June 28, 2012

Popular Twitter personality @MajorlyProfound has this to say about our latest prime minister: “To those who missed the Pakistani prime minister’s swearing in ceremony: Don’t forget to catch the next one next week. It will be telecast live.” That was 140 characters or less —everything about our current leaders can be summed up and ridiculed in less than that.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is Pakistan’s 17th prime minister, which means that this country has had a new prime minister every 3.8 years on average. Not terrible, but not perfect either. Ashraf’s term will most likely be short-lived, not only because the elections will be held in early 2013, but also because everything points in that direction. It seems that he is nothing more than a scapegoat for Zardari and the rest of the government. Raza Rumi, the director of the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute, puts it best when he says, “Obviously the PPP will not choose its best for this stint. They will choose people who can be dispensed with.”

Ashraf appears to be an immoral, corrupt and flagitious character in the eyes of the everyday man. He is not immensely qualified and is possibly the worst choice right out of the gate — which is a difficult feat to accomplish, considering that Pakistani people do not seem to be very fond of most politicians in the current government. Most of them have either been proved corrupt or are alleged to be so. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is no exception. In fact, both Prime Minister Gilani and President Zardari have been to prison for corruption charges.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was previously the minister for information technology. Before that he was the minister for water and power, where he oversaw the import of short-term power stations or ‘rental power’ which produced little energy for the cost of millions and for which he is facing investigation for alleged corruption. This has earned him the nickname ‘Raja Rental’, a title that is regularly chanted by his political opponents in the parliament.

“Degree honi chayay, original ho ya fake.”  These infamous words spoken by the chief minister of Balochistan, Aslam Raisani, probably ring true in Ashraf’s case. As far as we know, Ashraf received a BA degree from the University of Sindh in 1970. His professional career, before politics, was in business and agriculture. It makes one wonder if he was better suited for the job of the minister of agriculture.

Despite ‘humble’ beginnings, Ashraf’s political career started in 1988 but it did not start very successfully. He lost his first parliamentary elections in 1990 and then again in 1993. Third time lucky didn’t work for him either and he lost again in 1997. Finally our new prime minister hit jackpot in 2002 and later in 2008 — unfortunately the country was not as lucky as him.

Many Pakistanis are outraged that Ashraf is the new prime minister but despite the local anger, our esteemed allies appear to have full confidence in the Pakistani leadership. A US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters, “We are pleased that the leadership issue appears to have been settled.” Well, that settles it for us, of course, until the next elections.