PPP: Liberal Politics or Confusing Messages?

After the 2013 elections, PPP appeared to be wandering aimlessly. It was unclear who was advising, and what the party would look like after taking a drubbing in the polls. For some time, it was not even clear whether there were one or two PPPs. Recently, though, things seem to have changed and the People’s Party looks like it has settled on a particular strategy. However, looking at what has been going on is in some ways more confusing than before.

Let me start by clearing up one thing. Confusion doesn’t mean that there are lies or attempts to fool anyone, but it does mean there are questions. For example, there is the recent issue of PPP officials tellingi media that Zardari was ‘invited‘ to Trump’s inauguration, something that the American government denied.

Trump Swearing In Diplomatic NoteThis was followed by another media report, that actually someone gave Trump $1 Million so that Zardari and Sherry Rehman could attend. What is the truth? Were PPP leaders invited on their own, or were their ‘invitations’ bought? Or is there some other truth somewhere in between? These are questions that hang over the entire affair, and someone needs to come up with an answer for them.

However these questions only raise further confusion. It seems like the PPP leadership has been in America more than Pakistan this year. Last month, news reports were suddenly filled with photos of Zardari and Sherry Rehman taking dinners and meetings with American officials. Most recently, Bilawal has been in Washington giving speeches warning Donald Trump against any attempt to ban Pakistanis from entering America or else to face ‘a host of hostilities’.

This all might have made sense when PPP was in power, but since the past three years PPP has been a minority opposition party. This begs the question who has sent them to America, and what are they trying to accomplish there? Are they working as messengers for the government? Isn’t this what the Embassy and the entire diplomatic corps led by our Ambassador are for? Sherry Rehman resigned her Ambassadorship in 2013. What is she doing in Washington instead of Islamabad? If PPP isn’t representing the government overseas, are they representing themselves? Are they trying to curry favor with the Trump administration for some reason?

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto often sought international support for restoration of democracy, which was sensible because in times of dictatorship, international pressure helps getting a free and fair election from a dictator. Mohtarma Bhutto’s lobbying worked in 1988, 1993 and 2007 in securing international pressure for fair elections. Now that Pakistan has had successive fair elections and transfer of power within our constitutional framework, the real task for the PPP leadership is to win an election at home and define its political positions. The PPP has generally tended to back off from liberal positions under the slightest pressure within Pakistan. What benefit, then, would good PR in Washington with right wing American politicians do for the PPP if it cannot project itself as the party of liberals in Pakistan? American officials, a handful of elected representatives and former Congressmen might meet a former Pakistani President and his children along with a former Pakistani ambassador out of politeness but that is hardly the path to political success for an embattled political party that has significantly lost support outside Sindh.

There are no easy answers, but the questions cannot be denied. If the party was split a few years ago, it seems to have come together, but it is unclear whose advise is being taken and where exactly it is supposed to lead. PPP remains the standard bearer for a liberal progressive democracy, but it is mostly by default with MQM in complete disarray under pressurisation and Nawaz’s unwillingness to sever ties with Chaudhry Nisar and his sympathies. Even if PPP is the liberal standard bearer, though, there is not much sign that they will be effective by taking this strategy of attending expensive dinners in America instead of building the party at home.

 

Imran Khan’s Statement on Trump’s Muslim Ban Tells You Everything You Need to Know About Him

Imran Khan with Prince CharlesImran Khan wasted no time responding to American President Donald Trump’s order banning Muslims from entering the US, and his response tells everything you need to know about him.

“I pray that Trump bans Pakistani visas.”
–Imran Khan

Die-hard PTI supporters will quickly jump to excuse their boss by trying to explain that he was meaning it for the good of Pakistan, so that the country’s best and brightest don’t leave. However, let’s leave political spin aside for a minute and take a cold hard look at the facts.

  • Imran Khan himself lived abroad.
  • All of Imran Khan’s wives have been foreigners.
  • Imran Khan’s own children do not live in Pakistan.
  • Imran Khan has spent years traveling to America to raise money for his political party from overseas Pakistanis.

Now comes the second excuse: All of these people are patriotic Pakistanis because they support Imran Khan, they only stay away because all other politicians are corrupt.

It’s very clever. Actually, it’s too clever. If patriotic Pakistanis stay overseas because of corruption, how would banning them from US change corruption? And what about Pakistanis in London, or Dubai? Why just ban US visas? It makes no sense.

Need more convincing? Listen to how Imran describes “corrupt” politicians:

Lambasting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Khan alleged, the PM had taken money from Pakistan and spent it abroad. “His businesses are abroad, his children are abroad, but he is the prime minister of Pakistan. He even goes abroad for checkups,” he said.

Once again, let’s take a cold hard look at the facts:

  • Imran Khan has admitted forming an offshore company to stash his money.
  • Imran Khan’s children are abroad.
  • Imran Khan goes abroad for checkups.

When Donald Trump’s visa ban was announced, I joked that Mullahs were going to be offended that Pakistan was not included in a ban on Muslims. Imran Khan did not even think to use the religious excuse (yet). Rather he has simply used an issue that hurts regular Pakistanis to support his own endless ambitions while also giving himself all the exceptions. He will gladly sacrifice you and your family if it helps him gain power. And he will do it while declaring it ‘patriotic’. In other words, Imran Khan himself is the embodiment of the everything he says is wrong with this country!

Religious Tests: Theirs and Ours

American protests

Following massive protests blocking US airports, an American judge has blocked an order by the American President blocking citizens of Muslim countries from entering the US. It is an incredible moment that is unfolding before our eyes. While Pakistan was not included in the first list of countries banned, we do not have to stretch our imaginations to predict that we could be next.

Though should express concerned about the spread of bigotry and intolerance in the world, we should also take this moment to reflect on our own bigotry and intolerance. Some have asked if there could be a religious test forced on Muslims.

Have we forgotten that Muslims have already been forced into religious testing, not by the Americans, but by ourselves? Every time you get or renew your passport, you are forced into a religious test.

religious testWhere are the crowds blocking airports in Islamabad and Karachi demanding the rights of Ahmadis? Is there a judge in this country courageous enough to block this act of bigotry and intolerance?

Donald Trump’s orders are extremely worrying, but it is comforting to see the resistance of the American people. We can see the madness in Trump’s bigotry. When will we wake up and fight back against the Trump-ism that has already taken root here?

Are We A Lawless Country?

While some debate whether supreme law of the land is the Constitution or the Quran, I am here to offer another possibility. We have many laws, but we are a lawless country. Let us look at the evidence. First there is PEMRA’s notice to Bol News directing not to air Aamir Liaquat due to hate speech.

“During several weeks it has been monitored that Amir Liaquat host of the programme Aisay Nahi Chalay Ga, in the episodes broadcast on BOL News from January 2, 2017 to January 24, 2017, has willfully and repeatedly made statements and allegations which tantamount to hate speech, derogatory remarks, incitement to violence against citizens and casting accusation of being anti-state and anti-Islam, on various individuals.”

In a country with rule of law, Bol would respond by appealing the notice through proper legal channels. Here, though, the media group not only defied the notice completely, they allowed the banned personality to abuse the government agency on the air!

Next is the case of a massive land allotment to the ex-Army chief. Media reports that Gen Raheel had been gifted 90 acres of prime land in Lahore sent shockwaves and serious questions about the decision were debated…for one day. Then the Army gave a warning about the limits of discussing certain legal matters.


In case it was not clear, the phrase “This debate with intent of maligning Army” is a direct warning to anyone that any further discussion will result in severe action, just as when Army carried out similar threats against media groups in the recent past. Even analysts who are very pro-Army have noted the anti-democratic nature of ISPR’s warning, but such objections assume we are living in a society ruled by laws. This may be true in theory, but what is the reality?

 

When Looting Is Legal

Hearings in ‘Panamagate’ continue, though the case has been hitting some road blocks. Supreme Court Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan has accused Jamaat lawyer Taufiq Asif of making ‘mockery’ of the case telling him ‘You have caused as much damage to your client as you possibly could’. Nevertheless, the BBC report that Sharifs have owned property in London since 1990s has already convicted the case in the minds of many.

At the center of the inquiry is the source of certain portions of the Sharif family’s wealth and hidden offshore assets. These are legitimate questions and in national interest for asking. However aren’t the same questions also worth asking about others?

For example, it has been established that former COAS Gen Musharraf has serious discrepancies in assets, spending millions more on foreign properties than his income as Army chief should support. But what about other cases that are not so black and white?

What can we say about another former Army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, who has been allotted 868 kanals and 10 marlas of land in Lahore estimated at a worth of Rs1.3 BILLION? No one is claiming that anything was done illegally, but shouldn’t this actually ring the alarm bells? The Army chief was paid a handsome salary already, so why can’t he buy land just like any other citizen? And even if some allotment is to be made, isn’t it perverse to grant one man 90 acres of such valuable land? What can he possibly need with so much?

The truth is, in this country there is illegal looting and there is legal looting. How to tell the difference? I think you are not blind…