliamentary leader of the opposition, just as he cannot understand the hold the Chaudhries have on the President, considering how their patriarch, police sergeant Zahoor Elahi, made a fortune by providing a “safe passage to Hindus and Sikhs trapped in Gujrat during Partition in 1947.”

Musharraf’s minuets with men he threw in jail, excoriating them, even swearing that he will forbid their resurrection, leave many in America doubting the General’s sincerity. Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion and a rights activist is one of them. His editorial-page commentary in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Stop the Moral Equivalence’ attacks Musharraf for his malleability. The celebrity – Russia’s most famous and President Putin’s worst critic – brackets Musharraf with Yassar Arafat and the Saudi royal family as “dictators who present themselves as the last bastion against religious extremists.”

“President Musharraf in Pakistan and the Saudi royal family are supported by the US and given free reign to limit human rights because they are considered the lesser evil. Yet the more favour they have with the US, the more they are hated at home, empowering the extremist opposition (read MMA). Everyone gets what they want in the short run, but it is a recipe for inevitable meltdown (for the US).”

Kasparov, 41, chairman of the Free Choice 2008 Committee in Russia, says that Muslims are so fixated on “proving that the West is corrupt” that they tend to overlook “the despots in charge throughout the Islamic world”. He thinks that instead, Al Jazeera should be pointing its cameras on Vladimir Putin’s war against Muslims in Chechnya. “All of Chechnya is one big Abu Ghraib, but the Islamic world pays scant attention to the horrible crimes there … war is not about defending Muslims; it is about Western civilization and America as its representative.”

The chess champion’s bid to checkmate Musharraf’s global ambitions of nominating himself as the ultimate liberal to Bush (remember that is exactly what Benazir Bhutto tried peddling to Bush 41) could succeed if the Pakistani president continues to bed with schmucks, thugs and beards.

Musharraf’s widely published column, Time for Enlightened Moderation carried by the Washington Post and all leading Pakistani newspapers appealing for a “renaissance” is more self-exculpatory than honest soul-searching.

“If he really wanted a clean Pakistan, why would he fall for the rah-rah of low lives, who once too many times have stolen the Pakistani limelight (whatever is left of the fading light!) And to brighten their chances with Musharraf, they are calling him their “angel in military uniform”!

While ‘Jabal’ may get the kibosh for not reining his cabinet, is he pinning his hopes on Bush to rescue him from the clutches of the two dissembling Hussains – Shujaat and Mushahid?

Seriously, Jamali told Associated Press: “We are lucky with the Republicans that the president, his secretary of state, the vice president and the secretary of defence – they all have a personal relationship with Pakistan, and also as a government, so I think that is a much better bet as far as Pakistan-American relations are concerned …. I would wish President Bush well, definitely.”

Surely, Jamali must have been briefed by his Foreign Office mandarins that a prime minister never takes sides publicly!  It is poltitically incorrect to plug for Bush before the November polls.

To keep his chair warm, he has even gone public in his declaration of love for President Musharraf: “As a matter of fact, I love him.”

What more can one add?

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