Forbes magazine just released their “World’s Most Powerful People” list, and guess what – Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, our very own political magician, made the cut. Ranked at #38 (out of 67), one slot behind Osama bin Laden and two behind Indian PM Manmohan Singh, Forbes wrote,
Less powerful than bin Laden—can’t find him in his own country. Oversees Pakistan’s fledgling civilian government, ceded responsibility for tracking down terrorists to military. Busy fending off Obama, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, deposed militant groups. A little defensive? ‘We want stability in the region. We ourselves are a victim of terrorism and extremism.’ Still has keys to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
What Forbes fails to factor in is how well Gilani manages to fend off such forces, or whether it is he we should credit for being able to manage it all in the first place. If the Taliban, Al Qaeda and deposed militant groups are the topics du jour, than shouldn’t Gen. Ashfaq Kayani – the man commanding Pakistan’s armed forces – have made the cut? Moreover, it could be argued that President Asif Ali Zardari is really the “human pinata” who takes beatings from all sides, as evidenced by the recent letter sent by President Obama to his Pakistani counterpart. In the letter, delivered by national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones, Obama said “he expected Mr. Zardari to rally the nation’s political and national security institutions in a united campaign against extremists threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Failing to do so, noted the NY Times, “would undercut the new strategy and troop increase for Afghanistan” he is preparing to approve.
In a recently released article infused with the byline, “Zardari Attempting to Fend off Maneuvers by Military, Intelligence,” MSNBC discusses the fate of Zardari, “who is engaged in seemingly never-ending battles with the country’s powerful military and intelligence establishments.” It seems that as Zardari is increasingly buried under heaps of criticism, political stand-offs, and scandals, [French submarines, anyone?], his Prime Minister – henceforth known as Jadoogar (“magician”) Gilani is sitting pretty, relatively unscathed, and now a member of the Forbes fraternity. How do you like them apples? As Nadir Hassan over at Newsline noted, this isn’t entirely undeserving, given that Gilani has won some political victories. Moreover, he wrote, “Gilani’s power has increased as Zardari has alienated more and more Pakistanis. Fairly or not, Gilani is seen as a counterpoint to Zardari which has allowed him to oppose the president as the country turns against him.”
If I were the Pakistani establishment, I would take the Forbes rankings with a grain of salt, especially considering that Osama bin Laden somehow snagged the 37th spot and Oprah Winfrey is ranked all the way up at #45, [she gives cars to her audience and threw her weight behind Barack Obama, for God’s sake!] Another curious and bizarre decision? Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, India’s most wanted man, is apparently the 50th most powerful person in the world. The Forbes reasoning further solidifies why these rankings should be laughed at rather than taken seriously – “Rumor has it he’s hiding out in Pakistan, protected by appearance-altering plastic surgery as well as friends in the Pakistani intelligence community.”