Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let Mushahid Hussain be the Foreign Minister

By Saeed Qureshi

I wish to see Mushahid Hussain Syed as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. He is capable and deserves this position. He is honest and outspoken. He is far from duplicity and cant. His statements are without deception and truly reflect the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Despite being the general secretary of a political party, he refrains from being partisan or unnecessarily defending his party even for wrong policies and projections. He follows the principle of upholding upright opinion even if it would be jarring to others. He is not afraid of speaking truth and in consequence the adverse fallout from the government.

We saw him offending the military dictator Mushrraf on more than once occasions and had remained the recipient of his wrath and displeasure. But he seldom budged on principles. His role in finding a genuine and lasting solution of Balochistan muddle was earnest and patriotic. The parliamentary sub-committee constituted in 2004 and headed by him submitted a detailed report to the government containing some 30 far-reaching recommendations for resolution of Baluchistan’s complicated issue. The recommendations were overwhelmingly endorsed including Akbar Bugti, the arch Balochistan rebel leader. But Mushrraf and his military peers for their own ulterior motives and hawkish tendencies did not take the report seriously.

In response to government’s prolonged foot dragging, Mushahid, in a stunningly bold statement in the Senate in June 2008, revealed that “A section of the military establishment’s hawkish elements who wanted to seek solution of a political issue through military means had sabotaged the recommendations prepared by the sub-committee headed by him.”

Can such a person ever give in or compromise when it comes to defending Pakistan against the enemies? Thus the Mushrraf government wasted a golden opportunity to heal a festering sore on the body politic of Pakistan. Instead, Mushrraf killed Akbar Bugti plunging Balochistan in an inferno and in a state of unrelenting turbulence that looks like the replay of East Pakistan’s cessation movement. The so called Balochistan liberation army and other disgruntled groups have gained strength and even a moral upsurge to challenge the writ of the state of Pakistan.

My association with Mushahid Hussain is confined to the period I served as his staffer for a few years. He joined at the age of 29 as the youngest editor of the independent English daily “The Muslim” in 1982 and left it in 1987. I had joined The Muslim way back in 1978. Thereafter, when he became the Information Minister (1997-1999) in Nawaz Sharif’s government, my contact with him barring once or twice brief occasions went off the hook.

Following the Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar’s interview with Pakistan’s ace nuclear scientist, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Mushahid resigned from The Muslim, under enormous inexplicable pressure from the then prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo. In that interview, Dr. Khan made it clear to Kuldip that Pakistan would retaliate with the nuclear bomb towards any offensive move by India against Pakistan. As a result Pakistan managed to forestall an all out aggression by Indian army under the cover-up of Operation Brasstacks military exercises conducted by the Indian Army in Rajasthan during November 1986 and March 1987.

In my assessment Mushahid Hussain, despite his young age proved himself to be a very enterprising, vigorous and accomplished editor. He seldom gave an impression that he a kind of hard to deal with boss. I found him unassuming, least bureaucratic. Open minded and affable. I believe that he treated me and other workers more as friends than as submissive or under-command staff members. My given designation was an assistant editor but was allowed to also cover political and diplomatic events.

His heartening laughters and short crisp Punjabi comments would be highly amusing and yet to be truly descriptive of the individual or the situations under discussion. About Ziaul-Haq, he would say that he practiced “double hand shake and triple embrace. “ It was so cogent a remark, keeping in view the religious hypocrisy of Ziaul Haq. An irresistibly gracious host and with a refined culinary taste, his dining table would be studded with a variety of delicious dishes.

We have had the pleasure of being his guest on several occasions at his house. On long strolls, he would occasionally take me along and I certainly cherish those spells of time as very memorable. He was genius enough to speak on given topics without any preparation and indeed with an impressive delivery and with facile outflow of his thoughts and point of view. Mushahid was a teetotaler and despite being liberal in his outlook was God fearing and true to his religious creed.

As the newspaper offices breed friction and mutual acrimony, the office of daily Muslim though a much adorable and placid place to work, was also not immune from this human weakness. There were certain individuals who thought flattery was the best weapon to be close to the boss and remain in his or her good books. Some of the staffers were very skillful in the distasteful art of waxing eloquence before the boss. With a conspiratorial mindset, they would also talk ill about others on fake and phony grounds. It goes to the credit of Mushahid Hussain that he never fell into the insidious trap of such individuals .He never encouraged backbiting and leg pulling between the staff members. As a result daily Muslim remained as a very congenial atmosphere to work.

I am jotting all these reflections when I am in the United States now for a number of years. So what I am writing is under the influence of the nostalgic memories of the bygone days which the famous English poet William Wordsworth described in his ode “Daffodils” as, “They reflect upon my inward eye which is the bliss of solitude”

But I have yet to explain why I want him to be the Foreign Minister of Pakistan especially in these disquieting times for Pakistanis and the Muslims. As I know him, he is man of crisis management. With is easy yet solemn mannerism, he can address even the trickiest issues as was done in case of Balochistan situation.

Mushahid Hussain has a Master’s degree from the School of Foreign Service in Georgetown University in Washington DC. He keeps a close and observant eye on international affairs. As such you will not find wanting in relevant and right information as well as answers to difficult questions.

Mushahid is an expert on international affairs. This is his principal scholastic forte in which he excels without prejudice. He speaks with fluency, force and a treasure of credible information and knowledge. His Analyses with regard to the domestic and the global issues are invariably politically correct and objective.

I can see in him the spark, genius and valor of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic and legendary Pakistani icon who served Pakistan remarkably well in the worst turbulent times. However, it is yet to be seen as to how Mushahid displays his oratorical knack in public rallies that Mr. Bhutto possessed in overflowing abundance.

Pakistan needs a foreign minister who is eloquently vocal and profoundly expressive and is not in the habit of feeling shy in the galore of world politicians or diplomats. Pakistan needs a foreign minister who speaks with confidence and has the resounding talent for handy repartee and convincing and compelling rebuttals to the hostile criticism. Mushahid in varying degrees is endowed with these qualities. Mushahid has an inborn talent of making friends and then positively cultivating them to remain friendly and sincere. There is sternness in his temperament but there is also an equal measure of a natural sweetness in his disposition.

Mushahid Hussain has many feathers in his cap of distinctions. I shall mention only three of these. He is a senator, the Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and the General Secretary of Pakistan Muslim League (Q).

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