WASHINGTON DC, May 14, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Musharraf meets PIA's ex-Chairman Ahmed Saeed, a key plotter against PM Aziz

Musharraf's Farcical Theater of the Absurd

By Shaheen Sehbai

WASHINGTON, May 14: What a farcical theater of the absurd is General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan presiding over.

One day he says something and all the collections of scared political mice around him think he has unleashed a cat in their midst. They start running helter skelter as if the house of horror was falling on their heads.

The next day the General himself realizes his mistake and makes another statement which throws the keen listeners of his 'Enlightened Moderation' song into a spin but is meant to help the political runaways reclaim their confidence.

This double speak before a media unable, or unwilling, to question him, or a helpless lot of unbelieving political allies has been repeated time and again, as and when the General has found himself trapped in either one corner or the other.

But when his last minute salvaging act just barely stops the scales from tipping over, he finds himself back in the middle of the stage unable to determine the next direction he would proceed in.

Soon he starts drifting again, from one untenable position to another, swinging from one end of the spectrum to another and hoping that somewhere, somehow, someone would deliver to him a formula which would resolve all the contradictions of his personality, his thoughts and his ambitions, setting his fears to rest and promising him a safe future.

That magic lamp has not yet been found and the General keeps scolding and replacing his Aladins desperately, ordering them to expedite their search to beat the ticking political time bombs, approaching in shape of one election date after another.

In the middle of this imaginative picture, all what General Musharraf has been saying for the last many days and weeks appears logical. Likewise all what his allies and smaller co-sharers of power have been doing against his wishes also makes sense.

What alternate explanation could anyone give for what has happened recently. Both Musharraf and PPP leaders say serious negotiations are going on behind the scenes between “liberal, like-minded forces.”

But the same liberal PPP has been beaten black and blue on the streets of Lahore and hounded grievously in Sindh and Punjab where thousands were arrested.

When Musharraf says PPP and not the Mullas are his logical ally, the PPP deserters and the ruling PML coalition starts shivering. Willingly or otherwise, Musharraf has to assure them quickly that Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif will not be around in even 2007 elections.

Interestingly while he speaks in definite terms about Benazir Bhutto, about Asif Ali Zardari he keeps the window of possibility open by saying Asif’s political fate would be decided by the Swiss court cases, meaning that if Zardari was acquitted in Geneva, there would be room to share the bed with him.

But whenever he talks in these terms about PPP and Asif, the inflated political balloon of the Choudhries of Gujrat and the coterie of self-seekers and turncoats huddled together by the ISI, NAB and other agencies starts leaking air.

Somewhat similar is the case of Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and his political party.

Musharraf and his men are desperate because time is on the side of his political opponents. Choudhry Shujaat Hussain has threatened more than once that even the 2007 elections could be put off by one or two years. That is where the big Choudhry exposes his diminishing level of confidence in the wizardry of Musharraf.

Because if Musharraf cannot coerce, bait or co-opt the liberals into his fold quickly, keeping his present allies into place as well, the entire chessboard may have to be wiped clean. The failure to find the Aladin’s Lamp may mean that the cleaning act may have to be done by some other General and by that time Musharraf and his Ali Babas would have made an unbearable mess of everything.

Benazir and Nawaz Sharif are sitting tight and happy abroad. Benazir is more than happy.

Just imagine if General Musharraf gives a clean chit to Asif Ali Zardari and is ready to talk and share power with him, the date, time and the historic picture of President Musharraf taking oath from Asif in the President’s House may not be that far away.

Would that picture not be very similar to that Ministerial oath given by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan to the same Asif Ali Zardari, who had walked away with the Pakistan flag flying on his official limousine. A similar picture would place General Musharraf in the same category as the disgraced GIK and I would love to be present on that occasion when the big mouthed General leads Asif to his swearing in ceremony.

Benazir would be enjoying the bigger picture. Is it not a fact that 90 per cent of all the charges against her during both her tenures as Prime Minister were related to Asif Zardari. He was called Mr 10 per cent. He was the bad guy, the wheeler dealer, the friend of friends. He was kept as a hostage.

So the day Asif is declared ‘Kosher’ by the Army, what would be left against Benazir Bhutto and who would stop her and on what grounds from coming back and becoming Pakistan’s Sonia Gandhi.

But any concessions that Asif offers to General Musharraf or the Army, which are not publicly and expressly supported by Benazir Bhutto would mean nothing.

That is Musharraf’s dilemma and in this intricate web of intrigues, deceits, power plays and machinations, the General has been forced to play on the wicket of the politicians.

His own political cricket team is unable to either bat or bowl without his non-political source of power. His opponents are skilled Test players and the General has no clue whether the next delivery he faces would be a leg break, off break or a googlie.

It appears the time has almost arrived when the General stops the match altogether, declares himself a winner and tries to recapture the pavilion. The confused state of his mind is saying much more than his confused words.

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