Mohammad Ali Jinnah must be turning in his grave at the A to Z of Muslim League factions that are using his name and integrity for their political perpetuation — and what not. Successive dictatorships have raped the Quaid’s party so repeatedly that it is difficult to keep track of all the illegitimate offspring. Dictator Ayub Khan used corruption to create his basic democrats. Dictator Ziaul Haq gathered a team with a rightist bent of mind, who in the name of Islam, were supposed to anoint him Ameerul Momineen of not just Pakistan but the entire ummah. But Dictator Pervez Musharraf has beaten his predecessors fair and square by leaving behind a number of Muslim League leftovers that have nothing in common with each other. In the waste that he left behind, there are, exceptions apart, new and old political opportunists who took another shot at multiplying their riches; lobbyists of the various cartels; industrialists who built empires on loan defaults; shrieking damsels who were raised to giddy heights despite their glaring dumbness; wheelers and dealers who thrived on quotas, leases, exemptions and licenses worth billions of rupees; real estate swindlers, stock manipulators, fraudsters, cronies — and these are just a few of the characters. The biggest group of Musharraf’s political orphans, these days, is led by the Quaid’s modern day avatar, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He is the second jat from the Warraich tribe of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to rule in this part of the world (a third, Warraich Aitezaz Ahsan, may have missed his chance). His prime ministership may have lasted a mere three months but this did not stop Chaudhry Shujaat and the cabal of his family and friends from exercising the most power during the Musharraf’s years. Come to think of it lots of bad things happened during those nine years. Billions were made in stock scams, sugar scandals, Pakistan Steel Mills irregularities, real estate concessions and arms purchases. Indeed, the commando left behind a mountain of corruption, which does need to be investigated. Musharraf is gone for good but somebody needs to answer for all those evils. It’s akin in a way to the end of the Second World War when Herr Hitler committed suicide, cheating the rest of Europe from holding him responsible for the havoc that had been wreaked. The world needed heads to roll. So his senior nazi comrades were tried at Nuremberg and then jailed and some executed. Something of that sort seems to be happening in this country at the moment. The Chaudhries know the game is over for them. They were at the height of their power when they were trounced in the last elections. Come next elections, they will be reduced to a ‘tonga party’ like the rest of the PML factions. They know this and they want to hang on till they are either taken back by the Nawaz Group or can merge with the PPP or a third political force emerges that they can then jump over to. No wonder then that what the Chaudhries of Gujrat face these days is not politics but a battle for survival. For too long they have survived without genuine accountability. In the last 30 years they have been in opposition only for the three years of Benazir Bhutto’s second government. Every other political family that came into the industry has had to pay the price at one stage or another. Not the Chaudhries. How have they managed it? They kick up so much fuss over a minor accusation or criticism by the media that others back out. Pervaiz Elahi holds a press conference which their journalist ‘loyalists’ ensure gets flashed in the news. They make calls to editors-owners of media groups to make amends. They specialise in creating so much chaos that every one gets confused over the facts. They have a documented answer for every question or every scam they have been accused of—whether this be the infamous cooperatives scandal; loan defaults on their mills; human trafficking; sale of the Roberts farm in Rahimyar Khan; purchases of huge property abroad, just to name a few. Their file work is immaculate and they have used their power to extract evidence in their defence by all means possible. Hurl a small accusation, criticism or even an innuendo at them and they will provide clearance letters from banks; certificates of appropriateness from chartered accountants; court decisions; assembly records. They may even have a certificate from the imam of their local mohallan Bhangian mosque, attesting that the Chaudhries are Muslims who pray five times a day and are as innocent as the day they were born. All hopes rest on the trial of the former head of the Bank of Punjab, Hamesh Khan, at the Supreme Court. He might spill the beans about the Chaudhries’ possible involvement in a multi-million dollar scam. But one never knows as they have their ways of wiggling out of such situations. Were they wise, lucky or blessed? A little bit of everything. The Chaudhries have been smart enough to devise an entire system which allowed them to rise from the ashes to become one of the most powerful and richest families in the country. Here is a slice of their wisdom as practised in handling journalists. They became adept at the art of media ‘management’ much before the Sharif brothers learnt the ropes. Zahoor Elahi bought the progressive papers trust, which owned The Pakistan Times and Imroze at the time when Ayub nationalised them. But that did not deliver results because the journalistic greats of that time did not submit to their demands. Since then the family has been applying the philosophy well expressed by Sheeda Tully (no relation to Mark Tully) in a short sentence. When asked why he never got married, he said: “Why buy a cow when you can purchase milk in market?” (Feminist Tahira Abdulla is yet to raise the flag over this.) The Chaudhries have always been ‘generous’ to journalists. The crude lot receives every month’s papers along with the photo of their Quaid—hence Q League— while the honest ones are obliged in kind. In Ramazan a truckload of ration is delivered at the homes of the ‘needy journalists’, sweets and fruits on eid, and ‘envelopes’ on special occasions. They share the happy and sad moments of our community with a religious zeal. Salami money given on our family weddings can range from 25 grand to six digit amounts, depending on the journalist’s worth. They lend a helping hand during health emergencies, burials and even auspicious events such as circumcisions. I have known Chaudhry Shujaat to compensate many hapless hacks who lost their cars, furniture or even wives. He paid for the medical tuition of the child of an overly tanned Lahore Editor and there are his counterparts in Islamabad who are ‘fortunate’ enough to get burgled every year. The news is then flashed with regular monotony in the papers and the generous Chaudhry coughs up enough dough to account for the entire loss. But the crude lot is liked the best because the Chaudhries can count on them. A known TV anchor was invited by the elder Chaudhary at his residence. He suggested a particular political line of thinking that he wanted to be conveyed in media. And then he tried to give her a bag full of money, saying that she should accept it because “toon meri pehn hain.” She got upset and walked out in protest. The next day half of TV anchors were parroting the exact quotes that she had refused to convey. There have been many occasions when lists got distributed about journalists and their ‘earnings’. A register is maintained by one Sufi for every transaction made and I once had the honour of going through the list; Sufi was dozing. But their generosity is spread far and wide. Be it a CSP officer or one from the army, or a politician with potential who has passed by 50 miles of Gujrat – everyone has been obliged. Such people are cultivated through their career for one never knows when they may pay back in kind. One Tariq Aziz led to more profit than could be reaped by investing in promising kids with bright futures ahead of them. There are many more like him embedded all round to help the Chaudhries in future crises. Such devout and god fearing people and here I am defaming them, as poet, political advisor, humourist, diplomat, journalist, Pir Attaul Haq Qasmi has pointed out so well in his column about me. Munoo Bhai’s peom ‘Hajay Qayamat Nahi aai’ seems so relevant. And to find out how this Gujrati Cosa Nostra is now crumbling down, you will have to wait till tomorrow

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Date: Wednesday, 17 September 2014