While the disaster management efforts of the present government in the wake of the massive floods are shoddy at best, to call for a quasi-military rule in a country that has suffered four martial laws is to submerge it in a bigger deluge
“Mussolini is the biggest bluffer in Europe. If Mussolini had me taken out and shot tomorrow morning, I would still regard him as a bluff. Get a hold of a good photo of Signor Mussolini sometime and study it. You will see the weakness in his mouth that forces him to scowl the famous Mussolini scowl that is imitated by every 19-year old Fascisto in Italy. Study his past record” — ‘Mussolini, Europe’s prize bluffer’, Earnest Hemingway, The Toronto Daily Star, 1923.
While the discussion about who breached which river embankment and why goes on, Pakistan’s prize bluffer has attempted to breach the bulwark of democracy itself.
The undisputed leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Mr Altaf Hussain, has called for patriotic generals to take action similar to a martial law against corrupt politicians. Is this a cry for help from a bleeding heart or a vicious threat? The past record says it all. All the scowling, verbosity and thunder — part theatrics and part cheap imitation of the late Allama Rasheed Turabi — cannot hide an inherent insecurity that a chauvinist enterprise feels in a functional democracy.
Packaged to look like a statement made at the behest of the military brass, the sinister pot shot at democracy is a bluff by an arch-Bonapartist looking for a strongman to protect his fiefdom in southern Sindh. Add to it the August 20, 2010 meeting — a diplomatic routine — between Mr Hussain and the US State Department functionary, Bryan Hunt, and one has all sides thinking that the other wants a change of guard. But the timing could not be worse: Mr Hussain has added insult to the massive injury caused by the floods. On one occasion where the MQM had an opportunity to jettison its neo-fascist baggage and help the nation recover and rebuild, its leader has stuck to his myopic agenda pursued through intrigue.