Senator Talha Mehmood’s Media Circus

Is Talha Mehmood Senator or Media Circus Ringmaster?Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani is a favourite punching bag of far-right-wing political types. With regards to the case of Dr Aafia, the first thing out of the mouths of these people was that it was a set up devised by the PPP and orchestrated by Haqqani who they say is a puppet of the Americans. Only one problem – all their claims proved false. So why are they now calling the Ambassador away from his work to attend a media circus?

If PPP and Haqqani had devised to send Aafia to US custody, they have a much more amazing political machine than anyone gives them credit for. Actually, Aafia appears to have been detained under the rule of Musharraf, that darling of the right.

It was General Musharraf and the leaders of an elite intelligence agency who arrested Dr Siddiqui along with her small children and, having separated her from her siblings, presented her as a gift to the US military in one of the most disgraceful acts ever committed by the head of an Islamic country or by the ruler of any country. The “commando” president would later audaciously claim credit for handing over such suspects (refer to his book In the line of fire). It is this aspect that now needs to be analysed and addressed.

So what has Husain Haqqani’s role been? According to Aaj TV, Haqqani has been one of her most ardent defenders. Of course, Haqqani was working through diplomatic and legal channels, not on TV talk shows.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, has also taken a keen interest in the Afia Siddiqui case given its political importance at home, sources say. He had two meetings with the Bush administration’s Attorney General and has made President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder at least four times to discuss the case. The US government has been unusually considerate in allowing these meetings, American officials point out, as it is not usually US policy to let foreign ambassadors get involved in cases pending before its courts.

Senior diplomats from the Pakistani embassy in Washington have been following Aafia Siddiquis case since the beginning. On the insistence of her brother Mohammed Ali Siddiqui, an expensive team of lawyers was hired to defend her in court with special approval from Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. It was unusual for the Pakistan government to pay top human rights lawyers, who had successfully defended other Al-Qaeda linked prisoners in the past, to defend a single Pakistani citizen who was not arrested while in service.

Unfortunately, that work was not good enough for Senator Talha Mehmood (JUI-F), who has now requested the Ambassador to return to Islamabad to explain why all the money spent could not secure her release.

But perhaps the problem is actually one belonging to the Senator, and not the Ambassador. It seems Talha Mehmood is still hanging onto that old belief that money will buy results. Is this not the same Senator who was exposed by Ahmad Noorani’s 28 January 2009 article for The News, “The sorry story of political blackmail of a 72-year old lady“?

The chairman of a Senate standing committee has been almost caught red-handed while trying to deprive a 72-year-old lady of her only but expensive F-7 bungalow in Islamabad and the story of the legal and physical abuse and torture depicts the plight of all those citizens who are victims of the powerful political elite of this country.

In this gory drama of illegal misuse of power, outright fraud, cheating and use of blackmail and physical force, The News talked to all the parties concerned, met them several times, saw the documents they provided, some of which turned out to be fake later, and found that the old lady and her 90-year-old husband had become victims of brute political influence.

Senator Talha Mahmood Aryan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior, a ruling-JUI-F senator, has been occupying the house of the old woman in a posh Sector F-7 of Islamabad for the last seven years and not ready to vacate it despite high court and lower court’s verdicts while the whole Islamabad Police is openly siding with the chairman of the Senate interior committee.

Senator Talha, when approached by The News, provided some documents for proving the legality of his occupation of the house. However, all these documents given by Talha to this correspondent proved fake. When the documents provided by Talha to The News were found fake, a close friend of Talha, associated with the issue, approached this scribe and asked to mediate and close the issue.

Senator Talha’s anger seems to be based in his belief that justice in America works the same way as in Pakistan where it is simply for sale to those with enough money and influence. In Senator Talha’s mind, our Embassy spent millions to buy a result – so where is it?

Of course, for all its faults, America does not suffer from the same level of corruption in its courts as we do. It is telling, also, that the Senator is happy to make some political circus by calling a hearing for the Ambassador, but was not able to provide any assistance to the actual defense of Aafia.

And that’s what all of this is about, really, is it not? Whether the booing at our Minister or the requests for explanation from our Ambassadors, we seem to revel in beating up our own officials and never considering whether what they are doing is advancing our interests. You don’t win a match by only hitting sixes – you have to be able to hit block strokes also.

If Senator Talha really wanted to help Dr Aafia, why not call a session to go over what has been done in her defence and identify what has helped (diplomatic pressure, surely), what has hurt (her outbursts, certainly), and what is missing from at least getting her transferred home where we can conduct our own investigation and trials.

But helping Dr Aafia does not seem to be at the top of Senator Talha’s priorities. Rather, he seems intent on making a political media circus by calling home an Ambassador for a confrontational hearing. It’s a waste of time that helps no one. Take the advice of another MNA, Ayaz Amir, who is neither PPP nor JUI-F:

This should be a time for everyone concerned to sit back and take stock of things. We have wasted too much time. Perhaps this was only to be expected but now is the time to leave the past behind and move forward, leaving it to historians to fight over the battles of yesterday.

The best interests of Pakistan are served by putting aside petty political battles and working together to achieve our potential and our goals. Unless our goal as a nation is to have more media circuses than any other country, maybe we should stop wasting time on them.

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