Yesterday the National Day of Republic of Turkey was celebrated in Islamnabad by the Ambassador of Turkey. The Turkish national day is one of the most sought after events in the diplomatic calendar of Islamabad. This time it was all the more important as the surprise Chief Guest was none other than President Asif Zardari. Considering the security situation, the President’s movement is kept secret.
The guests at the event were pleasantly surprised to see the President there. According to Hamid Mir in his report in Jang today, it seems that Hamid Mir was every where while the President was there for a mere 20 minutes. He was able to notice that Aftab Sherpao didn’t meet the President, Safdar Abbasi and Naheed Khan also didn’t greet him while the “star” according to Hamid Mir’s report was a Islamabad based PML-Q MNA, Nosheen Saeed. A number of people would wonder who she is. Nosheen Saeed was with the National Alliance of Farooq Leghari but later on got attached to the PML-Q. Her house was used for meetings by the PML-Q which basically means, that she was partly financing the activities. Her life long goal was achieved when she became an MNA on reserved seats from PML-Q in the 2008 elections. Not many people know that she is wife of Javed Firoz Arfeen, the former CEO of Telecard and Supernet. The companies are now almost a negligible player in the telecom sector of the country. The companies and other associated concerns of the Arfeen Family have gotten as many as Rs 600 million written off during the last government of General Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz. It is surprising to see Nosheen Saeed be such a star in diplomatic gatherings.
Do read the report in Jang. You will consider Hamid Mir to be the ever present and a super man with bionic vision, and hearing capabilities. It is also sad that events that are critical to the ties of two brotherly countries like Pakistan and Turkey, whose importance can be gauged from the fact that the President chooses to attend the same is made into another opportunity for the right winged media, pseudo-liberals and inconsequential politicians to chatter about.
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari surprised a big diplomatic gathering on Friday evening by attending the national day reception of Turkey. He spent not more than 20 minutes in that gathering but his short presence raised many big questions and unleashed rumours.
It was the biggest-ever gathering of 2010 in the highly-secured Diplomatic Enclave of Islamabad. Hundreds of guests invited by Turkish Ambassador Babur Hizlan were not aware that President Zardari would cut the cake as the chief guest. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wyne and Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman were among the few who were aware that their “supreme commander” would come. They were standing outside to welcome President Zardari, who arrived at least one hour late. When President Zardari entered the gathering, his “former friend” and President of a PPP faction, Aftab Sherpao, was standing in front of him. Sherpao avoided shaking hands with him and moved to right side.
Interestingly, next to Sherpao were the rebel husband and wife, Senator Safdar Abbasi and Naheed Khan. Security officials noticed their presence. They were confused and whispered with each other how to avoid a “face to face” with President Zardari. Safdar Abbasi recently lost the membership of the Central Executive Committee of the ruling PPP just because he participated in the “Capital Talk” of Geo TV despite the boycott of Geo TV announced by his party.
Many journalists present there asked Safdar Abbasi whether he will shake hands with his party head. Instead of responding to this question, Safdar Abbasi moved to the left side of the gathering without shaking any hands. Both Naheed and Safdar were surrounded by many diplomats. Naheed was telling them that according to the party rules, the secretary general had no authority to suspend any member of the CEC. She pointed her finger towards President Zardari and said this man does not know that a big political tsunami will soon come from inside the party.
On the other hand, President Zardari started moving in the big gathering with a smile on his face. He was trying to give confident looks. He exchanged pleasantries with many diplomats but when he saw this scribe, he immediately declared: “You are a shaitan (devil)”. Many diplomats were stunned to hear it from the president of Pakistan. One diplomat told me that now we can understand what kind of pressures you people are facing these days.
PML-Q Member of the National Assembly Nausheen Saeed loudly said that “the President was out of his bunker and wants to give an impression to the diplomatic community that everything is all right”. But this is not true, she said.
Many diplomats asked Nausheen Saeed about President Zardari’s close confidant Senator Babar Awan’s recent meeting with the PML-Q leader Pervez Elahi. “Why are you speaking against the president now?” she was asked. Nausheen laughed and said that “they visited us, we never invited them and we will never join their sinking boat.” She also said that all those Muslim Leaguers who visited Pir Pagaro on Friday are “nobodies”, first they must join the PML-Q and then we will think about uniting all the League factions.
Nausheen Saeed taunted PPP Minister Naveed Qamar by asking “why old PPP leaders like you never visited our leader Pervez Elahi, why you sent some newcomers in the PPP to meet our leaders, don’t you know this gimmick will not work and you cannot blackmail MQM by using the name of PML-Q.”
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi, PML-N MNAs Pervez Malik and Nuzhat Sadiq also inquired from Nausheen why she was speaking against a possible collaboration between the PPP and the PML-Q. Nausheen claimed “that from Senator SM Zafar to Mushahid Hussain and from Faisal Saleh Hayat to Ameer Muqam, most of our members of parliament hate joining this most incompetent government in the history of Pakistan.”
Despite all this political gossip, many Western diplomats were seriously trying to understand the unusual presence of President Zardari on the national day of Turkey. Some Foreign Office officials were telling them that it was not unusual because presidents had attended diplomatic functions in the Chinese and US embassies in the past.
A top government official informed The News that President Zardari had given a goodwill gesture to Turkey for its unprecedented help given to the victims of the recent floods. He also said Pakistan, Turkey and Iran had become partners in 6,566 km long railway line project worth $20 billion.
Many people were discussing whether Turkey was going to invest a lot in the power sector and was this the reason President Zardari graced the national day of Turkey but they were also asking what was the role of a president in a parliamentary democracy.
The presence of President Zardari in a very important diplomatic gathering raised many valid questions in the minds of foreign guests. They were asking their Pakistani friends that if prime minister had become powerful after the 18th Amendment, then why US President Obama is still calling and inviting President Zardari to visit Washington?
They were also asking whether President Zardari was giving signals to the diplomatic community of Islamabad that he was still the most powerful man in the government. They were asking where was PM Gilani? Poor Pakistanis had no answer to all these disturbing questions raised by their foreign friends.