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‘Indirectly complicit’
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21 Apr 2010
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Shamshad Ahmad

What an irony that it took Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s party and its government nearly two years-and-a-half only to know that she died because the “security arrangements” for her were “fatally insufficient and ineffective” and that subsequent official investigations into her death were “prejudiced” and amounted only to a “whitewash.”

Benazir Bhutto had herself been publicly voicing apprehensions about the inadequacy of her security. She addressed a letter to President Musharraf before her return to Pakistan in October in which she had even named individuals whom she suspected of plotting to kill her. According to the PPP, she addressed another letter to Pakistan’s interior secretary on Oct 26, highlighting her security concerns and seeking foolproof security arrangements.

This sordid tale was further compounded by a story CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had hoped he would never have to report — an email sent to him by Benazir Bhutto through an intermediary eight days after her narrow escape from the bombings of Oct 18 in Karachi. She wrote that if anything happened to her, “I would hold Musharraf responsible,” and that because of inadequate security “I have been made to feel insecure by his minions.”

Joseph Biden, then chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading presidential candidate, released a letter that he and two of his Senate colleagues wrote to President Musharraf at Ms Bhutto’s request soon after the Oct 18 attack on her in Karachi. In it he had urged him to give her “the full level of security support afforded to any former prime minister,” including bomb-proof vehicles and jamming equipment.

In a television interview after the Dec 27 tragedy, Senator Biden deplored that the appeal failed to evoke a response and that the Pakistani government was “indirectly complicit” in the assassination because it failed to provide adequate security to her. “I’m not saying had she had the protection she would have lived, but it sure bothers me that she did not have the kind of protection she needed,” Biden said.

Not only was Ms Bhutto riding an old and defective vehicle and was without a proper security cordon around her vehicle, but those within her own party who were responsible for her security also did not ensure adequate protective cover for her despite the gravity of the known threat to her life.

Amid extensive media coverage, including some telltale electronic images, she had just stood up briefly through the sunroof of her vehicle to wave to the cheering crowd when a gunman apparently stalking her managed to get close enough to target her with a gun. She soon disappeared from the scene. The UN Commission now also talks about a young suicide bomber who blew himself up and who in its view could not have acted alone.

Irrespective of whether or not the UN Commission was professionally competent enough to investigate a tragedy representing no less than a new Byzantine chapter of political intrigue, its report does address the political and security context of Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan; the inadequacies of security arrangements made for her by the Pakistani authorities as well as her own political party, the PPP; events immediately before and after the assassination; and the grossly faulty acts of omission and commission of the Pakistani government and police in the aftermath of the crime.

Her return to Pakistan on Oct 18, 2007, to be followed by her assassination, culminated a year of intense political conflict, revolving largely around the elections scheduled for later that year and their potential for opening a transition to democracy after eight years of military rule. It was also one of the most violent years in Pakistani history. She returned in the context of a tenuous and inconclusive political agreement with Gen Pervez Musharraf, as part of a process facilitated by Britain and the US.

According to the UN Commission, Ms Bhutto’s assassination “could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken.” The responsibility for her assassination has been laid on the federal government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi district police. None of these entities, the report says, “took the necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced.”

The UN Commission also finds this bizarre “efficiency” of the local police in hosing down all traces of evidence from the crime scene as a deliberate attempt to inflict an irreparable damage to any future investigation. In fact, the government of the time never intended to conduct any investigation. It made no effort to go into the circumstances for any meaningful investigation.

That government came out with at least three different versions of the causes of Benazir Bhutto’s death. These inconsistencies raised serious concerns and doubts about the credibility of the government. Contrary to the categorical requirement of the law, an autopsy was also not conducted on the slain leader. The PPP leaders rejected the Musharraf government’s version as a “pack of lies” and “skewed stories,” and the party’s central executive committee called for an international commission to probe into the assassination of its leader.

The UN has no locus standi for investigation into cases falling within the domestic jurisdiction of its member-states. Its role is confined to maintaining international peace and security and ensuring peaceful settlement of dissipates. Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter clearly stipulates that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter.”

The UN secretary general agreed to President Zardari’s request for an “inquiry” through a three-member panel with restricted mandate, only “to inquire into the facts and circumstances of the assassination.” It had no judicial status and thus was not competent to indict or accuse anyone for Ms Bhutto’s assassination. The duty of determining criminal responsibility of the perpetrators of the assassination remains with the Pakistani authorities. Till now, no one knows who killed Benazir Bhutto, and why.

Even the UN Commission has not been able to name any person or persons who could be accused of killing her. It only conjures up circumstantial evidence to attribute responsibility for security lapses on the part of the state as well as on the part of the PPP. The report of the Commission not only blames the PPP as an organisation but also some of its prominent leaders for making arrangements for their slain leader’s security that were characterised by total “lack of direction and professionalism.”

The UN Commission said in its report that “the duty of determining criminal responsibility of the perpetrators of the assassination now rests with the Pakistani authorities, which must carry out a serious, credible criminal investigation” that “determines who conceived, ordered and executed this heinous crime, and brings those responsible to justice.” This indeed is the only legal way for the PPP-led government to determine the truth and not to pass the buck.

Instead of making euphoric claims of “vindication” or taking precipitous action against any

Pak-US ties looking up
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07 Apr 2010
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Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Shamshad Ahmad

The US and Pakistan finally seem to be moving in the right direction. This was a clear indication at the end of their recent “strategic dialogue” in Washington.

For Pakistan, a realistic expectation from this dialogue had been its transformation into a wider “strategic partnership” with clearly defined sectoral goalposts and priorities. This is exactly what happened.

A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said the two sides had agreed to expand the scope of their dialogue and established a joint Policy Steering Group to intensify and expand the “strategic dialogue” process which will be conducted at three tiers on an expanded list of sectoral tracks.

The joint statement noted that the desire to continue these talks at a higher plane was “in conformity with the importance” that both countries now attach to each other. They agreed to take further steps “to broaden and deepen their comprehensive cooperation and to further fortify the friendship between the two peoples.” They will create an investment fund to support increased foreign direct investment and development in Pakistan which would provide much-needed additional support for Pakistan’s energy sector and other high-priority areas.

Sectoral preparatory meetings are expected soon to evolve a mutually agreed time-bound and goal-specific cooperative framework before their next ministerial-level meeting in October, if not earlier. More focused talks will be held in Islamabad, perhaps this month, on “strategic stability and non-proliferation,” an area in which Pakistan has special interest given its genuine demand from Washington for a “criteria-based” approach in its civilian nuclear cooperation policies.

While the joint statement made no mention of any discussion on this question, those privy to the talks confirm that the Pakistani side did voice its serious concern on America’s country-specific preferential treatment to India and pressed its own case for a similar deal.

According to diplomatic observers in Washington, the very inclusion of “strategic stability and non-proliferation” in the sectoral dialogue with special focus in the joint statement is the beginning of serious business on a possible US nuclear arrangement with Pakistan at par with India. In fact, according to some reports, unpublicised talks on the nuclear issue have already been taking place between the two sides for sometime, and are now getting more focused in the context of “strategic stability and non-proliferation” as a formal agenda item of their ongoing sectoral dialogue.

At a meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) on Monday, chaired by the prime minister, Pakistan staked its legitimate claim “for equal participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level” and called for a non-discriminatory approach in international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Pakistan deserves treatment at par with India on the question of nuclear cooperation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implicitly acknowledged this reality when she said, “We are committed to helping Pakistan meet its real energy needs.”

The NCA, which is the apex civil-military body responsible for custodial controls and safety and security of Pakistan’s strategic assets, underscored the fact that Pakistan’s socio-economic development was dependent on the country’s ability to meet its rapidly expanding energy requirements. “There was a need to explore all options to ensure a reliable energy mix. The civil nuclear power generation was, therefore, an essential part of the national energy security strategy,” said the NCA announcement.

That Pakistan is a nuclear-weapons state is a globally recognised fact. The US itself recognised this status immediately after our nuclear tests on May 28 and 30, 1998, following India’s on May 11 and 13. This recognition was manifest in the eight-round dialogue the US conducted with India and Pakistan on equal terms to seek their cooperation on certain security benchmarks. At the end of this dialogue, a clear nuclear parity was established between the two countries in the form of an implicit “strategic linkage” for eligibility to “equal of treatment” in terms of future concessions, including access to technology.

For whatever reason that linkage was scrubbed, Pakistan has established its credentials as a responsible nuclear power by putting in place proper legislative controls and effective administrative mechanisms on export controls. The nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation measures are also supported by extensive legislative, regulatory and administrative framework guaranteeing the safety and security of nuclear materials and facilities. There is no threat to our nuclear assets from within or without.

Concerns and fears about the effectiveness and safety of our nuclear assets are no longer valid. The A Q Khan chapter is closed now. Pakistan has a command-and-control system that is based on international guidelines, including those of the IAEA. Pakistan is already operating nuclear-power plants, and has highly trained manpower and a well-established safety and security culture. Therefore, it fully qualifies for equal participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level.

Pakistan is now pressing Washington for a nuclear cooperation arrangement similar to the one the US has with India. The Obama administration, while stressing the importance of the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, is apparently also seeking to dispel Pakistani fears that the United States was secretly plotting to seize the country’s nuclear assets. There are now reliable signals from Washington that the Obama administration was seriously engaged in “steps to address Pakistani security concerns.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the US is now actively lobbying for “more pressure” on New Delhi to ease tensions between India and Pakistan and to address Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns in the context of India’s role in Afghanistan. It has been revealed that President Obama had issued a “secret directive” for intensification of diplomacy for this purpose. According to some reports, President Obama also spoke to President Karzai in the same connection.

It is heartening that the US is now beginning to show practical sensitivity to Pakistan’s legitimate India-specific concerns and security interests in Afghanistan. Another remedial step required from Washington is the removal of strategic imbalances in the region that have fuelled an arms race between the two neighbours with an escalatory effect on their military budgets and arsenals. What we need in this region is mutual arrangements between India and Pakistan for maintenance of military balance and non-induction of destabilising weapon systems.

We are opposed to a nuclear and conventional arms race in South Asia, and in pursuit of this objective we have been pursuing an initiative for a Strategic Restraint Regime with India involving three interlocking elements: conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint, and conventional balance. In the context of the composite dialogue, Pakistan has also finalised a number of nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures with India.

The US could best serve the cause of peace in South Asia by encouraging the resumption of the stalled composite dialogue between the two neighbours. But peace in this region would remain

When a birth ‘happens’
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04 Mar 2010
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Thursday, March 04, 2010
Shamshad Ahmad

Words once said mindlessly can never be unsaid. Apologising for the ridicule of the poor people of Pakistan in the context of a hapless woman giving birth to a baby in a rickshaw, during a traffic jam caused by a VVIP movement in Quetta, Prime Minister Gilani didn’t know that it is not the words but the routine practice that has become a curse for the nation. What happened in Quetta because of President Zardari’s presence there was not the first incident of its nature. Lahore and Karachi are used to experiencing the VVIP curse almost on a daily basis. People there are fed up with traffic jams due to the frequent VIP movements and are often heard cursing their rulers, bemoaning “for God’s sake, leave us alone.”

The whole city was brought to a screeching halt for the sake of one VVIP visiting Quetta. “Presidential protocol” kept in distress this woman who was trying to reach a clinic or hospital to have her baby delivered. Our president was officially “upset” over the incident. One must credit the president for losing no time in expressing regrets over the incident. He at least showed human concern.

Prime Minister Gilani, who was in Karachi at the same time dislocating the city’s traffic there, belittled the Quetta incident, and this was totally inexcusable. He made light of the woman’s pain and anguish by pronouncing solemnly that “a birth happens when it has to happen” and that VIP protocol was immaterial in the incident. He did so under the full gaze of the media, turning a serious matter into a joke and amusing himself and his equally insensitive elitist audience in Karachi. The prime minister seems to think while the state is not responsible for where and how a woman gives birth, it just cannot compromise on the security of VVIPs.

The VIP culture in Pakistan has no parallel anywhere in the world. Our major cities suffer agony almost daily because of frequent VIP or VVIP movements. As hooting motorcades move around the cities, major roads are blocked and everything comes to a grinding halt, disrupting even emergency services, including ambulance and fire-brigade services. Ambulances are held up with patients in them, who in some cases die because of the delays.

Ninety per cent of the police is used for VIP security. This may boost VIP egos but the government suffers huge losses as a result of expenditure on these VIP-related security measures, including heavy expenditures on unanticipated, ill-planned ad hoc face-lifting of the affected areas for the sake of these visits.

The growing traffic congestion caused by VIP movement and related security measures also have an adverse effect on the overall economy and business activity of the city concerned in terms of billions of rupees lost in traffic contingency planning for each VVIP visit. Common people and businesses suffer financially on account of traffic congestion during these visits. Then, there is also an invisible and incalculable loss of time for every affected person during the long spells of traffic closures on these occasions.

The heaviest cost is, however, borne by the public in terms of frequent chaos on the roads, strain on their vehicles, waste of petrol and diesel during traffic jams, pressure on their minds while their lungs inhale smoke, missed appointments and opportunities and engagements, unattended public security and enhanced crime rate in the absence of the city’s police and security personnel diverted to VVIP duty. The people did not elect their rulers to become a nuisance for them and a curse in their lives.

Appeals from the public requesting their leaders to be considerate and to spare them their repeated ordeals have remained unheard. Two years ago, the Lahore High Court Bar Association went to the extent of adopting a unanimous resolution demanding an end to the VVIP traffic and security culture and describing frequent traffic closures and “protective” measures as “unconstitutional and illegal.”

Unfortunately, nothing, not even public interest, is above the “security” of the ruling elites who themselves remain above law, customs, public opinion, or moral judgment. No laws seem to be applicable to VIPs, especially when they are travelling in the country on an uncharted political trail. No constitutional bars, no legal rules or no ethical norms are there to rationalise their conduct.

No one denies the importance of security for our leaders and the indispensability of requisite protective measures. But for them, precaution would be the key to prevention of any life-threatening security hazard. The best precaution is to avoid excessive and indiscriminate public exposure. The VIPs will be better off remaining closeted in their residential fortresses and limiting their outings and unnecessary movements.

If there are any inescapable state functions requiring their presence, the events could perhaps be held risk-free at the secure premises of the Convention Centre in Islamabad or within their own respective camp offices. They must not, in any case, be giving a sense of security to themselves at the cost of public safety or by putting people through regular torture. The current practice of blocking roads for hours brings nothing but misery to the people and puts ordinary citizens’ lives at risk.

The Quetta incident is a clarion call for the “elected” governments in Islamabad and the provincial capitals to seriously consider ending the VIP culture in all its aspects, including traffic protocol, and spare people the agony and torture they now go through every day on the roads. The traffic police should learn from their counterparts in other countries how to manage traffic flows when VVIPs move around.

And an impassioned appeal to the rulers themselves: For God’s sake, leave us alone.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.Email: shamshad1941@yahoo.com

The coming Delhi talks
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17 Feb 2010
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Shamshad Ahmad

India and Pakistan are set to resume foreign secretaries-level talks next week. It took eight months for India to act upon the understanding reached between the prime ministers of the two countries at Sharm el-Sheikh last June. In their joint statement, the two leaders had recognised that “dialogue was the only way forward and action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed.”

The two prime ministers also agreed in Sharm el-Sheikh that “terrorism is the main threat to both countries” and that their governments were resolved “to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end.” If this was the intent, the two countries, instead of linking the “composite dialogue” to “action on terrorism,” should have reinforced their mutual cooperation in counter-terrorism, for which they already have bilateral as well as regional mechanisms.

A blame-game in public is the last thing the two countries should be engaging in as an instrument of their diplomacy. It is also immaterial how and why India changed its mind. It is also not important if the US played the decisive role in bringing India back to the conference table. It also makes no difference what nomenclature we use for the resumed dialogue. In fact, the term “composite dialogue” was introduced by India in June 1997, which Pakistan grudgingly accepted not to let the substance of dialogue get eroded.

One hopes the forthcoming talks in Delhi will bring some sanity back to the peace process which in recent years has been under assault from the enemies of peace between the two nuclear-capable neighbours. If Mumbai was an attempt to disrupt the India-Pakistan peace process, the ideal response would have been to frustrate this attempt by accelerating the process and strengthening mutual anti-terror cooperation.

Indeed, the India-Pakistan peace process has never been immune to domestic and external factors and has always been vulnerable to occasional hiccups. We have seen that whenever the dialogue process appeared to be making headway, some bizarre incident always took place, derailing and then stalling the process. These glitches have often become speed-breakers, if not roadblocks, in the process. While every effort now needs to be made to remove these glitches, one must not have unrealistic expectations from the Delhi talks.

It might be an opportunity for both sides to review their behavioural balance sheet since they broke off the dialogue process in July 2008, and to retune their negotiating templates. They must adhere to the existing India-Pakistan agenda and the structured framework of principles in dealing with this agenda which has been the basis of their peace process for more than a decade, and in which they have already covered considerable ground in terms of confidence-building measures, especially those relating to facilitation of the Kashmiri people’s travel across the Line of Control.

While both sides should be amenable to make appropriate additions or modifications in their existing agenda, any effort by India now to redefine the agenda or constrict the list of outstanding issues must be resisted by Pakistan. “Talks for the sake of talks” must not be the option for Pakistan. We must insist on building on the ground already covered in the India-Pakistan “composite dialogue” since it began in June 1997. If India is adamant in its “unifocal” approach, Pakistan would be better off without dialogue at this stage and should wait for better times. Given past experience, there is no room for over-optimism in the India-Pakistan context simply on the basis of one or two bilateral meetings. This process requires perseverance.

Both countries will need to be sincere in giving peace a real chance. If possible, they should continue their dialogue process in an integrated manner as an uninterruptible process to build up trust and confidence, and develop mutually beneficial cooperation, including that in countering terrorism through existing bilateral and regional mechanisms.

Steady improvement of their relations requires not only confidence-building measures but also progress in conflict resolution, which should be visible to the people on both sides, particularly on the doables. The areas in which some forward movement can be expected include issue of peace and security, CBMs, Siachen, Sir Creek, the water issue, economic and commercial cooperation, the Iranian gas pipeline, promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields, visa liberalisation and counter-terrorism.

Significant progress in these areas could set in motion an irreversible process of genuine India-Pakistan detente which would not only reinforce the constituencies of peace in both countries but also promote an atmosphere conducive to future progress on major issues including Kashmir. In recent years, both sides have been claiming “flexibility of approach and sincerity of commitment” but the momentum of normalisation will be difficult to sustain in the absence of sincerity on both sides.

In the ultimate analysis, however, the success of this process would depend entirely on the freshness of political approach that both sides would themselves be ready to bring in with sincerity and seriousness of purpose. The people in both countries have suffered for too long as a result of continuing tensions and conflicts and would welcome any new innovative approach that facilitates a “practical and achievable” solution of the Kashmir issue in keeping with the legitimate interests of India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.

India and Pakistan must develop a clearer framework of principles on the basis of which to address their outstanding issues and organise their future relations. For this purpose, regular agenda-specific and result-focused contacts between the political leadership of the two countries would be needed. There has to be visible progress at least in some areas.

The silver lining today is that after nearly a decade we in Pakistan now have an elected civilian set-up, and the two major parties are publicly known to be committed to a just and honourable peace with India on the basis of a negotiated settlement of the outstanding disputes. Their commitment to peace with India is reinforced by a political consensus reflected in their electoral manifestos.

History bears witness to the fact that India-Pakistan relations always saw better times whenever Pakistan had an “authentic” civilian government. Major India-Pakistan agreements were invariably reached only when civilians were in charge in Pakistan.

These included the Nehru-Liaquat pact in the 50s, the Shimla Agreement between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972, the Islamabad Agreement of June 23, 1997, laying down the basis and framework of the structured India-Pakistan composite dialogue, and the Lahore Declaration of Feb 21, 1999, both during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s last tenure.

The challenge for the leaderships in both countries now is to return to the genuine peace process envisaged in the historic Lahore Declaration in which India and Pakistan solemnly recognised that “an environment of peace and security” was in their supreme national interest and the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, was essential for this purpose.

In any case, the task ahead is not going to be easy, given the complexity of the issues involved. There will be no quick fixes, and we should be ready for a long-drawn-out process which must not be interrupted by change of governments or personalities, nor should it be subjected to the vagaries of domestic p

Our never-never land
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10 Feb 2010
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Shamshad Ahmad

Pakistan’s T20 skipper Shahid Afridi was seen gnawing at the cricket ball voraciously in full public gaze. Why he did this is not because he was hungry but apparently because he just couldn’t help it. Afridi’s ball-munching scene indeed shocked the world as an act of limitless dishonesty, and perhaps also as a fit of insanity that one may not have come across ever before in cricketing history.

Our politics and cricket seem to be two sides of the same coin. Corruption is in our blood, and we are always devising ingenuities to circumvent legal, moral and ethical norms for personal gains.

In our country, the combative politics is no less than a cricket match with winners and losers both playing the game of power and intrigue and sharing the bounty together through wheeling and dealing with the collusion of match-fixers. In the first round, we witnessed an ingenious match-fixing by a military dictator and political leaders in the name of “national reconciliation.” In the beginning, Musharraf played Captain Hook and threw googlies at anyone detecting and challenging his no-balls.

The third umpire, in this case the newly independent judiciary, grasped the public mood and quickly ruled in favour of the referee, the chief justice. Musharraf drew the media’s wrath and civil society’s outrage for not playing a fair game. Though bruised, he very much remained in the ground. He continued to apply ruthless means of staying in the ground no matter what the rules of the game were or the public at large thought of him. At the end of the day, the match-fixing in the form of NRO worked. Musharraf’s team left for the pavilion, and a new team led by Zardari came to bat.

But this team soon ran afoul with the NRO and is still reeling on the pitch having been stumped by the wicketkeeper. The team now refuses to leave the crease, and is not listening to the umpire. This squalid political drama has still not come to a close. In the process, however, Pakistan’s largest political party stands totally discredited in the eyes of the people.

This is exactly what Gen Musharraf had wanted at that crucial stage for his last-minute political survival. The NRO, thus, bared the true face of Pakistan’s corrupt and self-serving politicians with voracious appetite for “loot and plunder” that Gen Musharraf had been trying to flag to the people all along since he came to power, seeking to justify military takeovers in the country. Irreparable damage no doubt was done to the country’s politicians who were being punched below the belt and forced to take a full step back. They stand totally discredited. The PPP, however, is the main casualty.

Match-fixing deals are always dubious and have double meanings. For a major people-based political party like the PPP, it would have been far better to make its political comeback through a people-based political process. Elections which were coming in any case would have been the most transparent and dignified route for its “return to power.” It is no honour or grace for any political party to be identified with the scourge of corruption.

The term “corruption” is generally applied to all situations or acts of dishonesty including behaviours of impropriety and unlawful conduct on the part of those resorting to abuse of power, authority, property or opportunity entrusted to them by virtue of their office, position, privilege or class with the sole purpose of self-benefit or for the benefit of those close to them. We are familiar with countless scandals in our country emanating from “acts of dishonesty” and “behavioural impropriety” as a result of unlawful conduct.

When corruption abounds, society at large suffers. It debilitates the judicial and political systems by weakening the rule of law and silencing the voice of the people. A corrupt judiciary cripples a society’s ability to curb corruption. Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law; and corruption in public administration results in the unfair provision of services.

Coming back to Shahid Afridi, he didn’t have to do what he did. But apparently, like everyone else in our country, he represents our national psyche. We as a nation from top to the bottom cannot resist flouting the law. Look at our brazen-faced politicians always cheating the people. Look at us when we are driving with total disdain for traffic rules.

For us, speed is life. Look at us when we are driving. We must overtake those ahead of us lest we miss the “grand prix.” We frolic in leaving others behind.

We don’t even believe in the rule of law. For us, rules of any sorts are nerve-wracking. We just can’t stand them as they have no relevance in our daily lives. We prefer chaos. Discipline is not in our nature. Our freedom is above everything. In fact, we don’t believe in principles because they kill initiative and slow the pace of life. We don’t like anything that curtails our freedom or limits our choice. Alas! Quaid-e-Azam did not get to know us well.

Corruption in sports takes away the very spirit of the game. Cricket used to be a clean and noble game and was enjoyed the world over because of its inherent ethical content. It was the pride of sports in the world. India and Pakistan both made a place for themselves as reigning champions in the world. But ever since corruption and match-fixing crept into heir ranks, they have lost moral as well as ethical ground. The IPL has been the biggest blow to genuine cricket. It is now a gambling sport with no fun or pride for the people who used to love cricket.

Pakistani cricketers have done no service to their country by rushing shamelessly to join this gambling carnival. They disgraced their country by soliciting a place in an Indian “gambling” den. Our cricketers have also been frequently named in global match fixing and doping scandals. Some of them were even disqualified from major tournaments. Now Shahid Afridi’s innovative ball-munching scandal brings new shame to the country.

According to an Australian commentator, it was one of the most bizarre video footages he had ever seen from a game of cricket. Afridi’s behaviour seemed to suggest he was overly confident of his teeth which apparently he thought were strong enough to make a difference to the ball. He also looked confident enough in his deceptive skills to think that he could somehow evade the attention of 26 television cameras set up to capture everything that happened out in the middle of the ground.

It’s a pity that Afridi seems to have trouble controlling his extraordinary behaviour because somehow he thinks that being one of the world’s most entertaining cricketers and as Pakistan’s skipper, he had some kind of immunity from punitive reproach or retribution. This “immunity” syndrome rooted in VIP and celebrity culture in our system must be rooted out if the country has to return to the “rule of law.”

The ICC punished Afridi rather lightly. It should have made an example of him in order to cut this nonsense out completely. But at least it did punish him, upholding the ICC’s applicable rule of law. The concept of “rule of law” is however alien to our PCB which in line with the national character does not act by the law. No wonder, the PCB for the last couple of years has been presiding over the progressive demise of cricket in our country. Its chairman must quit if he has any self-respect.

But who cares for self-respect in the NRO’s never

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