Thursday, October 22, 2009

THE BOSTON BRAHMIN

By Anjum Niaz

Since all the worthy columnists have exhausted the KLB, the new name for the Kerry-Lugar Bill, I have nothing remarkable to add to their sound and fury. Let's instead turn to a small housekeeping matter like: is Foreign Minister Qureshi's son working for Senator Kerry? Zain H Qureshi's (ZHQ) business card is circulating the cyberspace these days. It says that he is a legislative fellow in Kerry's Washington DC office. When I called up Kerry's office and asked for Qureshi, the voice at the other end immediately said, "He does not work for us". The woman appeared primed for such a question. She said she had received a similar query earlier that day. Incidentally the cell number on ZHQ's call card has been disconnected; while the mail box belonging to "Zain Qureshi" was "full!" So, I couldn't get to him.

After a number of phone calls to Senator Kerry's office, I finally found out from one of Kerry's male staffers that ZHQ did indeed work for Kerry but had now left. Why has ZHQ gone into hiding? Did he do something wrong? Yes. And the Foreign Office finds itself between a rock and a hard place. How can it condone its boss's act of getting his son a job with Kerry when the KLB talks were at a critical stage? Even if fate smiles upon ZHQ because he's the favoured son of our foreign minister and the doors of the high and mighty in Washington open up for him, we have the right to know whenever the son's job compromises his dad's position. More importantly if it is in direct conflict with Pakistan's interests.

Would you not call this a conflict of interest? Should the foreign minister resign? And if Zardari cannot afford to let him go, then the FM must seek a public apology.

The Boston Brahmin, Senator Kerry is complicit in this act. Boston Brahmins are New England's aristocracy like the Makhdooms of Multan, i.e. Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his tribe. These guys claim to fame is blue-blooded ancestry, wealth, influence and the right to rule. He said the following during his 2004 presidential campaign: "There's a great passage in the Bible that says, 'What does it mean, my brother, to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead.' And I think everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith . That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith."

Senator Kerry must practice what he preaches. Would he have given ZHQ the time of the day had the young man not been the son of Pakistan's foreign minister?

Why do the good folks fighting Pakistan's case in Washington DC become the usual suspects? In Musharraf's time it was Dr Nasim Ashraf. One wondered whether the Maryland-based millionaire doctor's heart bled for Pakistan or for Musharraf or for himself. Today, Ambassador Husain Haqqani is under fire from certain Pakistani quarters who accuse him of working for Washington and not Islamabad. Haqqani is hitting back via email messages to anyone wondering what's cooking in Washington. Yours truly is one of the unlucky recipients. Surely our ambassador must have known that his boss's son was working for Kerry. Good counselling from Haqqani to Qureshi would perhaps have saved the latter the embarrassment he is facing today?

Another glaring example of how the Democrats are enticing the Pakistani leaders is the recent banner headline: "Zardari far ahead in popularity." According to Democracy International, an affiliate of the Democratic Party of America, Zardari is ahead of Nawaz Sharif in the popularity contest. To anyone with an iota of intelligence, the timing of this screamer is suspect. What has Zardari achieved in recent days for "51 per cent" of Pakistanis to suddenly fall in love with him? His jiyalas, one fears, would declare October 1, the day the survey was announced, as the President's Day – the day of the great revelation. Declaring it a public holiday perhaps?

And when the polls go against the sitting president, these foreign busybodies are kicked out of Pakistan. Gen Musharraf asked IRI (the International Republican Institute), an affiliate of the Republican Party to wind up their office in Pakistan and leave when he got bad ratings from them. Not sure if indeed it was IRI that offended Musharraf, I called up their office in Washington. "What is your column about?" asked Lisa (I couldn't catch her last name) from the press section. I told her politely that it was not possible for me to provide her details of my column. "If you can't tell me what your column is about then I can't help you," she replied sternly. This is just a small example of how Masonic these polling outfits are. They think they have the writ to go around Pakistan poking their noses into our affairs, but when it comes to asking a simple question like if Musharraf asked them to wind up their office in 2008, they get so cagey.

Sadly, the epicentre of our knowledge is the received wisdom from such dodgy polls conducted by Democracy International and the International Republican Institute (IRI). Hey, where's Gallup Pakistan? Have we become so incompetent or doped that we can't even conduct popularity polls in our own country and must therefore rely on America?

We are the opium-eaters. We swallow whatever comes from Washington. While the Democrats tell us that Pakistanis love Zardari because of KLB, the Republicans via their polling affiliate the IRI sing a different tune. Their August polls conclude that "Pakistanis continue to hold onto the opinion that conditions in the country are problematic and President Zardari is perceived as being responsible." If this does not sound confusing enough to an ordinary Pakistani trying to work out the popularity ratings of Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, have another go. According to September 9 report in the Christian Science Monitor, "Zardari's popularity sags - will it undermine Pakistan's fight with Taliban?"

Here's another twister from the Los Angeles Times. The headline reads: "Zardari at fault for low rating?" This gem was published on August 31. "Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is aware that his popularity has sunk to new lows at a time when his arch rival Nawaz Sharif -- who heads the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) -- is boasting high popularity, a media report said. He is widely viewed in Pakistani society not as a helmsman, but a bystander. It's an image that is largely of Zardari's own making, say analysts who contend that he has failed to forge any kind of connection with the Pakistani public.Last but not the least is the recent poll by the Pew Research Centre, a Washington-based institute, which says that "less than a third of Pakistanis have a favourable opinion of Mr Zardari. The president was widely reviled after being accused of demanding kickbacks while he served in Benazir Bhutto's Cabinet in the late 1980s and again starting in 1993."

Give us a break! If by now we don't get it that the US is using these polls as a weapon for manipulation of third world dictators (Gen Musharraf) and corrupt rulers then Pakistan, I'm afraid to say, is going down the tube fast.

Conflict of interest, eh? Here's yet one more example. Do you know how many Pakistani parliamentarians and cabinet ministers hold foreign nationalities, including our president?

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

Courtesy The News
MAHTAB BASHIR
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