White Lies

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Had it been a country/democracy sensitive to public opinion, a simple statement about President Zardari’s medical condition from the otherwise publicity happy and often combatant media managers would have been promptly issued. In that case, we would have been spared the range of speculation and sheer gossip on the subject. It all started last week with the breaking news that President Zardari had suddenly left for Dubai for a medical check-up. One channel even dispensed the information that it was a routine check-up, nothing serious, and he actually walked down the steps of the aircraft on arrival at Dubai Airport.

This gave rise to the obvious question, a routine check-up for which Pakistani medical facilities were not good enough? Now we were told, by a speculative media, that it was nothing serious but the President wanted to combine a medical check up with meeting his children who are all in Dubai. At this point son Bilawal was spotted in Islamabad, Sindhi topi and ajrak clad, calling on PM Gilani. More top up on the story followed. Actually it was not the first kids but Dr Hashmi, the president’s personal physician who was in Dubai and the latter had to be consulted about a heart condition related to a procedure carried on President Zardari in the US (by another cardiologist) years ago. Again we were informed by “informed sources” that the President was fine but was put in the ICU so that he could be protected from visitors though the UAE princes were allowed in, not to discuss the Shamsi Base matter we are certain.

By now, Foreign Policy magazine had jumped into the fray with the piece of news that a White House source revealed that when President Obama rang President Zardari to offer his condolence on the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at a Pakistani checkpost by NATO forces, he found the latter quite incoherent. In fact, Obama could not understand what AZ was saying. At this point, the talking shops and drawing room politicians went wild. Many seemed to know some one in the presidency who had actually witnessed “a heart attack” or “a stroke” or “very odd behaviour” or even better “bipolar disorder”.

Can we have the facts on this one please before it snowballs into a major medical conspiracy with CIA, RAW and ISI thrown in as a dressing?

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It seems that the US ambassador has come to the conclusion which his predecessors reached a lot earlier. That he is actually the Viceroy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Having realised that, he is seen taking his responsibilities very seriously. He was heard quite openly and perhaps a little undiplomatically expressing his opinion that the civilian government in Islamabad has no authority and that the cabinet is merely a rubber stamp for the military establishment. Well if the viceroy says so, it must be true.

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We hear that the Punjab Club elections last week took an interesting turn. There were eight seats for which there were 11 candidates. With the skill matched only by those who know how to maintain their monopoly, a consensus was reached. A few candidates quietly stood down. Now there were eight candidates for eight seats which meant there was no actual contest. Not surprisingly, the President elected happens to be a member of another very elitist club also known as APTMA.

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