While the nation grappled with the public statements, on-screen dramatics and conflicting views of Mr. Zulfiqar Mirza, the stakeholders and those who know, were not discussing the obvious. They are trying to find answers to some of the more in-depth questions, some mysteries of the super sensitive politico-sphere. Some of which include: 1. Why is Mr. Mirza crying publicly whenever he is asked about the political future of his eminent wife, the Speaker of the National Assembly? 2. What has gone wrong with the gang of four Petaro boys and why they have split? This so-called gang would include our President, Mr. Zulfikar Mirza, his physician Dr. Asim Hussain of Karachi and one Mr. U Jatoi.
WHILE HURRICANE MIRZA SHAKES POLITICAL LANDSCAPE, ISLAMABAD STAYS PUT
by Shaheen Sehbai
ISLAMABAD: This mystified capital city is buzzing with all kinds of fairy tales, conspiracy theories, unexplained scenarios and doomsday predictions following the Zulfiqar Mirza Daisycutter that has left everyone flabbergasted, brimming with intriguing questions in its wake rather than providing clarity to the power plays and intrigues within the ruling clique.
Quick discussions with many stakeholders in Islamabad, some well informed media persons and a couple of daring PPP leaders (who are not scared of being seen or talking to this journalist, hated by the Presidency and its top dwellers) reveal that a lot more has been going on before Mirza lost his cool, blew up his dam flooding many sacred compounds and pulling down the pants of many otherwise respectable players on the political stage.
Mirza has contended that he has burnt his boats for the sake of masses. To him, all those living in Sindh – Mohajirs, Sindhis, Punjabis, Pakhtuns and Balochis – are all Sindhis and Pakistanis, and he has vowed to go for any sacrifice to protect them against terrorists and extortionists.
The Mirza episode exploded as I landed in Pakistan, hoping that my presence would calm down many nerves in the government camp, specially the media cells and bosses who always keep on complaining that I write from “comfortable safe zones” and that I should return to the country. As I did that Mr Mirza unleashed his typhoon. Then I got hit by Mr. Mirza himself in Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk on Geo TV as we questioned the maverick leader in attempts to peel the layers of mystery surrounding his confusing positions.
Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan and the lead personality of the four Petaro boys which in addition to him include Mr. Zulfiqar Mirza, Dr. Asim Hussain and one Mr. U. Jatoi. The bombshell that Mr. Mirza threw via his press conference appears to have caused a split among the Petaro group. Or may be its another Machiavellian effort by the president to secure his drastically decreasing popularity all over Pakistan but particularly so in his home province of Sindh, traditionally a stronghold of the PPP.
While the nation grappled with the public statements, on-screen dramatics and conflicting views of Mr. Mirza, behind closed doors the stakeholders and those who know, were not discussing the obvious. They are trying to find answers to some of the more in-depth questions, some mysteries of the super sensitive politico-sphere. Some of these included:
– Why was Mr. Mirza crying publicly repeatedly whenever he was asked about the political future of his eminent wife, the Speaker of the National Assembly?
– What had gone wrong with the gang of four Petaro boys and why they had split? This so-called gang would include our President, Mr. Zulfikar Mirza, his physician and dealmaker Dr. Asim Hussain of Karachi and one Mr. U Jatoi. They have remained close knit for years during all adversity and what could have caused the break now?
– Why has Dr. Mirza gone ballistic against another Dr. the PPP’s own Rehman Malik, who was being tolerated or ignored for the last over 3.5 years, despite all the ills that have now become public property, thanks to Dr. Mirza?
Eight: Dr. Asim Hussain, the third Petaro boy [after the president and Mr. Zulfiqar Mirza] is top confidante of the president. For a short period he had served in the Pakistan Army. Professionally Dr. Asim is an MBBS and owns the Ziauddin Medical university, Karachi. Because of his close association with the president, Dr. Asim was inducted into the federal government after the 2008 general elections in the country which brought PPP to power.
– Is there any connection between the Mirza ballasts against Rehman Malik and the serious grapevine stories of some highly personalised audio/video tapes, the contents of which could make or break many top careers and expose top personalities in hated positions. If true, no respectable person, wife or husband, would ever be able to face these secret tapes without either killing the others or committing suicide. So is Dr. Mirza out to kill others or commit hara-kiri?
– Why is the out-of-control Mirza-Malik public exchange of vitriolic, abuses and invectives not being stopped by the PPP high command as Mirza is now reportedly threatening to name some air hostesses who are friends of an important minister. Is this a tit-for-tat for some secret information with Rehman Malik? If so in which ditch this personal warfare would land the Zardari set-up?
– What is the key to the now unbreakable bond between President Zardari and Rehman Malik, although even until the last day of her life, Benazir Bhutto had kept Mr. Zardari away from Mr. Malik and both did not see eye to eye for a moment? More on this below as I have been a witness myself on some occasions.
– What is Dr. Mirza up to when he announces that he had issued 300,000 arms licenses to Sindhis during his tenure as the Sindh Home Minister and why he was asking these arms holders now to rise, against whom and to do what? He is provoking them by taunting that these arms were not for celebrating sighting of the Eid moon.
– Is Mr. Mirza trying to snatch the Sindh Card from Mr. Zardari or is he working hand in glove with the President to secure the weaker PPP flank that had been grabbed by the Sindhi nationalists after Zardari’s many U-turns while dealing with the MQM?
– Why has Mr. Mirza incriminated himself by giving out details of his assets and properties of lands and factories, cash and cars, guns and ammo and claiming that all of this was given to him by Benazir Bhutto and Zardari?
How could BB and AAZ make him so rich without indulging in some kind of underhand deals, corrupt practices or outright loot and plunder. If they had enriched Mirza and turned him into a billionaire, what about their own assets and possessions?
– What was Dr. Mirza going to tell the Supreme Court, if he were to be summoned by the full bench now sitting under Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in Karachi. Will he provide credible and admissible evidence or will his “photocopies” be the only evidence which the SC may not be able to admit. If Mirza gives hard core evidence, where would it leave the Zardari government and will the court then issue judgments that may cause a serious political deadlock?
– As the first hand person who was under oath, both as a minister and again when he waved the holy Quran in his media talks, the SC would have to take his word as evidence and if whatever he has said on the media is repeated in the court, the entire house of cards of the Zardari gang would be blown away, starting from the charges against Rehman Malik and engulfing the MQM and its leaders in London and roping in the military and ISI leadership as they have also been involved by Dr. Mirza.
– Has Dr Mirza lost all hope and confidence in President Zardari that he has started inviting and drawing the attention of the top army brass including General Kayani, General Pasha and the Karachi Corps Commander? What does that mean for the PPP and efforts being made by the civilian government, especially in the wake of the SC case now being heard in Karachi?
– How will the SC handle the MQM in its suo moto case and whether the honourable judges keep their proceedings confined to the present killings or will they also bring in the MQM role on May 12, 2007. If that happens, the presentations and the posture of the MQM may change from helping the court to an adversarial role. Will that help the SC case or the PPP?
As these and many other questions wait for answers, what I found in my interactions was patchy and may provide some hint but not all the details. Each question is handled below separately:
– Zulfiqar Mirza has some inside information of what may be the repercussions of his bold initiative on his wife’s political career but that was an obvious fallout which does not justify that he start shedding public tears whenever the issue comes up. There is definitely more to it than is apparent and the wild stories surrounding the whole issue may have some bearing on his being so sensitive. Nothing more can be written on this, though there may be more information available. One obvious fact is that Mirza has received all secret reports, transcripts and info through his influence in government departments and agencies.
– The Petaro boys have been sticking together, by and large although Dr. Asim was going in and out for political reasons but never fell out of grace in Zardari’s eyes. Zulfiqar Mirza’s case is almost similar. He has indirectly attacked the Zardari policies and blamed him for so many things, but has not named him and likewise Zardari has not publicly shunned him as he has done to others like Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi or Shah Mahmood Qureshi. He just taunted Mirza with a verse and let it go. There is strong possibility Mirza may rejoin the Petaro Club once this storm is over, if it ends positively.
– All the questions about Rehman Malik need to be clubbed. Dr. Mirza jumped on me in Hamid Mir’s show when I had just barely mentioned the business links between Rehman Malik and Benazir Bhutto. I wanted to come to the point that Mr. Malik was the partner with BB and not Mr. Zardari and after her death, obviously all the assets fell into Malik’s hands which may be worth several hundred million dollars or more. The children could of course claim these assets through the UK courts but that would be politically incorrect.
– In just one case which was investigated by the UN in 2005, the Independent Inquiry Commission led by former US Federal Reserve head Paul Volcker found that of more than 2,000 companies which breached UN sanctions by making illegal payments to Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq before 2003, was a company called Petroline FZC, based in the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Volcker’s inquiry found it traded $144m of Iraqi oil, and made $2m of illegal payments to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Documents from Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau showed that Ms Bhutto was Petroline FZC’s chairwoman. Closest relatives of the late Benazir Bhutto reject these charges, contending that they are aimed at political victimisation.
– So Rehman Malik’s business dealings with BB were no fairy tale. There were five other companies he owned. The issue was that after her death her children could have claimed the assets through UK courts but that would have been political damaging so Mr. Zardari and Mr. Malik made peace and accommodated each other to try and reach an amicable distribution of these assets. Whether that has been done or not is not yet known but their working relationship continues.
– Now Zulfiqar Mirza has thrown a big spanner in that relationship and Zardari has to pick either of his two close friends. If the assets of BB have been amicably distributed, then Zardari may no longer need Rehman Malik and so Mirza would help him ease out the interior minister.
If the issue has still not been settled, Rehman Malik will stay on as he is a smart cookie in these business matters. This probably is his “giddarh singhi” as they say in Punjabi. There is another probability. In case the late Benazir’s legal heirs have secured their assets transfer, Malik may still stay as minister as he is lauded by many at the helm of affairs as a good performer who does whatever told to do.
– Surprisingly, as I had just touched the BB-Malik business issue in the Hamid Mir show, two days later out of the blue I got a call from Mr. Rehman Malik to say Eid Mubarak and to revive what he called “our old friendship”. We talked on for 30 minutes and he explained many things but all off the record. Yet I can make many deductions, which I have done for this report.
– The call by Mr. Mirza to his 300,000 armed supporters to rise is one big bluff the Zardari friend is playing against the MQM and Rehman Malik. Firstly these confessions are admissions of criminal guilt and he can be held accountable. Secondly he is asking the people to rise in revolt, against whom he is not yet announcing, but against whoever it may be, the result would be massive bloodshed in Sindh. Will he, or can he be allowed to do that is for the State to decide. But Mirza repeatedly asserts that he does nothing without Zardari’s permission. So that leaves everything open.
– The self-incrimination by Mirza about his assets and properties may look to be a minor issue because many others have made a lot more through loot and plunder and if all are hauled up, Zulfiqar Mirza may also be called to explain, but the issue of what he would present before the Supreme Court is serious. That would determine whether he on his own has broken his links with the Zardari camp or is just playing the good cop bad cop for the President. If Mirza fails to give evidence he would be guilty of monumental libel and fraud and the whole issue will back fire for him and even Zardari.
– If the MQM, which has been brought under tremendous pressure by the Mirza outbursts returns to the coalition government, as it is expected to be, Mirza would have succeeded in strengthening Zardari’s hands, though at some personal cost. But Mirza has already said that he would abide by what his president friend says and that means that in a short while Mirza may be reinstated to all his glory after Zardari overcomes the obstacles in his relationship with the MQM.
– Finally the call by Mirza to the Army leadership could be a veiled threat to the Zardari camp not to go beyond a limit in attacking Mirza or his family. He looks prepared for the attacks though and says he will not die alone, 50 others will die with him. Who are these 50 is not yet clear but he is not talking of a suicide attack in a cabinet or the PPP CEC meeting.
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