An Unholy Alliance of Business, Power and Politics
By Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry
Pittsburg, CA

What formerly was called an act of treachery and betrayal is now stylistically termed as an alliance. Pakistan and its politics became self-sufficient in such unholy alliances with Muslim League as its flag-bearer, because had such re-grouping been any holier than it had been, democracy long ago would have been the rule of the country. Its politicians quite early on learnt the art to be famous through infamy. Machiavelli stands accused for spreading such pearls of worldly wisdom as, “You can get away with murder” that no divine sanction, or degradation of soul, or twinge of conscience will come to punish you.
If you succeed, you will not even have to face the infamy of murder, because when “men acquire who can acquire, they will be praised or not blamed. Criminals are those who fail and lose or who are on the losing side. To brave infamy and to transform it into a virtue is realpolitik. Men (politicians) will not keep faith with you… politics, Machiavelli seems to say, as much as consists in breaking promises, for circumstances change and new necessities arise that make it impossible to hold to one’s word. It is in such a backdrop of shifting loyalties that new alliances germinate and prosper. In the wake of LB elections, Pakistan once again appears to be in the flood-path of alliances.

The party that incessantly prided itself as the founder of Pakistan movement, and is now popularly known as the mother of all corruptions, namely Pakistan Muslim League, in its 1997 Manifesto felt constrained to declare “elected representatives engaged in any private business will be subjected to specific restrictions that will be brought in through appropriate “conflict of interest legislation”. The lofty claim died in its infancy. General Hamid Gul, who often happened to be where he should never have been, has many a time said about his infamous meeting in Model town, Lahore with Nawaz Sharif, when he was about to assume the office of prime minister in 1990. The General had brought together the opposition alliance of Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) that had swept the elections. The General says that he advised the incoming PM to place his business in a trust for the duration of his term of office.
While Mian Sahib did not reply, his father Mian Mohammed Sharif lost temper, saying that all their lives they have queued for bank loans, but now that their day had arrived, the general wanted them to cap their business. At least, the late Mian Mohammed Sharif had been honest in stating when most politicians like to practice tacitly. The results have been too obvious to warrant any comments.
Dwijendra Triparthi in his famous book about the business communities of India scribes a golden rule, which the Mughal rulers followed in letter and spirit. The rule had been to by and large abstain from interfering in the internal affairs of well-knit business communities, leaving them to manage their affairs, and making sure that the merchants, big or small, stayed away from the agents of the government.
The government’s role while adjudicating in matters of disputes had been to remain as neutral as possible. What the Mulghal rulers practiced in the 16th century India later became a universal law in most of the civilized and developed world, requiring politicians to compartmentalize their business interest and public life. Imagine a Pakistan with such a rule having taken firm roots. Long ago, it would have become an Asian Canada. But alas, in the words of Shahid-ur-Rehman (“Who Owns Pakistan?”) bureaucracy began playing the role of a godfather to businessmen and politicians from day one, and business and politics became two faces of the same coin. If Zardari and Nawaz Sharif and many more who ought to have been with them rotted in jail and suffered inhuman indignities, it is only because they erred and continued to err in drawing a line between their business interests and the affairs of the state.
WAPDA, Railways, and CBR, all three major departments deal with the public, and they employ the maximum number of people, and are thereby the most corrupt government functionaries in the order they are mentioned here.
The saddest aspect of this unholy combination is the part that the elected representatives have played, and keep playing: a dual role, which being that when it comes to reaping a rich crop of state-sponsored privileges and perks, they do not shy away from claiming that they are the chosen ones, and hence are above the law that applies to the common folk in the street; and when it comes to obtaining bank loans for their businesses, they see no contradiction in their assertions that they have a right to obtain bank loans, “like any other citizen of Pakistan”. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as interior minister, Asif Zardari as spouse of a sitting PM, and Mian Mohammed Sharif as father of a PM, did not see any wrong in mixing up business with politics. But, then it is not a new phenomenon. Had defaulting on the bank loans been a cause to go to jail, at least half of the current ministers and members of the assembly would have ended up with them. The Saifullahs, Ahmed Mukhtars, the Chaudhris of Gujrat, the Gohar Ayub of Gandhara, the Basharat Elahis, the Noons, Jatois and Sumros, to name only a few, are businessmen as well as politicians and they see nothing wrong in being so. They, as leaders, set the tone; people just follow what they see them doing.

Alliances shift and reshuffle like sand dunes when the political weather clock hints even a minor change in the wind. Washington-based Shaheen Sehbai in his article “US Diplomats Think Ch. Shujaat Becoming Musharraf’s Biggest Challenger” unnecessarily tries to read something, which has always been too obvious to the eye. He thinks that it is a news that the senior US diplomats in Pakistan and in the State Department are genuinely intrigued about the display of almost unbelievable confrontationist posture against General Pervez Musharraf, adopted by the most unlikely of politicians in today’s Pakistani spectrum… the always obedient servant of the military establishment, Choudhry Shujaat Hussain. There is hardly any element of surprise in it. Faisal Sualeh Hayat and Aftab Sherpao distanced themselves from Benazir; Humayun Akhtar, Ejaz ul Haque, Sheikh Rashid, Mushahid and Ch. Shujaat were once the stalwart champions of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s policies.
There had been no dearth of lurking Brutus’ in Pakistani politics. When tried on charges of accepting gratifications in the name of gifts Francis Bacon was right when he said, “Those who strike at your Lord Chancellor now, will one day strike at the Crown too”, and they did. Machiavelli had laid down the golden principle when he noted: “Men will always turn out bad for you unless they have been made good by a necessity”.
The cases of affrontness cited by Sehbai against Ch. Shujaat are: he diametrically opposed Musharraf when he wanted to curb the Jihadis or their political supporters; he opposed the President in his handling of the Madrassas and expelling of the foreign Islamic students; he differed with the President when he wanted the exclusion of religion column in passports, or when he wanted to getting close to the liberal political parties like PPP. Ch Shujaat’s softness on the Hasba Bill of the MMA and his rejecting any changes in the Islamic Hudood laws as proposed by the President are also viewed as his opposition to the President’s line of action.
According to Sehbai, the US diplomats are at a loss to understand where Shujaat was deriving his strength from, because the very nature of the man, and his entire politics, have always been subservient to the whims and desires of the Establishment. He has always been on the correct side of the powers ruling the country, thus cleverly avoiding any accountability or worse, political persecution. Well, it should suffice to say that Ch. Shujaat is doing what he is briefed to do. He is Ghulam Ishaq Khan minus his arrogance. Failure is the fate of those who assert. Ch Shujaat only opines.
To find a Brutus sitting in him is akin to demanding from him to be articulate like Orpheus The melo-dramatic revelation that Ch. Shujaat is getting his vitamins from some Punjabi Generals is an assumption that wants us to believe that the General has fallen asleep on the dual seat that he is occupying or has become a prey to a formidable sense of complacency, which belies his nature as well as style. If he is impetuous and idealistic, there must be somebody who should be cautious too. Ch. Shujaat with all his handicaps and stigmas is one such politician. He may be learning to speak with pebbles in his mouth, it is still better than no speech at all.
You may not like him, but you also cannot stay away from him. This 22nd PM of Pakistan, namely Ch. Shujaat Hussain deserves a mention that in 45 days he did more than his predecessor Mr. Jamali did in over two years. He averted a bloodbath in Baluchistan; he left his office on his own; he announced that the coffin of Ch. Rehmat Ali be brought back to Pakistan for formal burial; and most importantly, he passed the law which authorized the wounded in assault to get medical treatment first before he could be interrogated by the police; he settled the cases of the ad-hoc employees and substantially increased the salaries of the doctors. And of course, he passed the Defamation Amendment Bill which protected him and others like him from false accusations.
A general trend in Pakistani politics is to see the virtues of one by denigrating others. That is why we have either angels or demons living among us. If democracy is to flourish in Pakistan in letter and spirit, then the world must learn to appreciate those who begin to hold a different point of view because a true leader is also one who is a true friend and a true enemy.
The LB elections have brought to surface the real intent of the contestants and the parties behind them. Since the office of Nazim and Naib Nazim etc. has become that meeting place where politics, power and money ideally meet, leaders who once thought it below their dignity to participate in them, have now been seen contesting them like it were a matter of life and death for them. Without proper accountability and punishment for those who fiddle with public money, LB system would in every respect become what National and Provincial Assembly membership had been, a quagmire of corruption.
Politicians with conflict of interest cannot draw that much needed line which separates private business from public service. The problem has become further complicated because now we see all the three, namely money, authority and politics, sitting in great comfort in every politician, bureaucrat, feudal lord and military general. May be President Musharraf can bifurcate the three, because without doing so corruption will eat up Pakistan as it once did eat The Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and currently is gnawing bit by bit all the African and developing countries of the world.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.