Keep Talking and Keep Listening!

They say listening is more difficult than talking. But what is even harder in today's world is to communicate - an intense process of listening and talking and listening and responding........
This is a forum for people to engage in a conversation which is an art that many people don't know. Lets listen to others while maintaining the courage of conviction.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Obituary of a Democrat

HH will be remembered for his services to Pakistan's democracy. His voice is missed in today's Washington, DC and its academic circles. Indeed, HH was in American capital speaking for democratic forces at a time when no one would commit themselves to speaking out for what Pakistan and its people deserve. I still cannot forget the evenings in 2004-05 when HH had still not managed to elevate himself to the position of an ambassador and was engaged in writing his seminal work on Pakistan's military and its links with the militants. Artfully, he would utter poetic verses of famous Urdu poets punctuated by theoretical jargon to explain how he arrived at his important conclusion that the army was in bed with the Taliban and jihadis. Of course, HH is a man of monologues, but in the company of veteran journalist Khalid Hassan, he would often give others the chance to speak. Probably, the art of creating a dialogue belonged to KH rather than HH. At that time in history, HH seemed like a person close to unearthing a treasure which, indeed, his book turned out to be. "Pakistan - Mosque to Military" is a seminal work which may not be produced again, especially not by him. The smooth prose, the readability of the narrative and the facts provided in those pages make the book more than just and account of what Pakistan's military had done to the country.  The organization, as HH pointed out, had since long been engaged with religious zealots and used them to fight its battles. 

HH believed that his work would contribute to the struggle by democractic forces to push back the dictatorial dispensation of General Pervez Musharraf. HH had happily embraced the Pakistan People's Party's victory in the 2008 elections as the great success of democracy. For him, Benazir Bhutto's death in December 2007 did not matter since the ultimate joy was that she had managed to make her party transit to democracy. This is what HH and many of his friends in Pakistan and in the US called transition to democracy. I remember meeting him on February 19th 2008 for the recording of Shehryar Azhar's program for ARY on the post-election scenario in Pakistan (if Husein was the prophet of transitional politics Azhar was his Khalifa. Between the two it was claimed that elections represented the change Pakjistan was waiting for). During that meeting Husein thumped his own back and chest claiming that his predictions had indeed come true - Benazir Bhutto managed to force Musharraf to shed his uniform and win the elections. It didn't matter for the ambassador that she had paid with her own life for this transition to happen. 

Later, HH became the great ambassador of this transitional democracy. It didn't matter that the structural problems in Pakistan's politics continued such as the excessive power of the military, the comparative weakness of political institutions and myopia of the combined civil-military ruling elite of the country. The plan was to use American pressure to push back the military in Pakistan. One worried for the life and security of this diplomatic cow-boy especially after the GHQ in Rawalpindi managed to get rid of its own child General Mehmoud Ali Durrani as National Security Advisor. The Kerry-Lugar bill was the high point of HH - the democrat. This was the best he could achive. But it also invoked the wrath of the top brass. The GHQ was extremely upset and made sure it overturned the famous 'transition to democracy'. Besides other measures, HH's franchise for marketing Pakistan's democratic forces in the US was seriously threatened by GHQ's shadow ambassadors in Washington. One is a professional turncoat female diplomat and the other is a relative of an army chief-turned-author. Both are assisted in the US capital, albeit indirectly, by several menial researchers of Pakistani and American descent. The entire team of head honchos and menials combined tries to change American minds and convince them that military is the best thing which has happened to Pakistan. Given that most want to be ambassador in Washington, DC their loyalty to the GHQ and efficiency in marketing the khakis cannot be underestimated. While the lady continues to be busy cultivating relations in Washington so that she could take the most coveted position at some future date, the gent has also emerged as a wannabe. He even got a defense-analyst-for-hire reputed as one of many military's trumpets to write op-eds suggesting that the wannabe should be made the ambassador instead. The military trumpet, who is reputed to pimp for the GHQ, US government and many others depending on who can pay a good price was even invited to an American think tank by the gent as a reward for writing a favorable article. Surely, the lady was not happy with such a move. The said gent spends all his time pontificating about the influence and stability of the military in Pakistan. At the US think-tank the trumpet spoke about turning Islamabad into Dhaka.

Suddenly, the skies of American capital city seemed full of vultures hovering around to search the dead body of a diplomat they could chew on. Things became extremely dramatic as it was a matter of survival. For our friend HH, the choice was between killing the democrat to save the diplomat or vise versa. Obviously, the choice was to save the diplomat which was the logical thing to do in a Washington DC where policymakers and the human-terrain type academics stick to a set recipe for democracy out of the political cookbook. HH the diplomat could hear the sound of the boots marching to Washington and it was best to put the democrat to sleep. And so one evening those present at the occasion of the reception hosted at the Pakistan embassy, Washington, DC in honor of the foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani also witnessed the funeral of Husein the democrat. 

Those of us, who care about democracy and politics in Pakistan, will remember the man for his services. He was a charming salesman whose presence will be missed in Washington where there is now hardly anyone to sing a song of and for the democratic forces in Pakistan. The vultures are still hovering above searching for bits and pieces of flesh and bones of the democrat. The spirit will probably be in some pain at the moment but will soon vanish from where it may not be recalled. The services of HH the democrat will always be remembered.

May his soul rest in peace. 


  1. A good one.

    But HH has a history of opportunism...

  2. It is still sad that he is unable to defend democracy and is now with the khakis

  3. In a dog eat dog society where survival of the fittest in the law of jungle prevails, please don't look for martyrs and heroes. We are sons of the very soil, please let us live with the norms and traditions, don't suggest us to become rebels and revolutionaries .. Z

  4. Holding elections is far from a sufficient indicator of a sound transition to democracy. We need to work out a mechanism for assessing the health of democracy in our political culture, for instance: how inclusive is decision-making in the affairs of the government; to what extent does the government engage with civil society in policy formulation.. etc. Without a conscious effort to foster democratic values in our political system, Pakistan shall remain at best an illiberal democracy, held hostage to personalities like HH, whose commitment to democracy and other progressive values is, well a sham.

  5. Excellent Article! AS, we love your articles. Riaz