Saturday, 17 November 2007

More Updates

Friday saw a second day of protests at Punjab University, once again targeting the IJT and the JI as much as the government. There is some video of the demo here.

Jailed lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan has become something of a national hero, and perhaps being the only PPP figure who could gain support from a public thoroughly disenchanted by Bhutto, has been conveniently forgotten by her ever since he was thrown into jail on there first day of the Emergency. There is a good article about him here.

The PML-Q has once again restarted the dirty electioneering tricks pioneered by the military intelligence in the 1990 elections. Then, as now, the military had cobbled together a coalition of parties - the IJI, with the now out-of-favour Nawaz Sharif at the head. In 1990 they had printed a fake letter said to be from Benazir Bhutto to an American diplomat, asking for help in destabilizing Pakistan and having the Indian army attack Pakistan. The same letter has now once again found its way into newspapers in Punjab. By the way, this wasn't the lowest the military went in the elections. There was the case of posters of a naked woman, with BB's face pasted on, which were distributed as "evidence" of her depravity. Such are the ways of our "enlightened" democratic military.

Speaking of BB, her niece, Fatima Bhutto has penned a withering condemnation of her in an article in the LA Times which is almost as good as the one Jemima Khan had written in the Telegraph a couple of weeks ago. Its worth a read.

There is a fine article entitled the 'Not Yet Nation' on Chapati Mystery which thoroughly skewers this disgusting notion that Pakistan is 'not yet' ready for democracy. I hold no illusions that democracy is instantly going to make things better in Pakistan, but I also don't see any other way to move Pakistan out of this morass it seems to find itself perpetually stuck in.

Throughout the last week it was obvious that BB and Musharraf were still engaged in their courting dance for forming the next government. On Saturday Musharraf held a meeting with his Corps Commanders in Islamabad to discuss the political situation. The next day came the combative news conferences that signaled a break between BB and Musharraf. So what happened in that meeting? The best source for the goings on in Pakistani military circles is, as always, Indian Intelligence agencies. Here is an account of the meeting. What is most interesting is that those who wanted to scupper the deal played on Musharraf's strong sense of loyalty (the PML-Q has always stood by you and now you are abandoning them) and sense of betrayal (the U.S. is betraying you, BB is betraying you). This squares with accounts of Musharraf's personality by those who have worked closely with him: an upright, honest but generally dimwitted man who places the highest value on personal loyalty in his political and personal relationships.

Speaking of personal loyalty, the caretaker cabinet was sworn in yesterday. Despite Musharraf's promise of having a neutral caretaker government, the ministers are mostly either PML-Q members, or were advisers to the previous government. No signs of reconciliation here.

The Pakistani government has also pressured the UAE government to shut down Geo TV's news channels. Its particularly sad because Geo TV was essentially the first independent news source in the electronic media in Pakistan, and it was definitely the largest and most highly regarded. Apparently ARY news has also been taken off the air by the authorities in Dubai.

There was an interesting article in this month's 'Herald' magazine about the role of the media in Pakistani politics. Unfortunately, the Herald is not online, so I can't link to the article, but here is a key quote:
If one were to sketch profiles of political parties based on recent media exposure, chances are the images thus formed will be fairly accurate depictions. Willy-nilly, the media has revealed the true traits of each party and its leadership. Today, voters - television viewers in particular - are taking stock of political parties, not through analyses and discussions in the media but rather through the sum total of images, body language and messages communicated.

I couldn't agree with the author more. As never before, one gets a real sense of who these people are and what they stand for - the controlled feeding of carefully tailored and crafted media personas that occurs in American politics has not taken root here yet. And the absurd attempts at blatant propaganda on the state run PTV has been failing to influence anyone since the late eighties. A stronger case for an independent media cannot be made than this.

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