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India & Pak: Corruption tales

While India indulges in character assassination; Pakistanis dispense with niceties like characters and get down to assassination, writes Khushwant Singh.
None | By Khushwant Singh
UPDATED ON MAY 23, 2008 11:09 PM IST

We are forever moaning about corruption in our country — we are amongst the 10 most corrupt nations of the world. But we can find solace in the fact that things are much worse in our chief rival and closest neighbour Pakistan. Also, we are slowly getting the better of it; our friends across the border are heading for the worse. There is also a significant difference between the patterns of corruption in the two countries. In India, the creamy layer of the government, judiciary and the civil services is comparatively clean. It becomes murky in the middle; it is rampant in the lower ranks of the services. In Pakistan, it is the other way round. The top layer is massively corrupt, the middle and lower layers are less corrupt. Also, they have more corruption-related violence than we have. We indulge in character assassination; they dispense with niceties like characters and get down to assassination.

I came to these grim conclusions after reading Shyam Bhatia’s Goodbye Shahzadi (Roli). Though ostensibly “a political biography of Benazir Bhutto”, it gives a vivid description of the state of affairs during the regimes of her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, General Zia-ul Haq, President and ex-General Pervez Musharraf etc. It is a gripping tale which reads like a detective thriller. Shyam Bhatia has writing in his blood (he is the son of Prem Bhatia). He has been foreign correspondent of The Observer (London) and is editor of Asian Affairs. Though based in London, he travels frequently to the Middle East (he speaks Arabic).

Bhatia met up with Benazir when he was up in Oxford. She had come from Harvard to earn yet another degree at Oxford. At the time, she was a plain Jane; her ambition, nurtured by her father, was to get into the Pakistan Foreign Service and marry an eligible Pakistani. There were a few in college at her time, including cricketer Imran Khan. Benazir blossomed into a handsome woman, like her father became a rabble-rouser, and, after her father’s execution, the spokesperson of Pakistan People’s Party, the most popular political set up in the country.

Benazir was full of contradictions. When in the US or in Europe, she was a mod girl wearing jeans and enjoying a glass of wine with her meals. When in Pakistan, she wore salwar kameez and covered her head with a dupatta. An open-minded liberal democrat to the world, she was a haughty aristocrat in Sindh, rude to her staff — throwing ashtrays at her servants when she lost her temper. She agreed to an arranged marriage with Asif Zardari, a half-baked moustachioed son of a cinema producer. During his wife’s two tenures as Prime Minister, he amassed a vast fortune in real estate in England and Swiss banks. He came to be known as “Mister 10 percent”. Benazir, who did not get on with any member of her family, her mother Nusrat and her brothers Murtaza and Shah Nawaz (both were murdered), nor do their wives and children get on very well with her husband, condoned all his misdeeds. She made many enemies, among them President Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif (no paradigm of virtue). The mullah elements never accepted the idea of a woman being head of the state. The masses loved cheering her, voting for her but could not reconcile themselves being ruled by her. Her assassination did not come as a surprise.

There are many sordid details revealed by Shyam Bhatia for the first time. I give three examples. After Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged, his trousers were pulled down to photograph his genitals to see if he had been circumcised. This was done for possible evidence that he was not a proper Muslim, being the son of Hindu prostitute. The scientist A.Q. Khan who stole data from Holland and Canada to put together Pakistan’s atom bomb sold the know-how to Libya and Iran for huge sums of money and a villa on the Caspian. He confessed to his crimes. When Bhatia put this in one of his columns, Khan replied addressing him as a

“Hindu bastard”. Benazir herself carried formulas prepared by Khan in her pocket to hand over to the North Koreans in exchange for missile technology. With leaders such as these, what hope is there of Pakistan becoming a prosperous and peace-loving state?

The Gluttons of India

Creating a crisis in Europe and USA

The elephant is eating everything away,

Fine it was when poverty stricken

The Indian middle class is a bloated kitten

Causing malnutrition among our children.

The gluttons must not forget

That because of them our pets don’t get

Enough to eat

O tell them for heaven’s sake

That they are eating almost 20 percent of our food intake

Responsible not only for falling stock and rising price

They are starving Bush and Condoleezza Rice

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Who are secular?

After many years of deep contemplation, at long last

I’ve come to the following conclusion:

“It may hurt some people, or it may be sound a bit jocular

That those who eat vegetables, also fish, egg

Mutton, chicken, pork and beef are secular.”

(Contributed by Reetan Ganguly, Tezpur)

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