The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: Pakistan

The Wine, Whisky and Song Society

by fpman

Pakistan is one of those countries where there is a limited set of dominant political families as such — a subject which we will surely return to one day.

For now, let this brief look at Sidi Mohammad Muzzafar Mustafa Khan suffice. Mr. Khan is a relatively non-political member of a pretty significant political family (the Bhutto family). He is a nephew of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and a cousin of the late Benazir Bhutto, both former Prime Ministers of Pakistan, both eventually killed in Pakistan’s internal political struggles — one hanged by the Army, the other assassinated.

Mr. Khan is already contemplating a legacy-building great undertaking to leave his mark on this world in a different way. A significant member of the United Kingdom’s Pakistani diaspora, he is also the owner of nightclubs and hotels in the UK (and had a son grow up beside Benazir for the latter thought his managerial duties and the nature thereof would not permit him to be the best father). He has lived a playboy life or did a very good job of creating the semblance of that and is now interested in passing on the torch to 252 single men carefully selected through a methodical vetting process; young males whom he hopes to socialize into gentlemanhood. This would be his Wine, Whisky and Song Society. Mr. Khan is taking steps to provide for adequate female company, too, of course. And his plan is to throw some great parties in the near future on his luxury yacht and in other convenient venues.

His summary of his personal reasons for all his noble efforts just begs to be quoted here:

“The main reason I’m doing this is I’ll have 250 pallbearers at my funeral and they’ll say ‘this man taught us how to live’. My dear cousin Benazir had a million people at hers so I’ll still be some way behind.”

Being close to war

by fpman

We’re travelling, and posting is light these days here at the Patrimony.

But this shouldn’t stop us from pointing out some noteworthy analysis produced by others, tangentially relevant to our focus over here. Travelling in the virtual world of the internet we have come across this report on Malala Yousafzai’s donation of $50,000 to rebuild schools in Gaza. She is the little girl who started an activist career at a young age in Pakistan, blogging in favour of women’s right to be educated, who was then shot in the head by the Taliban but survived, and has by now won all kinds of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the World Children’s Prize. The money she is giving for education in Gaza comes from the latter source, actually.

Perusing articles even loosely related to this, on the Middle East, we have then found this article from almost a month ago in the Jerusalem Post. An Israeli perspective, you might say, or rather a perspective on the difference between Israeli and other perspectives, actually, on the most recent round of conflict related to Gaza. It contains some important observations about the emotional impact of how close to one, specifically in terms of human relations, a conflict happens to be.

Two key excerpts should be lifted over here. Firstly, regarding the view of the general public in Israel: It might be difficult for an outsider to understand, but when your child is spending their summer vacation running to find shelter—with merely a 15-second warning in the south, 90 seconds in Tel Aviv—one has limited emotional capacity to see what is happening to the children on the other side.

And secondly, regarding the elite’s perspective: In this war Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s close friend lost his son, the grandson of a prominent left-wing politician was severely injured, and every anchor or reporter knew someone who was fighting in Gaza. In Israel there is often only one degree of separation.

Even in an airport lounge one sometimes has the time to trace back information and so we found this report which reveals that the soldier killed in action was Hadar Goldin, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s close friend in question is Simcha Goldin. Minister Moshe Ya’alon indeed knew Simcha Goldin well: “Ya’alon knew Simcha Goldin, the dead soldier’s father, from childhood and had known Hadar since his birth. Ya’alon once lectured at Hadar Goldin’s high school at his request.” In fact they are related, too, as Ya’alon’s grandfather was in fact the brother of Simcha Goldin’s grandmother. This means that Hadar Goldin was Moshe Ya’alon’s second cousin once removed.

The prominent left-wing politician alluded to above is most likely Haim Oron, a politician formerly from the left-wing Meretz Party, and a leader of the kibbutz movement in Israel – his grandson was injured on the Gaza border, some time in the second half of July. His name is Adi Zimri, and he was hit in the leg in the explosion of a rocket propelled grenade while searching for Hamas-built tunnels reaching into Israeli territory. By the way, the second link goes to an article that also reveals Haim Oron’s son Oded as being a helicopter pilot, his firstborn son Uri as being a Brigadier-General in the air force, and his granddaughter Omer Zimri as being a reservist officer. Which is obviously not all that uncommon a situation (for a family to have so many members in the military, either on active duty or in reserve) in Israel.

Now, before somebody confuses this brief post on a very specific issue (degree of one’s separation in terms of human/family relations from a conflict, on one particular side involved in said conflict) with a thorough analysis of the background of the Middle East conflict and some kind of justification for anything or its opposite, let us state that it is not. Our point is simply what the author of the article quoted above is also saying: degree of one’s separation in terms of human/family relations from a conflict (as a variable) matters somehow.

Of synergies, negative and positive

by fpman

We have recently concluded our groundbreaking analysis of Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney’s wedding with the following assessment:

“Given that both are involved in some ambitious international, or rather global, humanitarian initiatives, our prognosis is that there is likely to be a fair amount of synergy in their efforts.”

We love to say “we were right.” It is a pleasant feeling for a poor analyst. So here it is. We were right.

Have you heard of the Elgin Marbles? It’s a collection of marble sculptures, em, “obtained,” with Ottoman approval, from the Parthenon in Athens’ Acropolis by a 19th century British gentleman who happened to be the Earl of Elgin. George Clooney is pretty convinced these days he has to weigh in on this issue, of all issues, and he already did, in fact, multiple times, as part of the promotion of his ‘Monuments Men‘ movie. Return what thou shalt return – is what he basically says. So the Greek government is happy to call on Mrs. Clooney’s, i.e. Amal Alamuddin’s, legal assistance now, and she is happy to respond to this call. Flying to Athens for a visit related to the issue, on October 13-16, “holding a series of meetings with government officials during their stay, including the Prime Minister, Mr Antonis Samaras, and the Minister of Culture, Mr Konstantinos Tasoulas,” as a recent statement by Doughty Street Chambers (where Amal is working) reveals.

A first time? No. As the same statement also points out: Mr Robertson (another lawyer at Doughty Street) and Mrs Clooney were first asked to provide legal advice to the Greek government on this matter in 2011.” Talkin’ about synergy… So do we think that the Elgin Marbles issue simply occurred to George Clooney one day, in a “by the way” manner…?

Now what’s the opposite of synergy? I have consulted this forum where some interesting suggestions are put forward, with the word “antergy” seemingly coming out on top. I consider that awkward. Etymologically it doesn’t make sense but it reminds me of ants and that is my problem. Ants are the best at making more of themselves than the sum of the parts. Leave ants alone! Hence I’ll be using the equally awkward term “negative synergy.”

Here is an example of dubious, or potentially negative, synergy. For all the humanitarian initiatives Amal and George are involved in, Amal’s uncle is apparently no other than Ziad Takieddine, a very international guy (What do we call him? A dealer? A go-between? A facilitator? Mr. Fix-It?) who was involved even in the far-reaching “Karachi case,” a textbook case of what can be wrong about adding up a bit of arms trade, corruption, and terrorism. Here’s the “deal” as it may have happened: France sold some submarines to Pakistan. To be able to sell them and make a profit, it had to pay commissions or kickbacks to Pakistani officials, for them to be willing buyers. In turn, the Pakistani officials paid kickbacks to French politicians, for them to be willing sellers (and payers of the commissions). This turned into a source of campaign financing for some people in France. Some of the money apparently went into financing Édouard Balladur’s 1995 presidential elections campaign which Balladur then lost. He was defeated by Jacques Chirac who then cancelled the deal with Pakistan on the commissions. And then in May 2002 eleven French engineers were blown up in the Pakistani port town of Karachi. Which may or may not be related to the commissions that went unpaid.

ZiadTakieddineZiad Takieddine (source: AFP/Getty)

Beyond being a part of the money flow, as an intermediary, to Balladur, Ziad Takieddine alleges that he was also part of the money flow to President Nicolas Sarkozy (who used to be a close associate of Balladur’s back in the latter’s days as Prime Minister), and that in part the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi financed Sarkozy’s own campaign struggle, from which he came out victorious, in 2007. A sum total of over 50 million Euros may have been put up by the Libyans for this purpose, and it is said to have been funnelled to the beneficiaries through Panama and Switzerland in the kind of sophisticated arrangement that seems to be Standard Operating Procedure in some circles.

Ziad Takieddine is currently banned from leaving France, by court order, related to the Karachi affair, and so, unless he’s granted special permission to leave the country, he cannot make it to the October 25 reception organized by Amal’s parents in London on the occasion of her recent wedding. Ziad is demanding the chance to do so.

Alright, that’s it for today, folks! May all this talk of synergy give you some energy.