Mar 14, 2009

Thinking outside the box…

Don't shoot the messenger
It has been a busy week around the world for both lawmakers and lawbreakers. In Iraq Muntadher Al-Zaidi of shoe-throwing fame was sentenced to three years in prison. In Switzerland the government agreed to align banking practices with international standards on tax evasion. In Australia authorities considered legal action against a tankers owner after 40 miles of beach were devastated by an 11,000-gallon oil spill. In Madagascar a mutinous army stepped up pressure on a controversial president to quit. Northern Ireland buried two soldiers and a police constable killed by a renegade faction of the now largely assimilated IRA. Germany mourned after a high-school graduate shot and killed 15 people at his alma mater before dying in a shootout with police. American police shot and killed a man dressed as Batman villain The Joker, after he threatened them with a loaded shotgun. And in Sweden a chimpanzee at Furuvik zoo was observed stockpiling rocks overnight to throw at visitors during the coming day; this was interpreted by some as evidence of the fact that apes possess the ability to plan for the future, a behaviour that to-date was presumed to be exclusively human. This brings us all the way back to Pakistan, where the behaviour of local primates continues to suggest otherwise.Recap: the current episode of Jamhooriat (the longest-running soap opera in Pakistani history). The army chief looks impassive in both long-shot and close-up as Gora teleprompters try to make last-minute changes to the script. The elocutionally-challenged Chaudrys shine in their non-speaking roles. Nawaz Sharif takes a break from melodramatic dialogue delivery and works to perfect his poker face on the scenic farm he inherited from his father. Sherry Rehman quits the show within a show after differences with the executive producers over broadcast rights. She joins Raza Rabbani on the sidelines. They both look at Aitzaz Ahsan who, after signing onto the feature production, The Long March, suffers with the rest of its cast and crew when they are denied permission to film on location. Meanwhile, the 160 million or so extras mill around the set, wondering when the chai break is.Blasé as some of us are being about the current political scenario--in an ever-shifting reality it's easier to watch and comment than it is to anticipate and participate--flippancy is a useful coping mechanism against a recurring nightmare. The phrase "now you see it, now you don't" might well have been coined for democracy in Pakistan. How abject and degrading its latest fall has been is illustrated by the fact that the PML-Q, a collection of lota loyalists from the days of Monarch Musharraf, is again potentially kingmaker. The PML-N, closest ally of the desert kingdom that has periodically, thoughtfully, exported to us cultural cannibals, fundamentalist theologians and bustard killers (if only they were dyslexic!), has gained ground by courting anarchy. And the PPP? Ah, the PPP. What can one say about, or to, a party that started with Z A Bhutto and might well end with Asif Zardari? Here's a thought. (Please contemplate it in all seriousness, because like Imran Khan I might not have another anytime soon.)For the sake of ordinary people already struggling under the prerogative of survival, parliamentarians from the two most popular political parties need to climb down from their high horses. They need to present a united front against the real enemy and make plans for the long run in which national interests subjugate and are no longer subservient to the misplaced sense of entitlement of their titular heads. Having effectively exposed the cracks within the PPP façade, the PML-N should ease the pressure a little bit and give it the time and space to do what it needs to do--i.e., overhaul its own top management before the haemorrhaging of its credibility proves fatal to the body politic. President Zardari has been a liability for the party from practically the day he was reborn. He and all the cronies he has been elevating to high positions, for no apparent reason other than that he can, need to be shown the door. How can the PPP's old guard do this without losing face and alienating the jiyalas who have inappropriately projected their loyalty to BB onto her widower? By offering a much more credible substitute, Bilawal Bhutto. Where is the chairman of the PPP while all this is unfolding? The writer in me is salivating at the twist his sudden appearance could introduce. We know he can read (he is in college), we know he has at least a rudimentary grasp of the notion of consequences (he studies history at Oxford), we know he wants to help the people of Pakistan ("I want to help the people of Pakistan," he said in an interview in 2004), so how does he feel about what is going on? Would he care to express an opinion either way about the dismemberment of his mother's vision? No time to issue a statement? He could just do a Facebook status update. Another point in Bilawal's favour is the talent inherent in his genes. His sister can rap (we know this because PTV kept airing her tribute to her mother), his father can ride (pity the tiger doesn't respond as well to the saddle as the horse does), his cousin can write, and date George Clooney. If that isn't a family of overachievers, I don't know what is.To those who say he is too young, I say "He's twenty!" Here in Pakistan, children can be married at five, kill at ten, drive at fifteen, so what logical opposition can we offer to the thought of someone ruling at twenty? And it is ruling--not governing, or leading, or administrating--that we seem to court. We are not what we claim to be, we are what we accept. We accept bullies, tyrants and dictators because in our minds we are still serfs, subjects, the amorphous awam, the witless herd. To those who say we do not want to be ruled, we do not want to be bartered, we do not want to be oppressed, we do not want to be expendable, I say, "Talk to the hand!" No, not this hand. That other one, under the jacket, its index finger poised on a detonation trigger.But let's buck tradition and end with a positive note this week. Mohammed Haneef's brilliant novel A case of exploding mangoes has been awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. It is a great day for Pakistani writing. Let us all salute the abundant storylines that fertilise our imaginations.Shandana Minhas

No comments:

Post a Comment