Dr Muzaffar Iqbal. Catapulted to the ludicrous US lecture-tour circuit, with reported payments of as much as 300,000 dollars per lecture, the ex-four-hat-wearer of Pakistan is not really a star performer
His only right of passage to that distinguished circuit, which will take him to 17 America states over a period of 40 days, is his eight-year performance in Pakistan on behalf of his American masters. His elevation is indicative of the new American resolve of not leaving their employees in the cold once their expiry date has arrived; there is now a post-expiry reward which will allow the likes of Musharrafs to pay for a house in London and live happily thereafter.
As one looks more carefully at the arrangements for these lectures, one is more than convinced of the identity, or at least the direction, from where the secret hand emerges in the US lecture circuit: the venues of his lectures are as diverse as state and private universities (Trinity University, San Antonio, Tex) and private, for-profit organisations (MPFS Speakers Series, the Baltimore Speakers Series, etc.), which claim to provide intellectual entertainment to their subscribers and which thrive on a mix of sensationalism and celebrity cult.
The US lecture circuit is a well-known heterogeneous entity that has previously arranged lecture tours of such figures as Salman Rushdie, Collin Powell, and Madeline Albright. One telltale sign of the same hand writing the paycheque behind the façade of diverse and geographically dispersed locales of the lectures is the near-identical websites of the local organisations hosting him: The website of the St Louis Speakers Series is identical to that of Baltimore Speakers Series which, in turn, is just like the St Louis Speakers Series!
So what is it that made the ex-dictator a favourite speaker in the United States? Surely, it is not his non-existent academic career, notwithstanding the various honorary degrees bestowed on him during his four-hat stint in Pakistan as the chief executive, army chief, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and president of of Pakistan. It could not be his non-existing eloquence, broken grammar, or poor English. For a sample, see his response to a question after his lecture at the Cornell University, New York. He was asked a question regarding science and technology in Pakistan–a question that seems “planted” with the aim of giving an advantage to Musharraf to brag about his performance. The question was obviously asked by a person of Pakistani origin: “I wanted to know if you can address the audience and talk about your vision for Pakistan’s future in science and technology within the educational contact…” His response was: “Yes, exactly; it is very close to my heart what you have said….Because this is knowledge-driven world today and that is the important what you have asked…In the telecommunication industry, three years back Pakistan has 600,000 mobile telephones…”
A quick look at the career of this opportunist can lead to some insights: driven by ambition, he found the best opportunities in life anyone could hope for: a blunder by Nawaz Sharif led to his overtaking the country through a military coup which was condemned by all Western powers, including the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union, but all of these countries made a U-turn when the general signed on the dotted line after Sept 11, 2001. For the next seven years, he remained their strong ally; he killed and displaced thousands of Pakistanis, destroyed every single institution in the country, including the judiciary, and broke all rules in the books.
Given this background, it is surely not those who have decided to give the ex-dictator these extra dollars for a comfortable retirement in his newly bought house in London, but the sheer lack of competence of Pakistani politicians who allowed this to happen. It is the lethargy, incompetence–or both–of people like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, who endlessly issue statements but take no affective action. If these politicians had any substance to their words, they would set up a mechanism to expose the general’s misdeeds at every place where he is to appear during the next forty days. Surely, they have enough resources and followers in the United States to send a handful of people who can at least distribute flyers at these public forums and expose the dreadful acts of the man with blood on his hands. Surely, there is someone in their circle of influence who can see wisdom behind taking these last steps to bury the hopes of all hopeful would-be dictators. Surely there must be some thinking minds in the otherwise barren political landscape of Pakistan who can see the need to chase out the phantom of this man from our lives.
The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org