To depict the uncertainty of life, Waris Shah used the metaphor of “naqsh ptasiaN Te” (patterns on sugar pops). He meant that human life can end just like sugar pops which can dilute with a few drops of water. But there is a class of Pakistani American and back home who can be categorized as ‘iron pops’; everything changes but their political game.
With the change of government in Islamabad, the attitude of ambassador and his staff changes along with their treatment of the journalists and the public. During the military regimes the ambassador and his staff feel as much accountable to the public as the core commanders of Lahore or Multan do. However, when civilian rule returns, may it be political appointees like Abida Hussain or Maleeha Lodhi or a professional straight talker like Riaz Khokhar, all the ambassadors are accessible and responsive to the public and journalist community. The entire environment changes during the civilian rule. The only thing that remains constant, irrespective of the nature of the regime in Pakistan, is the local political brokers.
For example, a rich Pakistani American physician has been the main host of the Chaudhry Brothers during the entire Musharraf era. His oversized residence was used as “dera” (the hub) for Chauhdries. It happens so that now, Asif Ali Zardari has also sent his special envoy, Mr. M.B. Abbasi, to that same dera. According to our sources, Mr. Zardari made a special request from the physician to facilitate Mr. Abbasi as best as he can. Not only that, we are told, that Mr. Zardari also presented him a signed book with words of appreciation for the said physician’s services and sacrifices made for democracy.
Mr. Abbasi’s stated agenda was to procure wheat from the US but we think there was something else that he was sent for: There were many better choices, including newly inducted Ambassador, Hussain Haqqani to procure wheat from the US. Furthermore, a media person, who is known to be Mr. Zardari’s main source of information about Pakistani American politics in the US, was overly active to facilitate Mr. Abbasi.
Everyone is certainly taken aback about Mr. Zardari’s close link with this physician because of his expressed hostility towards Pakistan Peoples Party over the last many years. When Benazir Bhutto came to Washington for the first time immediately after her exile, this physician crudely confronted her at a gathering that was held at Washington DC PPP president Dr. Manzoor Javed’s residence. He left quickly after his scathing criticism. It appeared that he had come with the only goal of insulting her. At that time, everyone gave him the benefit of doubt thinking that he was very upset over the corruption in Pakistan. However, within a few days it was proven that he came or was sent to confront Benazir Bhutto for a specific purpose.
This was not a far-fetched conclusion because, within a few days, he started hosting the Chaudhry Brothers at his personal residence. Then onward he served the cause of democracy just by providing all kinds of services to Chauhdris. According to some, he took time from his busy schedule to transport his political patrons between Washington and New York.
Close quarters of this physician confide that Chauhdris offered him a senate seat that he could not avail due to possible sectarian complications. However, he grabbed the appointment of his wife as an advisor to the Chief Minister of Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.
‘VIP hunters’ is the popular term used for such physicians and business men in Washington circles. We do not know much about the family background of this particular physician but most of the VIP hunters come from weaker section of the middle class. In Pakistan, such individuals could not even approach a Tehsildar. After making huge money in medical practice or other businesses they want to show off to someone. They want to taste the fruits of power corridors.
It must be said that the first generation of VIP hunters was quite innocent and a bit naïve. They were only interested in showing off their big mansions or have their pictures taken with the VIPs. They were not harming anyone by trying to feel good for themselves. However, the newer generation of VIP hunters has gained expertise in using the VIP contacts to further their business interests. Now, they ask for assembly/senate seats or facilitation of their business ventures. That is how many of them have established expensive hospitals, medical colleges or industrial units. Now, the VIPs are not hunted for pleasure but for business goals. In return, the VIPs are using these individuals for transferring their wealth outside the country.
In this regard Shaukat Aziz, Dr. Ishrat Hussain and Dr. Nasim Asharaf have been the most successful expatriate adventurers. However, a large number of not-so-known VIP hunters have also gained assembly and senate seats besides many other perks.
The question is how we should interpret Mr. Zardari’s use of Chaudhry Brothers’ major conduit in Washington. The recipient of Mr. Zardari’s certificate of struggle for democracy was only seen once in a PPP gathering and that was perceived to be insulting Benazir Bhutto. Therefore the puzzling question is if the Chauhdris are Mr. Zardari’s political model? Are we witnessing just the change of faces where the same class with same mind-set continues ruling Pakistan? Are we dealing with the ‘iron pops’ in Washington as well as in Pakistan?