Saturday, October 07, 2006

A break from cricket, please

I don't think I am qualified to talk about what's going on with our team. I don't think our team is qualified to talk about what's going on with our team. So let's shift gears a little bit, shall we?

Our 5 readers know which political party I'd like to see in control - the PPP. I'm not a rabid, march-on-the-street type supprter, but their politics and values most closely align with mine as far as Pakistani parties are concerned. I am also aware of the courruption allegations against Benazir, so don't get your undies in a twist writing in and telling me about Surrey estates and necklaces worth god-knows-how-many-pounds . I am not for one second excusing all that, but I will make two observations: (a) everyone in Pakistan is corrupt, and that includes the Army, which for some reason people think is not corrupt (I'll expound on this in a second), and (b) Benazir was wronged during her first tenure. Of that there can be no doubt.

I remember talking to Hussain Haqqani about the whole BB/corruption thing last year. Now for those who don't know, Haqqani wrote a book last year on Pakistan, and it contained a number of, shall we say, historical inaccuracies (though none on the scale of In the Line of Fire). It was fairly partisan and treated both Bhutto and his daughter with kid-gloves. He also was an advisor to BB during the 90s (though he also had a similar role with Nawaz). My point in saying all this is that I knew very well that this guy was slightly biased. But that said, he did raise some really interesting points about corruption.

In short, he talked about how the corruption of and by the Army is completely ignored by the populace in general, and how all the dirt that is thrown on the politicians is eagerly swallowed, so to speak, by everyone. It's something I thought about for a long time. I decided that he was completely right. People just take for granted things like the Fauji Foundation. But why? Why is that ignored? What about the military's insatiable appetite for buying-land-cheaper-than-it-really-is (i.e. all those DHA's)? I realized that the difference is that corruption by politicans is above the surface, so more easily identified. So when Nawaz builds ridiculously lavish houses and Benazir buys jewellery it shows up on the front page and everyone is aghast. But when the Army sustains itself by involving itself in areas it really shouldn't be, people ignore it because it's a fact of life. Their corruption is institutionalized. So when you have your cornflakes or porridge in the morning, you don't think about the fact that the profits from your purchase of said cornflakes or porridge is going to the Army, or at least someone in the Army. But they are.

What is my point in saying all this? That Benazir's corruption (and Mr. Ten Percent's, no doubt), while depolorable, is no big deal when you consider public life in Pakistan. It's sad but also true. And that's incredibly important because that corruption is the sharpest ice pick with which detractors shred Benazir's reputation.

So I was quite pleased, if somewhat puzzled, by this news. Benazir says Musharraf approached her for a "patch-up" and that there have been back-channel contacts. A couple of weeks ago, I was practically begging for something like this to happen. If it is true, then it's unbelievably good news. However, if it is true, it's also incredibly dumb of Benazir to go public with it. If it's not true, then it's obviously a ploy to exert more pressure on Musharraf, who really is feeling it from all sides right now. But I can't really believe Benazir would just concoct something like this. It doesn't make any sense - aren't there other and more effective ways of squeezing Musharraf? Let's remember, for at least a year, there have been unsubstantiated rumours and innuendo about an alliance between Musharraf and the PPP. Let's also remember that in the last few weeks, Amin Fahim has repeatedly turned down MMA approaches for a "grand alliance" in opposition (two reports, about a month apart, here and here). Is something cooking? I blog, you decide.

1 comment:

NB said...

Good post. I myself feel that because 'corruption' is institutionalised and corporate in the army, in things like the faujji foundation, its perceived as over the counter, and regulated in some way. Whether or not thats true i have absoloutley no idea, im talking exclusivley about public perceptions. So on the one hand you have backhand corruption like the Admiral and his sub kickbacks (which people did see and take note of) and then the more hazy corporate type. There, its unclear as to where legit ends and illegit starts, and the benefit of the doubt is given to the army.