An IDC Report


New Delhi, 14 July 2004

This article by the Pak scribe Ayaz Amir, a familiar figure in India because of his many visits and bold writings, appeared in "DAWN' give readers a glimpse of the mood in Pakistan, and its connotations with USA's impending elections.

Sentinels At The Gate

By Ayaz Amir

Here at last we have it in black and white, what many people in our frontline state had long suspected: that the United States is pressing Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden to ensure a Bush victory in the presidential election.

This story, which is about to hit the newsstands and which already has been reported by CNN, is in The New Republic, a moderately influential Washington journal. Pakistan intelligence officials (unnamed of course) are cited as sources.

The Bushites would love to have Osama's scalp by end July so as to take the shine off the Democratic convention later this month. Failing that they'd definitely want it before the votes are cast on November 2.

The Americans haven't been able to pull off this coup by themselves. Indeed, the occupation or 'democratization' of Afghanistan is proving to be a messy affair, the Taliban resurrected and staging more attacks rather than being finished, much of the country still being given over to warlordism and Karzai as little of a strongman as when he was first installed in Kabul.

So the dirty or spectacular work - depending upon the angle you're looking from - is being expected of the ever-reliable Pakistan army. This army is already trying to be as helpful as humanly possible, the Wana operation being an example of its readiness.

But if Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri or Mullah Omar are not to be found for love, satellite imagery or money, what is Pakistan to do? To suppose that any of these figures is in our tribal belt is to stretch credulity to its limits. So we have a problem here, as much for the Pakistan army as for the Americans.

All this shows how desperate the Bush camp is getting as the end-game in the presidential election approaches. Iraq is a true quagmire with one, two or more Americans dying every day. As for the economy, between now and November

don't expect a million jobs to be created. So barring a miracle Bush is on a slippery slope.

Only a double whammy can rescue him: a fall in US gasoline prices, which will fuel a temporary feel-good factor, and for which Saudi help is needed, and a an Osama or Mullah Omar scalp which can be used to dazzle the American people. For this Pakistan is considered crucial.

Much hinges on this US election. No wonder, millions of people around the globe, although not lit up or enthused by the Kerry campaign, are hoping fervently for a Bush/Cheney drubbing as the least the duo deserves for its lies and arrogance.

I think even the Pakistani political scene will be affected by the US election for the simple reason that this Pakistani government has tied itself firmly to the coattails of the Bush administration. Once this link is snapped some consequences, even if not all that clear at present, can be expected to follow.

Pakistan will lose none of its geographical importance and, as long as the Al Qaeda threat remains and Afghanistan festers, President Musharraf will be looked upon as an important ally. But any change in Washington can be expected to have a bearing on Musharraf's decision to retain or discard his uniform. So don't expect any decision on this issue before the outcome of the US election is known.

Meanwhile there is no shortage of other events to keep the people of Pakistan occupied. As a sample, consider this, the views expressed in the Urdu paper, Khabrain, by a former inspector-general of police for the Punjab province, Sardar Muhammad Chaudry.

"Shaukat Aziz may be a good finance minister," says the inspector-general, "but I fear that after becoming prime minister he will do such things that will pose a danger to Pakistan because he will not be representative of the spirit of Pakistan.

(Reason): for all practical purposes he will have been elected by Hindu votes (a reference to the sizable Hindu population in the Tharparkar constituency in Sindh, one of two constituencies from which Aziz is standing), not Muslim votes. This is a clear negation of the ideology of Pakistan, of Pakistan itself, and of the thinking of Allama Iqbal and Hazrat Quaid-i-Azam."

Last week I wrote half a phrase in favour of Aziz and because of that received an e-mail asking me whether I had been bought over. My answer was I had been offered the presidentship of two banks and was considering which one to choose.

Mentioning Aziz the second week in a row runs the risk of painting me as a public relations manager for what newspapers here are calling the prime minister-in-waiting, surely a constitutional first for any country.

But I have picked up this priceless quote not because I am bowled over by Aziz's economics - I am not - but because, frankly, the quote is priceless. It requires a florid imagination to come up with something like this and it sets you wondering what kind of people have risen to the top in our central services.

I may add that Sardar prides himself on his political connections and on the 'political' role he played as a police officer. But this observation of his takes the prize and shows what mettle he is made of.

If these were the observations of an individual it wouldn't matter. Every society is entitled to its share of bizarre philosophers. Sardar, however, is emblematic of a way of thinking, and indeed a school of thought, which flourishes in Punjab and, I daresay, Karachi, the other great bastion of the theory known as the ideology of Pakistan.

By a process of subliminal association, Sardar reminds me of something I read years ago in the memoirs of a former spook, one Brigadier Tirmizi, who was in the ISI in the eighties.

Titled "Profiles of Intelligence", the author recounts past triumphs and glories, the turning and recruiting of agents, etc. The book as a whole is an intriguing read with much that would appeal to anyone with an interest in cloak-and-dagger stuff. But what excited me no end was what the brigadier had to say about Indian seduction techniques. I can do no better than let

him speak in his own words.

"Mostly," says the brigadier, "exclusive parties are held at the residences of diplomats amidst dimly lit candles, oriental music and red wine. Wives of some Indian diplomats, attired in their traditional saris, are always there to entertain and engage their guests in sweet conversation. Probably few other cultures and traditions nurture their girls in more soft and serene mannerism (sic) than the (sic) Hindu culture."

Here the pace quickens: "These aphrodisiac (sic) nagmanis with naked bellies linger over their guests throwing meaningful smiles here and there. The stage is set with such a delightful but cunning perfection that the guests cannot resist and soon get disarmed. They start to speak out their minds. As the saying goes, 'when the wine sinks, the words swim'."

Two things have me foxed. Firstly, why only red wine, why not white? Or is red wine more conducive to the higher art of seduction because of its dangerous colour? Secondly, aphrodisiac is a noun.

Why is the brigadier using it as an adjective? Or does he want to suggest the full gamut of emotions from wild to licentious and could hit on nothing as fully descriptive as this word?

Anyway, in the light of this useful information I must decry my own inadequacy. Although I have known Indian diplomats off and on now for nearly twenty years, and have even been to their residences, I must sadly report that I have yet to be showered with meaningful glances by any aphrodisiac nagmani (snake-woman). But the brigadier's narrative is such a heart-warmer that I live in hope.

I don't know how the years have treated Tirmizi, whether he potters about in his garden or has been gathered to his fathers. But with his kind in the ISI and guys like Sardar in the police force, it is reassuring to know that the country's moral frontiers - never mind the physical ones - are well guarded.

Disclaimer   Copyright