Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cherchez la Musharraf

Minoo P Bhandara has written a piece denouncing the de-hyphenation between India and Pakistan and the proposed Indo-US nuclear deal.

Most of you know M P Bhandara as that Parsi who runs the Murree Brewery in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Muslims are required to abstain from alcohol per the Prophet's direct instruction. And the Islamic republic of Pakistan pretends to take the Prophet's words very seriously so the sale of alcohol to Muslims is a crime. However non-muslims may buy the alcohol and consume it but in fact most of the alcohol purchased by non-muslims is actually sold to Muslims in Pakistan. The risk in such a perverted distribution method is that the quality suffers and middlemen dilute the alcohol or make more adventurous brews and that makes it very likely that the beer you are buying is some horrible stuff that will kill you when you drink it.
The key thing if you want a drink in Pakistan is to find the right distributor. The ban on legal sales makes it easier for the distributor to make runaway profits by charging whatever he pleases. Needless to say, the profits are "reinvested" as bribes to law enforcement.

What few people realize is that an operation like the one M P Bhandara runs cannot exist in the Islamist Republic of Pakistan without serious government support and that M P Bhandara pays a protection fee. He is the symbol of all things modern in Pakistan, proof of General Musharraf's vision of a whiskey swilling Pakistan, that empowers minorities like Parsis in it. When Minoo P Bhandara speaks, we are listening to His Master's Voice.

The problem is relatively simple, His Highness Pervez Musharraf is under a lot of pressure from everyone. The way he deflects this pressure is by pretending that he is America's special friend and he can make the Americans do anything that is needed to protect Pakistan's interests. The Indo-US nuclear deal and the de-hyphenation that is inherent in it, does not sit well with the old fogies in Pakistan's establishment. These people have been conditioned to think of themselves as India's equals and they can't stomach the fact that their beloved US is treating the Indians differently. This is increasing the pressure on Musharraf and he has to do something to make it look like he is still America's best friend in the region otherwise his reign will end.


At 1:12 AM, Blogger cynical nerd said...


The reason advanced by the US for not granting Pakistan the same privileges as India over civilian nuclear facility mainly centres on the A.Q. Khan’s proliferation episode. But were US atomic secrets not leaked to the Soviet Union? To mind comes the execution of the Rosenberg’s, husband and wife, for such misdemeanour. The Rosenberg’s and many other top scientists leaked US atomic secrets for ideological reasons; so did Dr. A.Q. Khan for reasons which he considered ideological.

I think hyphenation is a part of the Islamic Republic's mindset. Watch out the equal-equal with Xerox Khan and Bob Oppenheimer!

Btw, I am sure you'll get good booze in the cantontements in 'Pindi?

At 8:33 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Cynical Nerd,

I think a lot of people are telling Musharraf that he must make a show of strength, something to prove that he is still capable of ruling the country. This is why some people in the West are clamouring for elections in Pakistan.

The problem is that if Musharraf has to expose himself to an election, then he has to submit to populist sentimentality. As you correctly point out, popular sentiment in Pakistan is centered on hyphenation. Most Pakistanis don't know that there is no equivalence between India and Pakistan and so when Musharraf can't make America treat India and Pakistan as equals, he is seen as being a poor candidate for ruler of Pakistan.

In order to deflect resentment of his misrule, Musharraf will seek to create a drama where he will appear to have compelled America to treat Pakistan as India's equal.

The problem is that as long as the A Q Khan affair is not desensitized, Pakistan can't actually be treated in the same manner as India. So the key to re-invent A Q Khan - as Minoo Bhandara is doing. After that applying pressure in Congress should slow the Indo-US deal down to a pace so that when the deal comes through, A Q Khan affair has faded from the public mind.

After that when the deal goes through, Musharraf can simply ask that Pakistan which has a now much-improved record on proliferation should be given the same deal as India. This will in effect make it seem as if Musharraf has made America do his bidding.

You are correct that there are other places where one can get booze in Rawalpindi, I think the best place is the bar in GHQ itself. Minoo is the most articulate booze baron in Pakistan, and plus he is a minority - a potent token of Pakistan's culture of "tolerance".


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