SECOND OPINION: Sources of vituperative politics —Khaled Ahmed’s TV Review
PPPP and PMLN are odd bedfellows with their mutually-inflicted ideological wounds band-aided for the time being. PMLN’s opposition to the MMA ‘deal’ with Musharraf thinly hides its one-way love affair with the clerics. Splitting parties add to the cacophony of vituperative politics in Pakistan. Any objective observer will say that in Pakistan politicians do more badmouthing than anywhere else
Where do the political parties stand in their opposition to President Musharraf? All of them hate Musharraf. PPPP and PMLN hate him because he broke their elected members and took them on board in a manner that could not be called the cleanest in the world. The MMA hates him because he stands athwart their path to power. The parties are in ‘united’ opposition in parliament and the country is ringing with criticism of the government, creating the impression that Musharraf must be the most unpopular man in Pakistan. But how united is the opposition?
ARY (January 8, 2005) PJ Mir talked to PML’s Kabir Ali Wasti, PMLN’s MNA Khwaja Saad Rafiq and MMA’s Hanif Abbasi on the economic achievements of the government in its first year. Wasti said there were $12 billion worth of reserves, which was a record. Pakistan was out of the IMF and there was low inflation with low interest rates. Gwadar had come up with Pasni-Gwadar road and there were small dams planned for the provinces. The media were free and there was freedom to hold meetings and rallies. He said banking was back on its feet. The common man was under pressure but on that score other governments too would have been helpless. Khwaja Saad Rafiq said the year had been tragic for the people. He said economic claims were false because the reserves had swelled because of 9/11. He said the poor were crushed as kerosene had increased in price 12 times. He said there was another Bangladesh coming up in the Tribal Areas. He said there was no difference between Wana and Falluja. This was all done to please the Americans. The prime ministers were changed three times. The provincial assemblies were forced to pass resolutions in favour of the uniform. MQM’s Altaf Hussain was allowed to speak against the very idea of Pakistan. Abbasi said MMA had been constructive in its criticism. On textbooks and Wana it criticised the government. It opposed the new method of induction into the ISI. (Wasti said the MMA and Maududi had been opposed to the Quaid. To which Abbasi said that Maududi was brought on the radio after 1947 to speak on Islam.) Saad Rafiq said MMA gave safe passage to Musharraf four times, but Musharraf betrayed MMA. Wasti replied that Nawaz Sharif was close to General Zia and Zia had said he wanted his years attached to Nawaz’s. Abbasi said corruption was at its highest and the government must not change textbooks to take out Islam and insert wrong information about the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Wasti said there were two agreements with the MMA and the one signed by Qazi Hussain Ahmad was betrayed by him after which Musharraf too turned away from his deal.
National economy is also judged more objectively by outside agencies, therefore, the opposition must learn to be more supple in debunking it. Yet brushing it aside in non-relativist terms is okay in Pakistan for their immediate purposes. Wana and Falluja cannot be compared unless it is done to the disadvantage of the opposition. PPPP and PMLN are odd bedfellows with their mutually-inflicted ideological wounds band-aided for the time being. PMLN’s opposition of the MMA ‘deal’ with Musharraf thinly hides its one-way love affair with the clerics.
GEO (January 4, 2005) had Iftikhar Ahmad interviewing Mr Hamid Nasir Chattha in his Jawabdeh programme. Did Chattha say that Benazir and Begum Nusrat Bhutto had taken money from India to break up Pakistan? Chattha said his PML seniors said it, but he was against Bhutto from 1976 because Bhutto was a dictator. He believed that he broke up Pakistan but today he thought he (Chattha) had been wrong. Bhutto was indirectly responsible among many other factors. He said he had shaved off his moustache after 1971. He said Wattoo was not right in saying that he wanted to oust him in Punjab and become chief minister because he did only federal politics. He denied he was doing any saaz baaz with Benazir Bhutto. He disclosed that Nawaz Sharif had asked him to go to Sindh with the corpse of Junejo to ask his son to accept Nawaz Sharif as the next party chief. As head of Kashmir Committee he was convinced that India will give Pakistan dhoka (deceive) in the composite dialogue.
The post-Zia split in the PML was not the cleanest thing to happen in the party’s history. Now the conservatives had to do a two-sided mud-slinging, one against the arch-enemy PPP and the other against the Junejo League which later characteristically split into more factions. Splitting parties add to the cacophony of vituperative politics in Pakistan. Any objective observer will say that in Pakistan politicians do more badmouthing than anywhere else.
GEO (January 4, 2005) Capital Talk of Hamid Mir discussed the Kalabagh Dam with Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, PML’s Qaim Imam, PPP’s Navid Qamar, and Syeda Abida Hussain, etc. Haji Bilour said that there were already Warsak and Tarbela on two sides of Peshawar; if the third one was built in the middle the city would drown. He accused Punjab of stealing the water of Sindh even after President Musharraf had banned such activity. Syeda Abida Hussain said that Basha Dam should have been built because Kalabagh was too controversial but the generals did not understand these issues. In their era other states grabbed Pakistan’s territory. State minister for water resources Qaim Imam said that the NWFP was getting four more dams including Gomal Zam, and Balochistan and Sindh will get their share of canals and dams. He said if small dams were okay then the big dams too should be okay. He said Basha was risky because it brought 110 kilometres of KKH under water, which would take nine years to rebuild. Basha Dam may take 20 years in completion. Haji Bilour said in 1985 the Peshawar Assembly had passed a resolution against Kalabagh which was unanimous when Sherpao was chief minister. He said NWFP passed it three times, Sindh five times and Balochistan once. He said 100,000 people would be displaced, land will go too. IRSA chairman Gandapur had said Kalabagh was wrong. He said Punjab was benefiting itself at the cost of the NWFP, taking canals out of Kalabagh for Rahimyar Khan. This was against the Pushtun nation. He said when Muslim League divided Punjab in 1947, it lost also the river waters from Kashmir. He believed that the partition was wrong and the referendum in the NWFP was bogus. Navid Qamar stated that the PPP believed that the matter should be made consensual. He said in the 1991 water accord Kalabagh was not mentioned by name but a big dam was mentioned. Experts from France and other countries had rejected Kalabagh. He said if there was not enough water damming it would benefit Punjab.
The Kalabagh Dam belongs to the politics of sub-nationalisms in Pakistan, as becomes clear from this discussion. Facts and figures have become irrelevant and are constantly distorted. Kalabagh could have been built under some dictatorship. Democracy cannot take the big decisions. *