The News: The ultimate muk-muka - Article by Ayaz Amir
Friday, October 11, 2013
From Print Edition
That the ruling PML-N and opposition PPP, leading exemplars of virtue and a corruption-free society, wanted a ‘safe’ chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) every last fool in the Republic knew. Energy crisis, inflation, the Taliban, nothing was as important as this, not even the appointment of the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee.
Judicial names were bandied about at first – justice retired this and justice retired that – but all this, as we now know, was a smokescreen. The real name when it came swept all doubts aside and agreement came rapidly: Chaudhry Qamar Zaman. I couldn’t stop smiling. If anyone had paid close attention, even the mountains would have echoed with laughter.
ADC to Gen Zia, all-time Nawaz Sharif favourite when he shifted to that nest of vipers, otherwise known as the District Management Group, rising to high positions under Sharif, but staying right at the top even under Zardari…if this does not testify to extraordinary suppleness and flexibility, what does?
The concern and resultant agony were genuine. Closets and cupboards on both sides full of rattling skeletons – cases against Zardari, colourful things from the past against the princes of the heavy mandate, indeed so many cases that if all were taken up in any serious manner accountability courts across the country would have their hands full for the next five years.
So picking the right chairman was absolutely essential. Even so, Zaman’s choice goes beyond the essential: it is a stroke of genius, muk-muka, that untranslatable native word signifying an under-the-table settlement, not getting better than this.
The pragmatism on display has to be applauded. In the previous government the PML-N weren’t happy with Justice Deedar Hussain Shah from Sindh, despite his clean reputation, because his name came from the PPP. They weren’t happy with Admiral Fasih Bokhari, despite his clean record, and castigated him for his real or supposed connection to the nation’s real-estate tycoon, Malik Riaz. But when push came to shove they settled for this.
Despite their other differences, the PML-N and the PPP were absolutely of one mind regarding accountability: sleeping dogs not to be disturbed, the past allowed to bury its dead. All that thunder and lightning about recovering looted money and restoring it to the people…only the very innocent would have taken this seriously. Tahirul Qadri made much of the word muk-muka but we made fun of him, and his cap, and said he was playing the army’s game, acting at Gen Pasha’s behest, queering the pitch for the 111 Brigade to come marching in. And our friend, the inevitable Asma Jahangir stood in front of the Punjab assembly and said that democracy would not be allowed to be derailed.
It’s like the finance company swindle and the Double-Shah phenomenon. There come mountebanks promising fantastic profits. And seemingly intelligent people, very sharp about their everyday business, promptly take leave of their senses, putting their faith in these swindlers and handing over their money to them. Of course they are swindled and their cries of pain rise to the heavens. But after some time there comes another Double-Shah and intelligent people nearly sweat to be swindled again.
The same thing we see in politics, parties and leaders we have known, whose false promises we have heard before, they come promising the moon and people put their trust in them, only to discover that they have been fooled again. So people howl some more but when voting time comes they vote for the same old parties. Virginity is better: you lose it only once. Human gullibility is there to be exploited over and over again.
Probably, as far as Pakistan is concerned, this shows the poverty of our choices. It’s all very well to say, as I do so often, that the Sharifs are tried and tested commodities and have nothing new to offer. But then we have the Zardari PPP, and Imran Khan pointing out the third way, and generals and super-mandarins we have tried before. So I suppose the perfect muk-muka…we shouldn’t get too worked up about that. It’s a package we settle for: carpetbaggers at the top will lead to the same kind below.
A clever journalist has quoted excerpts from Brig (r) Tirmizi’s Profiles of Intelligence, which I read years ago and thought was now a forgotten book. The excerpts indicate that a bright ADC of Gen Zia’s – you’ve guessed the name right – even as ADC was running a lucrative manpower business on the side.
(Somewhere in the book the brigadier, who spent years in the ISI, has this interesting detail to tell that Indian diplomats’ wives – I think in the book he calls them naag munis – were good at entrapping the unsuspecting by sinuous movements and glasses of red wine…why not white wine, I could never make out. In those years, we are speaking of the mid-1980s, I was very friendly with some outstanding Indian diplomats: Patwardhan, who died in an air-crash in Vietnam – a fine gentleman, may his soul rest in peace; Rangachari, Bannerjee, Gupta, Sood; even Ravi Nair who I later discovered worked for RAW; their begums, all of them, pictures of the utmost charm and elegance. To my regret, no red wine offered provocatively…perhaps because I may have been on the white in those halcyon days, when hope was still young and Pakistan, despite military dictatorship, was a more confident place than it seems in these Taliban-defined times.)
From lucrative manpower business to the top of the accountability pyramid, both sides of the political divide approving…quite a story. My best wishes.
Tailpiece: The country’s top businessman accompanying the PM to China and sitting in on high-level meetings there, and then finding his name mentioned in a Chakwal police report (FIR). This was the doing of a mostly comic district police officer, much in the good books of the Khadim-e-Aala. Once at a meeting presided over by the Khadim-e-Aala this DPO got a round of applause because of a highly fanciful description of his exploits in Chakwal. But he got caught in the slips this time, probably because the Station House Officer (police station in charge) he had to deal with was more than a match for him.
One Noor Muhammad of Village Khairpur, Chakwal, concocted a cock-and-bull story of having been fired upon in the dark by unknown assailants. And while not pointing a finger directly at our tycoon, said that if anyone had an interest in harming him it was the tycoon, his son and the DPO (some old problem Noor Muhammad had with DG Khan Cement). The SHO, whose antics always used to amuse me, informed the DPO that his name was being taken. The DPO panicked: do anything but keep my name out.
Thrice the proposed FIR was read out to him, with the tycoon’s name and his son’s in it. The next day of course everything hit the roof, an Additional IG coming down to conduct an investigation. The DPO tried to pass the blame onto the SHO, the SHO saying, truthfully, that he had kept the DPO in the loop. The Red Army used to have song-and-dance ensembles. The Peoples Liberation Army also does. If the Punjab Police tried its hand at theatre it has enough characters in its ranks to make the venture a great success.