Dubai Challo: Pakistan’s New Political Center?

Posted on July 14, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Pakistanis Abroad, Politics
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Adil Najam

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We know that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari prefer Dubai as a ‘neutral’ meeting ground. Last week Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and his entourage, including Information Minister Sherry Rehman, made a very public stop-over in Dubai to meet Asif Ali Zardari and family and (presumably) discuss important policy issues. Now, one reads that national security chief and de facto Interior Minister, Rahman Malik, is rushing to Dubai to discuss even more important policy matters.

One doubts that these are just “routine” meetings. One expects that there are many other important political meetings that one does not even hear about. Deservedly or not, this leaves one wondering whether Dubai, and not Islamabad, is the new center of Pakistan politics.

Dubai has long been central to all things Pakistani (!). And not just because of the large and increasingly influential Pakistani diaspora that resides there.

Economically, more and more Pakistani ‘transactions’ now happen in Dubai. Its just a short flight away (short enough to feel like a domestic flight), foreigners who feel more comfortable meeting in Dubai, economic transactions are easier and safer to make, and more and more Pakistani companies (and, actually, Western companies) are setting up shop in Dubai.

Politically, it has been home to key political exiles from Pakistan and it seems that even politicians not (yet) in exile set up home there… just in case! It is also a convenient and comfortable “negotiating ground”, whether it be for Musharraf-Benazir negotiations or Zardari-Sharif ones. Indeed, Dubai is a major ‘Pakistani’ news center, not just because our important TV channels are located there, but because so much actual political news happens there!

Yet, while the PPP, as a party, being run out of Dubai was understandable while Benazir Bhutto was alive and unable to be in Pakistan, it feels distinctly odd when it seems that the PPP is running the government of Pakistan from Dubai.

I am quite convinced that this is, in fact, not the case. I sympathize with the fact that Mr. Zardari is in Dubai for personal, and reportedly health, reasons. He has as much right to do so as any other Pakistani. More, maybe, because he has homes in Dubai. I can also appreciate his wanting to be near his children over their summer break and can understand a fatherly concern about not wanting his children to be in Islamabad in the midst of the political limelight, intrigue, pressures, and insecurity that would be lavished on them. There is plenty of good reason for him to be in Dubai, even for long periods. Especially, since as Party co-Chairman, he is not really compelled to sit in a government office in Islamabad.

Having said that, however, the frequent and very public visits of those of his party colleagues who are now public servants (e.g., the Prime Minister, the Information Minister, etc.) to meet him in Dubai to discuss matters of political urgency leaves a bad taste and a palpable impression that matters of importance to the Pakistani public are far removed not only from the people, but even from the country’s Capital.

Whatever else it may be, it is not good politics. For that reason alone, it should be avoided.

47 responses to “Dubai Challo: Pakistan’s New Political Center?”

  1. Imtiaz says:

    Guyz, here is the funniest news item I have read in a while. PM Yousuf Raza Gillani saying that politicians should not hold political meetings in foreign lands. Yeah, sure! =16240

  2. Nazli says:

    I think what got lost in the comments is the more important and larger point you are making here about the big shift towards Dubai in all things, including politics. It is stable, safe, comfortable, neutral and is therefore becoming a platform for people to meet and convene for lots of things. Just like Switzerland many years ago (also now with the IRan talks) and also like Hong Kong for business.

    So this is more about Dubai than just about Pakistan, I think.

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