He’s no Bhutto


The erstwhile foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi seems to have taken the loss of his ministry pretty hard. At first, his disclosures were of a tame nature but he amazed everyone by stating, I am the first Pakistani leader to take up the water disputes in talks with India. To make a statement like this, one has to be acquainted with certain basic facts. Otherwise, one stands open to public ridicule. The water dispute was raised with India by Pakistan in the 60s. That resulted in negotiations which then culminated in the Sindh Tass (Indus Water) Treaty. When India started construction of the Baglihar and Kishan Ganga dams after that, Pakistan again raised the issue.

I remember that there was a long contestation between the two countries on the issue of the Baglihar dam and the issue was then eventually taken to the World Bank. At the behest of the Bank, a team of experts was set up to design and oversee the construction of the dam. This team reviewed ground matters and negotiated with Indian experts. Pakistan eventually got its point across and India had to make the requisite changes in the design of the dam. The fact that both countries refrained from giving opposing claims and statements is another issue altogether. India claimed that Pakistans demands had not been fulfilled and no worthwhile changes had been made in the design. Pakistan also kept quiet in the face of these claims. Even in the talks during the Musharraf government, a clause about the water disputes was set out in the agenda of the talks. It is present till today. Also, if my memory serves me well, the issue was also taken up during the Nawaz Sharif-Vajpayee meet.

If this claim of Mr Makhdoom is accepted as true, then one would also have to assume that the venerable Makhdoom was also the first leader to convince Ayub Khan to get the talks for the Indus Water Treaty underway. He must have also taken the decision to take the Baglihar dam issue to the World Bank and the government of the time must have implemented this course of action because of Mr Qureshi. It is indeed correct that India was averse to taking the Kashmir issue to international forums for a long time. But when the situation in Occupied Kashmir began to deteriorate, India was forced to accept the issue and with the start of track two diplomacy between both the countries, talks on the issue also started. India then formally agreed to talks on the issue and Pakistan started taking the issue to international institutions.

But Mr Qureshi does not seem to have read either the papers or the official file of the dispute that is almost a life-and-death issue for the country. Otherwise he wouldnt have claimed that he exhibited great courage by talking about the Kashmir dispute. It seems that none of his predecessors like Muhammad Ali Bogra, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Sahibzada Yaqoob Ali Khan and Mian Khurshid Kasuri had the gall to do what he did.

It seems that he will soon take credit for making the nuclear bomb. It doesnt seem like he consults the records, so he has the right to make any claim. He can even claim that the plan to defeat the Soviet Union in the Afghan war was his. The claim that he made Gawadar a part of Pakistan cant also be out past him. He can say that he was the sole power behind bringing 90,000 prisoners of war back from India and also that he was the first one to raise his voice against the Kerry-Lugar Bill. And the Swat Operation took place under the government in which he was the Foreign Minister. It wont be long before he claims that that too is another feather in his cap.

After hearing his claims, it now seems that it was he who had been guiding the Prime Minister and President on policy matters. For example, he claims that the President and Prime Minister gave him a tribute for the Kashmir policy he made. This implies that the speech that a foreign minister delivers in front of the Security Council or the General Assembly in the United Nation is the sole product of his own mind. He doesnt get any input from the foreign ministry, the GHQ, the prime minister and the cabinet. Only Makhdoom sahib could have constructed this farcical joke that he was the only one to take a rebellious stand on the Raymond Davis issue that he does not have immunity. But then the government took the same stance after his departure. This makes us think about what was he really rebelling against? If this is not a joke, then what is?

If the ex-foreign minister continues down this road, no one will be able to stop him from claiming that he was the one to lead the provinces to reach a conclusion about the distribution of resources. That he was the one who also led the committee formulating the constitutional amendments and the 19th amendment is the fruit of his labour. He really shouldnt step on Mr Nawaz Sharifs toes; after all he enjoys good relations with him but Makhdoom sahib might just claim that the restoration of the judiciary was also a feat of his, given that he is on such a roll.

The drive against corruption in full swing in the country mustve been his brainchild as well because according to the honourable ex-minister, he is the only one who has a clean record and has never been accused of corruption. It is obvious what he implies about his colleagues when he makes this particular claim about himself. He has been stating these claims about his clean record repeatedly in his speeches and he further adds that the public will now choose someone whose record is free from the blemishes of alleged corruption. If one ponders over these lines, it is clear that he believes that he deserves to be elected as the next leader of the nation and he is telling the public as such.

His supporters are already treating him as Bhutto reincarnate. Now all they need is an Ayub Khan-like dictator for him to agitate against and the comparison will be complete. It is not possible for someone to be like Bhutto in that respect in a democratic era. Maybe, his supporters are making prescient claims here. That when there will be a dictatorship next in the country, Mr Qureshi will be the foreign minister. He will then disagree with the dictator and join the public in a movement to oust him and force him to hold elections and then gain a heavy mandate in those very elections to become prime minister. If this is the way Mr Qureshi wants to emulate Bhutto, then he will have to wait at least eight or ten years. If the army doesnt follow the script and never takes over, how will Mr Qureshis supporters turn him into Bhutto? How?

The writer is one of Pakistans most widely read columnists.