Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad
As stated by Simon Templar, Thug life is a term used by gangsters to glorify their law breaking, heady crime sprees. Nothing describes the misrule of two successive, so called democratically elected governments in the unstable, underdeveloped 200 million strong South Asian state of Pakistan. How thieves, plunderers and freebooters came to rule this nuclear armed state is a sad tale in itself.
Ruled by military ruler General Parvez Musharaf who took over in a military coup in 1999, the country became a close US ally after 9/11 and witnessed an era of growth and stability under military rule. However when Musharaf reached his limits of flexibility, it was decided by the US and British to force him bring back the two tainted, condemned political leaders in exile and to wash away all their sins under a dubious order in the name of national reconciliation. As in the Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, there was also a hungry, eager, more flexible General waiting in the wings to replace him, and Deputy Chief Kayani used military intelligence and a judges restoration movement to cripple the erstwhile strongman, now out of favour with the US.
A final thumbs down from the US Ambassador compelled Musharaf to resign and after the mysterious, unsolved murder of Benazir Bhutto, her thuggish husband, the upstart, criminal uneducated, corrupt and much reviled Asif Zardari came to power. The deal with the West was that we bring you back, wash away your past sins and you squeeze the Army.. The game began and new Chief Kiyani turned a blind eye, as he had brought the devil to sup at the table and was also busy improving his impoverished families financial condition. So well did this team work that General Kiyani got an unprecedented three year second term, Zardari became a billionaire, Kayani from rags to millionaire and the country went to the dogs. The US with its two boys in place, in charge of the presidency and military, violated Pakistani sovereignty and physical boundaries at will, using drones, choppers, covert assassins and whatever they chose. As per the unholy charter of kleptocracy, Sharif kept silent during Zardaris plunder and he returned the favour after Sharif took over in 2013. Simple math, over invoice $ 50 billion of Chinese funded projects-whether needed or not- by ten percent, sign sovereign guarantees, leave future generations to pay off horrifying debts and pocket 5% off the top! Walk away with a cool $ 2.5 billion dollars. Astonishingly simple as it is audacious. Where Zardari was a street thug, looting millions, forcing neighbours to sell their properties on the cheap, the plunderers from Punjab, whose father made pots and cooking utensils with his bare hands are now certified dollar billionaires thanks to massive bank defaults, and international cuts commissions and kickbacks.
Wow! Wonderful, just one mistake… Sharif, egged on by vicious anti military Advisers like Junior Minister for Foreign Affairs Sayed Tarik Fatami, kept on targeting the by now restive and powerful Pakistan military. The leakage of information pertaining to thousands of offshore companies incorporated in Panama signalled the end for the strangely absent Sharif regime. Perhaps the most corrupt and worse administered government in the history of Pakistan, certainly the most hypocritical. Destroying the civil service structure, promoting nepotism, turning state servants – especially in the Punjab – into glorified pimps and facilitators. One poor married lady was famously peddled by her husband out to Sharif. His younger brother in turn was rewarded with top administrative positions for his immoral shamelessness. Functioning without statutory, mandated positions such as State Ombudsman, National Tax Collector, Head of the Audit Service and even without the Governor of the State Bank. Burgeoning debt, increasingly hostile borders, declining exports, a dysfunctional government, falling stock market and collapsing currency could not shake Sharif out of his stupor. On the ropes, with his family corruption the main story in every paper, every channel and on social media, he chose to plod on shamelessly, trying one corrupt lawyer after another in a futile attempt to cover his tracks. Described as a scicillian mafiosi by the worthy judges of the top constitutional court, Sharif scraped the bottom of the barrel, hiring the immoral Raja Salman Akram, known to have defended Zardari’s drug dealing Prime Minister, all to no avail. Functioning without a Foreign Minister for four years, and appointing idiots as top envoys, the joke is on Sharif as he is now left with no friends to bail him out as before. His Saudi patrons distanced themselves from their pet poodle after Sharif was unable to prevail upon his military who very sensibly refused to go and fight alongside Saudi troops in Yemen. Indians and Americans have realised he cannot dominate his military and the Turks and Chinese know him and his tribe as crooked, slimy money grabbers. Despite holding office for years, Sharif has paid no attention to healthcare, education, rule of law or job creation, focusing purely on shady, unnecessary projects providing easy kickbacks. Now decades of money laundering, defaulted bank loans and millions in off shore accounts and overseas properties stand to be exposed for what they are, the loot and plunder from 200 million poor uneducated helpless souls who are forced to sell or kill their children due to lack of justice, poverty and a gloomy future. The question is how will things unfold? Will the shameless, immoral, hypocritical kleptocrats escape yet again to lick their wounds and enjoy their boots abroad or shall they deservedly meet the fate of another erstwhile billionaire, the late unlamented Colonel Qaddafi who died bloodied and screaming in the street as his vengeful subjects beat him to death?
—The writer is former Federal Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and currently Chairman National Democratic Foundation.