Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Songs, Blood and Sword... Untruths, Half-truths and Fiction (Part-II)

Author's Note: The 1st part of this series can be read: HERE.

Fatima, who detests Facebook (she would rather have "lunch with David Miliband every day of the week than be on FB"), surprised everyone by showing up on Twitter October last. "Songs of Blood and Sword" isn't Fatima's first book (she has written two before) but with this one she has certainly been getting plenty of attention. If her magic surname, which she has never ever 'misused', was at work when she was sealing the book deal (for a substantial sum of course) or when she was giving interviews to A-list interviewers or when she was chalking out plans for embarking on global book tours - it was obviously absolutely unintentional and totally coincidental! Period.

The sailing has been smooth for Fatima all along, yet she has showed little grace when faced by critics, including an uncle, who claim that the book is full of glaring half-truths or that she has needlessly demonized her late aunt to make a hero out of her dead father. "Pakistani media is spitting blood over it - which is to be expected..." she says and wonders what people who "hate" her have in common! She even got petty with her followers on Twitter wondering how they had access to her account when she had blocked out "undesirables". The real shocker, however, was when she ticked off an Indian follower in Mumbai who said he didn't like her book with: "It seems you care. Why don't you get off my page?" Wonder what is eating Fatima and why. Any thoughts?

During the 2002 elections in the 'land of the pure'... held under Musharraf's watch... Benazir's party was 'disqualified'. 'Coz the leader/chairperson of this party (PPP) was a 'non-graduate' (read the 1st part to get the drift). She being an adept player of the game of chess on the political chess board... responded a day before the disqualification... with a subsidiary party christened as the PPP(P) - Pakistan Peoples Party (Parliamentarians), headed by Makhdoom Amin Fahim (the Pir/Makhdoom of Hala) and registering it. The PPP(P) went on to win the largest number of seats... inspite of the elections being heavily rigged. Musharraf and his cronies with the help of their omnipotent intelligence agencies aka 'angels'... managed to lure away (via liberal doses of threats, unlimited vitamin M and the carrot of ministerships) some members of the PPP(P) into their fold. This bunch was called the PPP (Patriots).

Musharraf the 'surgeon' also assisted in the birth of a new party - the 'Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid' aka 'PML - Q' aka 'Q League' - via a complicated C-section performed on the Pakistan Muslim League (then headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif - the PM he had deposed in a coup d'état in 1999). Nawaz's flock jumped ship almost en masse... those who remained became part of the PML (Nawaz) or the N/Nawaz League. Incidentally the Q in the Q League stood for 'Quaid'... which refers to their Quaid-e-Azam/Father of the nation - Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Some wags said that there were rumbling noises from Mr Jinnah's last resting place, but when examined, the grave was still intact.

Thereafter, Musharraf proceeded to coronate himself as the Generalissimo+Commando+Chief of Army Staff+CEO... and declared his admiration for the Turkish army officer, revolutionary statesman, writer, and founder of the Republic of Turkey as well as its first President - Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. What had the great Atatürk done to deserve this... I don't have a clue. He also went on to pledge "good governance" and "enlightened moderation", though subsequently this proved to be a deadly cocktail... sorry, traditional sherbet/Rooh Afza. He also declared (by waving his closed fist - his trademark punch) that he would "kick out" Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (both two-time former PMs)... if they were ever to make the "mistake" of returning to Pakistan. As a 'double insurance' he incorporated the infamous 17th amendment in their Constitution (?) which barred any individual from becoming PM for the 3rd time. No word was spoken regarding the tenure duration of an army chief who also wore 'several hats'... maybe it is implied that the latter species could keep 'heating' the chair for donkey's years. Musharraf conceded that the amendment was "Benazir specific"... even though Nawaz too got affected. He proclaimed that the 'uniform' was his "second skin"... although he was also found to be wearing a 'Bush shirt' underneath. No wonder the Lahoris christened him "Busharraf"... once the exotic flora residing in the most expensive piece of real estate in the US of A at that time... called him his "tight buddy".

Now, the former great leader and visionary, ex-president General Pervez Musharraf spends his 'valuable' time delivering lectures in the land of the 'cow-boys' plus the land of their second cousin - Europe... for which he is paid a considerable fee. Why think tanks, universities, etc., would shell out top dollar to listen to the lectures delivered by a man whose own education stopped at the age of 15, who was no great shakes as a student... my guess is as good as yours. Musharraf is someone who claims to be a Commando, yet has never seen/fought a war. Never even seen the back of the head or even the hair on the back of the head of an enemy soldier... having been an arm-chair soldier all his life. He praises his own muscles and gloats over how women look at him. He does not even have a sense of history... and claims his biggest misadventure to be his 'victory'. I ask you! btw... he even promoted his memoirs on foreign shores, spending hundreds of millions of dollars of tax payers money.

Wait a minute! A 'superpower' claims to have over a 100 banks declaring bankruptcy. Several insurance companies going under. Maybe HE is one of the reason or more precisely his golden voicebox is one of the reasons contributing towards this 'meltdown'. And to think that several people were/are looking for a certain 'Lehmann Brothers'... ??

Musharraf loves to hear the sound of his own voice. Sample this (his comments on rape in Pakistan): ''You must understand the environment in Pakistan. This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped."

Did I say he is loitering all over the world delivering lectures?? Well not quite. He has never set foot on Antarctica. Maybe the flora and fauna there... especially the polar bears, penguins, seals, etc are not interested in hearing such 'pearls of wisdom'.

Off late Kim Kardashian has more hits on her website than the former dictator - sorry democrat. In other words, the world has still not recognised this wonderful man who triumphantly led a certain hotchpotch country through a golden era of reforms, visionary policies and enormous prosperity. It was during his time that his butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth prime minister, Mr Shaukat Aziz claimed that Pakistan's march to the glorious future ordained for it, was seen in the proliferation of cell phones. Wiser words have not been spoken before or since! He even declared mobile phone imports an industry. During his time, Mr. Bush Shirt aka the so-called closest ally of the exotic flora, General Pervez Musharraf (along with Shaukat 'Shortcut' Aziz of course), continued doing what he thought was in his best interest. Despite significant economic assistance from the international community in the form of aid and the rescheduling of mammoth debts, the economy of the 'land of the pure' did not get any firm traction. The proliferation of consumer goods through printing money brought more misery and inflation to the country. Furthermore, the state of governance got worse during the 'wise and visionary' Musharraf era... as only jihadis and the rich classes (tied to Musharraf and his cronies) prospered.

Here is an interesting anecdote regarding Shaukat Aziz's 'selection' as the prime minister (in 2004). Musharraf and his cronies were convinced that Benazir's popularity in the West were due to two factors: 1. Her excellent communication skills in the English language and 2. She was very good looking. Hence they went looking for someone who had similar 'credentials'. After interviewing some potential candidates... they decided to freeze on shining Shaukat. He also brought along other handy additional 'qualifications'... his skills at fudging figures were/are legendary. Plus his ability to make their wretched Toshakhana in Islamabad pay for everything... even his (and his boss and their cronies') toilet papers. This also earned him the sobriquet... 'shortcut' Aziz.

He also fancied himself as a ladies' man... and bragged - to Western diplomats, no less - that he could conquer any woman in two minutes. Mr. Aziz adopted an overtly romantic demeanor during his interaction with US Secretary of State Dr. Condy Rice (when she visited South Asia in March 2005). And Ms. Rice, instead of being duly enamored by the Prime Minister's suavity, announced later on that Mr. Aziz had indulged her in unnecessary talk. Marcus Mabry's biography of Dr Rice, "Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power" describes in excruciating detail how the Pakistani Prime Minister's charm failed to work its magic on the steely US Secretary of State.

Mr Aziz "tried this Savile Row-suited gigolo kind of charm: 'Pakistan is a country of rich traditions,' staring in [Dr Rice's] eyes," biographer Marcus Mabry writes. "When Rice sat down with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who fancied himself as a ladies' man, Aziz puffed himself up and held forth in what he obviously thought was his seductive baritone." Mr Aziz, who is married with three children, was out of luck. "There was this test of wills where he was trying to use all his charms on her as a woman, and she just basically stared him down," the Dawn newspaper quotes Mabry, a senior correspondent with Newsweek, as writing. "By the end of the meeting he was babbling. The Pakistanis were shifting uncomfortably. And his voice visibly changed."

He is currently enjoying his well-earned break at his 18-bedroom luxury villa in London... after having grabbed almost all official gifts and artifacts on his way out. The gifts and artifacts (including diamond necklaces, gold ornaments, pearls, Persian carpets and jewelled wrist watches) should have been deposited with the Toshakhana as required by rules... but then he is not called 'shortcut' for nothing! On second thoughts... he was merely following his boss. Latest reports suggest... he has been appointed as financial advisor to a certain Indian-born steel magnate... to whom the former PM had sold Pakistan Steel Mills, which was later stopped by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Mr. Aziz has denied the news of course.

Coming to the "mother of all elections" - 2008. Despite irrefutable evidence of the heavy and thorough rigging committed in the 2002 elections (held under Musharraf's watch)... the Americans certified them to be reasonably free and fair. Infact, results were blatantly changed even after the candidates themselves had conceded defeat. A particularly egregious example of this was in Lahore, where the 'winner' went on to become a pillar of the Musharraf regime. Benazir was out of the country... but had indicated that she'll return before the elections. The 'establishment forces' asked the senior and influential leaders and stalwarts of the PPP to operate... minus her (as their advise to the PPP has always been). Wonder why was that... ?? She was finally not allowed to contest in 2002... the reason given out: she was not a 'graduate'. The General and the 'establishment forces' did not succeed in their plans then. The PPP(P) has received pretty much the same number of seats in the 2008 elections... as they did in 2002. This time too... the Americans (along with the British) were extremely prompt in certifying them as the "most free and fair elections" in Pakistan and suitably feting Musharraf. They were the ones to credit the PPP(P)'s win onto the "sympathy wave"... supposedly generated due to Benazir's brutal assassination. The PPP leadership under Zardari (Benazir's widower) alleged that the Musharraf administration along with their 'angels' (in connivance with their powerful backers) had indulged in "intelligent rigging". Note: The non-elected forces that have exercised power over Pakistan's destiny are today known as the 'establishment' in their political parlance.

About this "sympathy wave"... let me narrate a Nasreddin Hodja story. One day, Nasreddin brought home one kilo of lamb meat. He asked his wife to prepare it for the evening and set off to the teahouse to spend the rest of the day. Unable to wait... his wife cooked the meat and shared it with her friends. Returning home, Nasreddin was told that the cat had eaten the meat. Puzzled, Nasreddin grabbed the family's mangy cat and put it on the weighing scales. To his surprise, it weighed exactly one kilo. He barked at his wife, "If this is the meat, then where is the cat?"

Now, the question is... if this is the "sympathy wave", where are the votes. And if these are the "votes", then where is the "sympathy wave"... ???

The despotic Zia-ul-Haq's greatest collaborators were superior judges, as were Pervez Musharraf's when he seized power many years later. It is a sobering thought that all the 17 'pillars of wisdom' now gracing the Supreme Court of Pakistan took oath under Musharraf's Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) in 2000. The Constitution may have had a conscience even then but it wasn't strong enough to deter baptism in the waters of the PCO. Nor was this all. Just as earlier coups had been validated by the superior judiciary, Musharraf's coup was validated too in 2000 in the famous Zafar Ali Shah case. Among the luminaries on that bench headed by Chief Justice Irshad Hasan Khan was an up and coming judge by the name of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. (Refer to the pic above).

The year was 2000 and the self-employed Chief Executive of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf was basking in the 'unabashed constitutional legitimacy' of his rule since the 12 member Supreme Court bench had validated his October 12, 1999 coup d'état. Few months following the 'coup d'état' Musharraf introduced a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) and appointed his new Chief Justice, Irshad Hasan Khan who took oath under this PCO... along with six other judges.

Forty-One out of 43 judges of Lahore High Court, 5 judges of LHC Rawalpindi bench, 8 of Multan bench, Chief Justice of Sindh High Court along with 18 other judges, 11 judges of Peshawar High Court and the then Chief Justice of Baluchistan High Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry with his 5 judges were administered oath. However, six judges including former CJ Saeeduzaman Siddique (who contested the Presidential elections '08 from the PML - N platform) refused to take oath under the PCO and nobody named Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry toed the line of these senior judges sticking to their principles.

Beside taking oath under the PCO of General Musharraf, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was included in the five-member judges bench which dismissed the petition against General Musharraf's dual role of Army Chief and the President of Pakistan. Ironically, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar (whose tenure is now derided as the "Dogar Court" by the legal acolytes and supporters of the "hero" of the "lawyers movement" - Iftikhar Chaudhry) was seated along with Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in this bench and both validated the 17th Constitutional Amendment. Thus... considering his valuable commitment and 'services' Gen. Musharraf appointed Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 7th May 2005.

The rest is history mingled into the hoopla. So much for 'conscience' and 'conscience-keepers'.

(More later...)


1. Fatima Bhutto at the launch of her book 'Songs of Blood and Sword' in 2010.

2. Self explanatory.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Songs, Blood and Sword... Untruths, Half-truths and Fiction. (Part I)

If you are confused and/or are wondering... what kind of a topic/title this is for a post... you are not to blame. The first four words refer to a newly released book... which is being touted as a 'must read'. The author of this book is the (now famous) niece of her illustrious (and assassinated) aunt... the latter being the former's point of reference worldwide/to the international audience/readers.
No prizes for guessing... I am referring to Fatima Bhutto and her much-talked about memoir/book on the Bhuttos: "Songs of Blood and Sword - A Daughter's Memoir". Fatima, now 27, seeks in this book to raise a monument to the father (Mir Murtaza Bhutto) she idolised. Her work is emotional, partial, naive and wholly unreliable about who really did what to whom. The credibility of the book really is suspect, e.g., her deceased Uncle - Shahnawaz Bhutto - who was mysteriously found dead (due to poisoning in France) in 1985 - an event in which erstwhile dictator Zia-ul-Haq's/Pakistani intelligence setup's involvement has long been suspected. Fatima now sees the hand of her (murdered) aunt behind her Uncle's 'suicide'. Throughout the book, no conspiracy theory is ever thought too outrageous to be discounted, and much of the testimony dredged up by Fatima's research is clearly partisan.

Nevertheless, for the past several days excerpts from this book is being published on the net and in the papers... continously. And mind you... at home we read four newspapers everyday - including The Times of India and The Hindu. Plus have been reading/watching her unending 'interviews' on television and in the press.

The Bhuttos are Pakistani aristocracy, feudal landlords for centuries... often dubbed as "the Kennedys of Pakistan". The author tells proudly of a British officer conducting a census in Sindh during the British Raj, who told a subordinate: "Call me when you've finished detailing the Bhutto land." Several days later he asked why he had heard nothing, and was told: "I'm still working on the Bhutto lands." Fatima who is aggressively promoting her book... got a rousing welcome in India for her book launch and in a bid to tap the huge market, she played to the gallery by wearing a saree and a bindi. She was on a book tour in namma Bangalore/Bengaluru as well on April 5... but I missed the event... due to my current health condition.

Well, let me also state... if you are someone with a keen interest in history/current affairs/politics and/or are a book reader... this series of posts may hold your interest. I intend to review this book by delving into history... particularly our sub-continental history, both contemporary and from another era. So, read on...

'If there is anyone born to write this story, it is Fatima', proclaims the New Delhi-based British journalist and author Billy D on the cover of her new book. This is the same gentleman who is reportedly close to a certain pair of brothers (in the 'land of the pure'), one of whom is renowned for his love for nihari and paya... and is currently touted as the 'most popular political leader'. This is also the Billy D whose annual 'Literature Festival' @ Jaipur is very popular. This is where he unveiled Fatima as the 'star attraction'... in Jan '08... soon after Benazir's assassination. Billy D concedes that he met the lady (Benazir) only once. That one meeting he has used with variations to hawk in various articles. Like the legacy of all historic figures, Benazir's legacy will also be a mixed one, but it should be presented in the context of Pakistan's realities, not without them. In his 1994 piece on Benazir, he made fun of her Urdu accent and found it strange that she should have liked a certain make of ice cream, which to him was proof enough that she was a 'feudal princess'. Indeed!

When it comes to invoking pathos, romanticising her father's life, glorifying his (questionable) legacy or retelling grandpa's (Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) political history, the daughter of Mir Murtaza Bhutto is, no doubt, the perfect candidate. Fatima's book is a cautionary tale designed to give the more controversial members of the first family (of Pakistan) a makeover and an aura of respectability. As expected, the book is a passionate argument against whatever her controversial father had been accused of, and, of course, this being Fatima Bhutto, she makes sure to every now and then ridicule her aunt, Benazir Bhutto, who, as a character in the book, is always lurking somewhere behind, manipulating, sulking and having a 'split personality'.

While the media... both domestic and international hangs on her every word, and asks her 'soft questions'... designed to reinforce the contents of her book; there is a 'collective amnesia' regarding her beloved father's activities and legacy. At least among a majority of the press/media that is. As to why this amnesia has suddenly been generated... my guess is as good as yours. As to why Fatima and her immediate family had remained dormant (vis-a-vis her father's murder) during the Nawaz Sharif years and most of Musharraf's dictatorship... I have no clue. She (and her immediate family) stirred to life and began regurgitating the familiar accusations (directed at Benazir and Zardari)... for the murder of her father, once it became clear that Benazir was returning to Pakistan... with or without Musharraf and his ruling clique's approval. Only this time Fatima's vitriolic outbursts actually found their way into the newspapers all over the world... especially the British and American press/media.

The London based Jemmy Goldylocks (or is it Jemmy K?) too joined in... posing variously as a journalist, political analyst and an expert on foreign policy/affairs especially with respect to South Asia/sub-continental politics. What were/are her bona fides for these various 'avatars'... I don't have a clue. In any case she called Benazir "a kleptocrat in a Hermes scarf"... which made it to the front pages of leading British newspapers. Coming from the heiress daughter of one of 20th century's most notorious corporate raiders... that was very 'rich' indeed. Jemmy and Fatima are buddies... and the former has even 'interviewed' (The Rebel Inheritor) the latter for Vogue - a fashion and lifestyle magazine. This I think should establish her credentials as a journalist... beyond a shred of doubt, no?

And Oh... she had even endorsed Fatima as the most suitable person to lead the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) - Pakistan's only national party with grassroots support - after Benazir's assassination... vouching for her abilities as an "established writer and political commentator". Fatima was/is not even a member of that party! Neither is Jemmy... although this hasn't stopped her or others from nominating its leadership. Such presumption when it comes to the PPP is in sharp contrast to the restraint regarding other political parties. Plus: Ms Goldylocks/K has the cheek to comment on 'death duties and family patronage'. She owes her lifestyle/position/job to her late father... wasn't he the one who chose to be flown around the world while on his death-bed... to avoid paying death duties? (You can read her piece at: If a Bhutto must run Pakistan, why not Fatima?)

Not to be outdone, her former husband Immy K... too joined in, and wrote (ghost written?) several articles denouncing Benazir. Needless to say they all found their way into the front pages of leading British and US newspapers... while Immy himself was showcased on every British and US news channel spouting his priceless pearls of wisdom. Currently... after his tremendous 'success' in domestic Pakistani politics... he is engaged in campaigning for his former brother-in-law - Zak Goldylocks - in the UK. The doting sister of Zak is doing her bit too (read it) and is being praised to the skies by the Telegraph. Naturally!

Immy is urging all Pakistanis and Muslims in Britain to support Zak's candidacy (for the Conservative Party) in Britain's upcoming elections (May '10)... because Zak is like a younger brother to him, and he (Immy) has checked him out and endorsed him. Immy claims that Zak is an anti-war candidate and had in fact paid for the television screens at the anti-war rally at Trafalgar Square prior to the Iraq War, and thus must be supported by the Muslims. Interestingly, Zak's opponent in the Richmond Park constituency, from where he intends to contest the election, is Susan Kramer, the incumbent from the Liberal Democrat Party.

For those unfamiliar with British politics, let me reproduce the party-based Iraq War vote count in the House of Commons: 139 Conservative Party candidates voted for the war, while only 15 opposed it; 244 Labour Party candidates voted for the war, while only 69 opposed it; but all 63 Liberal Democrat Party candidates voted against the war, with none supporting it. It is therefore clear that the Conservative Party is the most pro-war, as only 9.7 percent of its candidates opposed the war, in comparison to 22 percent of the Labour candidates and 100 percent of the Liberal Democrat candidates, thus making the Liberal Democrats the only anti-war party of the three mainstream parties.

Zak Goldylocks has been reported on in the British press for a variety of reasons including being expelled from school at the age of 17 because cannabis was allegedly found in his room, for having one of the costliest divorces in Britain, for avoiding millions of Pounds in British taxes by maintaining "non-domicile" status through offshore trusts set up by his father, and for rearing pigs at his organic farm in Devon.

How Immy Khan continues to mislead and what Zak is all about can be read in detail at: Who is Imran fooling?

This is the same man who went about claiming that the Pak cricket team lost the 1996 cricket world cup (could not defend the cup, that is) 'coz the PM of the country was a lady. And that this angered the Almighty... therefore, He 'punished' the inhabitants of the 'land of the puree'... with such a terrible 'shame and dishonour'. He said several other things and went ballistic. Spearheaded protest marches (along with the 'colourful beard' brigade) with strange slogans and banners. It was made to appear as if Pakistan had lost face in front of the entire world and that this was the worst ever humiliation for the country... all due to the (wrong) gender of the prime minister. The western media, led by the British press (of course) played it up... and turned him into a royal pathan Prince, a true warrior, etc.

What is the secret of the huge wealth of the land of the pure's version of Moose Miller... ??? He comes from an ordinary background and couldn't pay the tution fees @ college. He played cricket when the game had plenty of glamour, but very little money. Not many ads too. He failed as a writer, columnist and a commentator.

Benazir was not allowed to contest the 2002 elections... during the height of Musharraf's military rule. The reason given out was... she was not a graduate. This... despite both Harvard and Oxford attesting her claims. She was a very distinguished student at both these universities. The Courts in Pakistan as well as the Election Commission there... refused to accept those claims. Even a huge section of the foreign media dubbed her as a 'non-graduate'... ??? The domestic media followed suit... almost wholesale. Despite the fact that they (both the foreign and domestic media, that is) never tire of asking while rolling their collective eyes: 'How can she, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford settle for an arranged marriage?' Or 'How can an impeccably pedigreed woman like her... a Harvard and Oxford grad to boot... agree to marry 'down'/'beneath her'? Or better still... 'We can't believe she married a guy like that... he lacks sophistication'. Apparently (as per media reports) Zardari prefers to use his fingers during meals.

While Immy Khan who has a third class degree from Oxford, in the same stream... he was her contemporary there (maybe a year senior)... was allowed to contest. Ms. Bhutto was a first class (honors) grad. [Hmm. 'Tarang Tarang' - that is the suspense music... playing in the background, my friend.]

P.S. I am not pro or anti anyone... especially since I do not belong to that country :) My comments should not be construed as defending Benazir or Zardari either. Whether s/he was/is good/bad/ugly or worse... only time will tell. Let history judge them. Benazir has been a controversial figure and will remain so. All figures/characters in history are controversial. There are no shortage of people who disagree or hate her while there are millions who do just the opposite. With that anticipatory bail I end the 1st part of this series. I will discuss about dynastic politics, patriarchy, AZO... etc., in my subsequent posts. Don't go away!

(More later...)


The front cover of the book "Songs of Blood and Sword - A Daughter's Memoir". Pic courtesy: link.