© 2007-2008. All rights reserved. AhmedQuraishi.com. & PakNationalists. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. By AHMED QURAISHI, Tuesday, 9 September 2008. WWW.AHMEDQURAISHI.COM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Party slogans pushing back the national anthem, Benazir Bhutto's picture hung right next to that of the great Founding Father of the nation, and a smug-faced Hamid Karzai, Washington's barking dog in Afghanistan, invited as a guest of honor. If you are a Pakistani nationalist and you are disgusted by any of this, check the last item on the list: While extolling the virtues of the founder of his wife's party, the new Pakistani president excitedly waved his hand in the air reminding everyone that his is the party that "took K2 [Pakistan's highest mountain peak] back from China."
What a perfect greeting to our Chinese friends from a Pakistani president on the day he takes oath of office. [Please read my column on how the Zardari-Gilani government deliberately sidelined China in its first four months in office.]
Appeasing the Americans was more important for President Asif Ali Zardari than respecting the sensibilities of the Pakistani nation. So he gave Karzai the honor of becoming the only foreign head of state to be present in the Pakistani presidential palace during the oath of office. It makes perfect sense. President Zardari is an American creation. Washington brokered the deal that made him and his late wife the rightful owners of a staggering unexplained wealth. Karzai is the head of the puppet regime that Washington is keeping alive in Kabul. If the Americans leave, the fate that awaits Mr. Karzai is no different than the one the Afghan people meted out to another former puppet president, the pro-Soviet Najibullah.
During the press conference that Pakistanis watched live today, Zardari and Karzai appeared too small, too insignificant and too unsuited for the offices they hold. Two pygmies. Two historical mistakes.
The Pakistani media, intellectuals, writers and activists have been chiding former President Musharraf for being a 'dictator' and have been extolling the virtues of democracy that won't be complete without the great Pakistani democrats back in power.
So here's your democracy, on the back of an American tank.
When a reporter from Aaj TV asked President Zardari to condemn the U.S. military for its terrorism and the deliberate killing of women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, our new Commander-in-Chief retorted, "There is something called a U.N. Charter. They are in Afghanistan under sanction from the U.N. Are you saying that the U.N. is a terrorist organization?"
Dr. Condoleezza Rice must have shaken her head. 'How come I never thought of this line?'
To his credit, President Karzai actually did chide the Americans on civilian deaths. His words were far stronger than anything President Zardari had to say when asked about Pakistani women and children killed in our tribal belt by U.S. soldiers who sneaked in the dead of the night, barged into houses and opened fire on sleeping men, women and children.
Do you know what the new Pakistani president said when asked about this? He said he has proposed the creation of a support fund for the victims of such operations.
Thank you, Mr. President, for having a big heart.
Never was the Pakistani Presidential palace so disgraced as it was on 9 September 2008. Please mark it. When the President-elect entered the main hall and the National Anthem was played, the ignorant party activists of the PPP continued to chant 'Zinda Hai BB Zinda Hai' [Benazir is alive] halfway through the national anthem. After a few seconds, even President Zardari's famous grin began to contort. And then the chanting abruptly stopped. We didn't see it on the screen but obviously someone went there and told them to shut up.
Have you ever seen uncouth and uncivilized party workers shouting such slogans when a president is administered the oath in the White House? Or when a Turkish prime minister from any party does the same in Ankara? Or for that matter anywhere else in the world?
The best part was the joint Zardari-Karzai press conference. Behind them on the wall hung two frames. A dull, simple picture for the Founding Father, the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and right next to him at the very same level, a brighter and a more focused picture of late Benazir Bhutto.
By Allah, all Pakistanis, let me ask you: Is Benazir Bhutto of equal stature as the Founding Father of Pakistan? Have you seen anyone play such party gimmicks with the picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk? Or with the picture of Ayatollah al-Khomeini? Or Mao Tse-Tung?
What would be the reaction in Turkey if any party activists or a president or a prime minister dared put their party leader's picture at par with that of Ataturk at the Presidential Palace?
So there you go. The first day of 'complete British democracy' in Pakistan.
Karzai's prominent appearance on the President's side during the press-conference came as a huge surprise. To be fair, it may be President Zardari's own way of Afham-o-Tafheem (reconciliation).
More realistically though, going by his recent track record, it would be the commencement of the process of checkmating Karzai as well through President Zardari's own special methods which have never failed.
But these will be amusing to watch.