By Dr. Haider Mehdi

Some stories are more significant than others.  Their significance depends on who the central protagonist and main character in the story is, what the theme is, who wrote the script, how the narrative unfolds, and where the story ends and how. 

Some stories come out of the grapevine. Some are part of the gossip.  Some emerge out of reality. And some simply are the flight of imagination, unbound, unrestricted, lavish and vividly loaded with fantasy.

However, some stories are explicitly planted with specific purposes – as a means to an end.  Some stories are meant to hurt other people. Some are told as a prelude and pretext to a larger purpose – a purpose of a sinister nature or a purpose engineered for exploitation, self-aggrandizement and promoting self-interests. 

A recent story circulating in Pakistan these days involves some prominent, powerful and mainstream political actors.  The dimensions of this story are far-reaching and might involve some global personalities and might have significant impact on the future political landscape of this country. 

Weekly Blitz news magazine of Dhaka, Bangladesh, in a story authored by jouirnalist  Preeta Memon, reported that Pakistan’s serving Foreign Minister, a young woman in her thirties and mother of two, married to a wealthy businessman, belonging to an influential feudal family, and originally recommended to her present position by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is romantically and sexually involved with the Chairman of the ruling PPP. Incidentally, the unelected hereditary- imposed Chairman of the ruling  Pakistan People’s Party is the son of the incumbent President of Pakistan: a young man years younger to his romantic partner, but beneficiary of millions of dollars of fortune, safely tucked away in Switzerland by his late mother, a two-time former Pakistani Prime Minister, who is absolutely adamant to marry his love-mate, come what may.  Preeta Memon reports that the Pakistani President and father of the love-stricken son is vehemently opposed to this would-be marriage and is waging a Cold War against this soon would-be union.  The Presidency in Islamabad is set to be turned into a Cold War zone.

The Foreign Minister’s denial of the affair after so many days can neither kill the story nor can it lend credibility to her statement of denial.

The question is: Is the Cold War between the President and his son (the Chairman of the Ruling Party) truly going on in the Presidency over this issue? Or is it a political charade – a theatrics staged with a “cunning plan”  (as Baldrick would say in the famous TV show The Black Adder) for a well-thought out, well-organized Machiavellian undertaking to extend the Zardari-Bhutto dynastic control over Pakistan’s future politics?  Muhammad Abd al-Hameed, a brilliant Pakistani columnist and blogger, tends to agree with me that the Pakistani President has a “cunning plan” to exploit the ongoing romance between his son and his son’s lovemate for explicit political purposes.  I will come back later to illustrate this view. But first let me share here some vital cultural, moral, ethical issues. 

Adultery is a crime in Pakistan punishable by law.  But we all know that in the absence of the application of the law, the ruling class is never subjected to the rigorousness of criminal justice in this country. And yet, infidelity and fornication is a major violation of cultural norms, ethical-moral values and religious sentiments of the overall society.  It is something that is wholly unacceptable in the public domain.  Then how can the masses accept such kind of lurid behavior from its ruling class? After all, the leadership of a country ought to be the “role models” for a society in all of its manifestations including ethical conduct, personal integrity, respecting religious sensibilities, and maintaining scrupulous standards of personal behavior.  If the story of the Foreign Minister and the PPP Chairman’s adulterous relationship is true, and let us assume it is until proven unfounded, then the least the people of Pakistan expect is that both of them should resign from their respective political offices and be subjected legally to non-entitlement of any political position in the future.

An example to further illustrate this point would be instructive here:  In societies such as the US and Europe where pre-marital sexual relations are common and extramarital affairs are not an absolute taboo (they happen, resulting in divorces, but are not subjected to moral-ethical violations of modern societal sensibilities and legal indictments), even there, the public expects the leadership to honor strict marital conduct, and adulterous behavior is unacceptable in political-public domain.  For instance, from 1987 to 2011, several public figures and important politicians lost their political positions because of improper sexual conduct and extramarital affairs.  In 1987, Gary Hart, a charismatic democratic hopeful for President, dropped out of the Presidential race because of an alleged affair with model Donna Rice.  In 1998, President Clinton was impeached for perjury for lying under oath about the affair with Monica Lewinski.  His presidency survived in the Senate by a mere 10 votes.  Rep. Don Sherwood failed to win re-election in 2006 due to the revelation of an extramarital affair with Cynthia Ore.  In 2007, Ronald L. Tobias, Deputy Secretary of State, resigned after confirming he had been a customer of Deborah Palfrey, the “D.C. Madame.”  In 2008, Senator John Edwards lost his Presidential bid when he admitted to an extramarital affair with actress Rielle Hunter. From 2009 to 2011, Senator John Ensign, Rep. Mark Souder and Congressman Anthony Weiner all resigned for sexually offensive acts.  Common Americans will tell you that if a person is not faithful to his or her spouse, how can he or she be faithful to the nation? The American public considers this an important issue of personal integrity. 

Why should Pakistani incumbent Foreign Minister and Pakistan People’s Party Chairman be treated as “Holy Cows?”  They should be barred from Pakistan’s politics permanently and go on to live their lives as they wish.  Period.

I tend to agree with Muhammad Abd al-Hameed on the following points: Bangladesh gains nothing by exposing this affair. This scandal is not an implant by the ISI to assault the Foreign Minister.  The US is not involved with it as far as making this affair public – the Americans want the Zardari clan to stay in power in Pakistan, and so do the Indians (for obvious reasons). 

I assume the real story is as follows: 1) The said affair was planned and encouraged from within the house by someone who stands to benefit most from it. 2) The President’s opposition to his son’s marriage to the Foreign Minister is a planned political strategy. 3) In due course of time, the President will agree to their marital union.  4) The Foreign Minister has already won American and their allies’ goodwill (the sentiments of the Pakistani public do not count). 5) Consequently, this arrangement will keep the PPP leadership with the Zardari clan for the foreseeable future.  

In a future political scenario, the former Foreign Minister (now the President’s daughter-in-law) will assume the Presidency of the country – the PPP chairperson takes over the Prime Ministership.  End of story – the script is meticulously pursued to its obvious end! 

There is only one problem with the entire plan: What if the nation understands the sleaze and sends the entire clan packing – lock, stock, and barrel?!

Such events have occurred in history and they can occur again. 

In a nutshell, it is a wake-up call to the nation!!