Anomalies and ironies abound. The president of the Republic last week travelled once again to the USA, with we know not how many 'companions' at the taxpayers' expense other than his foreign minister, at the invitation of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia to attend an Interfaith conference held at a session of the UN General Assembly, one of the purposes being to promote tolerance and instigate a global dialogue on religion, culture and common values. It is difficult to hoot with laughter when one is on the inside looking out, rather than on the outside looking in where there are those who tell us we should look at the larger picture rather than concentrate on what is happening under our noses. What interest does the president of this republic have in tolerance or, for that matter, in common values? What values in common does the present state of Pakistan have, with the Cabinet it has and its totally dysfunctional political set-up, with the advanced democratic nations of this world? This government, according to one of its ministers, promotes the age-old traditions of not only murdering unwanted womenfolk in the name of 'honour' but burying them alive, and according to another minister (both appointed by the president) is quite happy to offer up a handful of young girls as 'compensation' to a murdered man's family. How does all this bode for tolerance, culture or common values? The president of the Republic is not pushed, he is unworried about the state of the nation, having been shot up to the position in which he now finds himself quite accidentally, though through some clever manipulations, as a result of a bloody assassination. As far as he personally is concerned the only thing that hangs is the 'kursi' and the dubious glory of occupying a presidency, albeit of a fast failing country now under his imperfect guidance. And how does he behave in New York? He attended the interfaith sessions as he was bound to do so, but yet again he reportedly bunked an official dinner, this time a dinner hosted by none other than the Secretary General of the UN. This does not speak highly of his commitment to global dialogue or to accepted manners. And what was happening back home whilst he was doing his 'thing' in New York? On Wednesday, an American national, a member of USAID, was shot dead in Peshawar, the targeted killing of a US national by the Taliban with whom the government of President Zardari is seeking a 'dialogue'. This surely did not go down well with the American donors, who keep this country breathing and alive, and they have now moved all their nationals from Peshawar to Islamabad.That same day, a suicide bomber struck in Charsadda, killing at least seven Pakistani nationals. The day before a suicide bomber had blown up himself and a few others outside the Peshawar stadium, killing four. These are but three of many on-going acts of violence perpetrated by the Taliban, now in the ascendancy in the NWFP and said to be spreading their tentacles outwards and downwards. Obamamania has not reached the Taliban outposts. The US remains the enemy, as it does for so many of their misguided countrymen, who ignore the fact that this government, under the president, has made a pact with the USA which is keeping it in power - as is also the fact that at the moment there is no viable alternative. The major hated aspect of the General Pervez Musharraf's regime was that his was a one-man rule. Where is this country now under Zardari? Musharraf at least had a team of Corps Commanders and other army generals with whom he had to liase. Zardari is on his own, answerable to no one, and certainly not to the people in whose name he claims his position. There is not one member of the neo-PPP - that poseur party of the people - who dare raise a voice against his doings. His prime minister is a national joke who breathes at his command, as do the rest of his party-people and ministers. There are a bunch of men and women, characterless mediocrities, who when in opposition made all the right noises but willingly and swiftly changed to coalesce in spirit and in deed with the worst when in power. The Gilanis, Rabbanis and so forth who once were stalwarts of the PPP of Benazir Bhutto have let themselves be all defanged. They should hang their heads in shame that they go along with what they must know is wrong and dare not raise a voice. But they are not - of such mettle are they all. One little pointer for our high-livers and high-steppers, the elected representatives of a poverty-stricken nation: the president met the US secretary of state in New York. They were seated, holding their discussions, around a table. They were not seen lounging on gilded brocade sofas in plush (many would say vulgar) drawing rooms, with chandeliers dangling above their heads. Does this country possess no offices, no working places? Are there no tables and desks in any conference rooms? Can this government not at least pretend to a more workmanlike image - even though work is foreign to its nature? After all they do owe us something. According to a news analyst, the cost of one minister to the nation is Rs 6 crore per year. On their performance, not one of them is even worth Rs 6 per year. The writer is a freelance columnist E-mail: