The interval in the memorandum episode provides us with an opportunity to at least catch our breath and if possible to do some minimum reflection. The original cause of the outrage at the alleged memorandum was singularly for the reason that the writing of it has undermined our national sovereignty, image and integrity etc. Now, we have collectively come to our knees, begging abjectly to that idiotic man to grace us with his presence, only to be brushed off by being told that we cannot be trusted because of our inherent barbarism. The tremendous condescension and contempt on display by Mansoor Ijaz is more viciously and less articulately reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s view that keeping the native people in line was a sacrifice and the native should constantly be reminded of this. At this time, it seems Mansoor Ijaz is not very keen to keep up his appointment and be amongst our unwashed, trigger-happy selves. The not-so-subtle irony in all of this is that the honour ostensibly lost by the inscribing of the memorandum is now being attempted to be regained by licking the boots of Mansoor Ijaz, especially by those who have repeatedly and consistently claimed sole ownership of our nation’s ‘ghairat’. It is getting seriously indecent now.
The clown was never worthy of a moment’s consideration and I will be thrilled if he does not come and we hear nothing of or from him ever again. He has already caused humiliation to a lot of people, most significantly to the Judicial Commission composed of three Chief Justices, especially convened to give an audience to him. To watch the three, very busy and Honourable Chief Justices being stood up by Mansoor Ijaz, admittedly makes the toes curl slightly with embarrassment at merely witnessing this. However, as is often the case in everyday life after a faux pas has occurred, the best strategy is a smile and a shrug of the shoulders and a move on. Attempts to redeem oneself or make a comeback can considerably protract the agony or the embarrassment. My Lords, do not give this man or the issue another opportunity, put it to rest.
Many in the media are visibly distressed at the possibility of Mansoor Ijaz not coming. The media in Pakistan has always had an openness to the fantastic, yet some of them outdo themselves this time around by bestowing the insight that if the President of this country can be provided security, why cannot the same security be provided to Mansoor Ijaz? The false equivalence is pathetically laughable and would put even the most racist imperialist to shame. Can they hear themselves talk, of course they can’t.
However, we have a clear winner in the absurd statements department, the worthy Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who has offered to personally guarantee the safety and security of Mansoor Ijaz. The statement is ridiculous by any standard, yet what makes it slightly sinister is the timing and the fact that Mian Shahbaz Sharif is at present also the health minister in Punjab. More than one hundred people have died due to a reaction to allegedly bogus medicines being disseminated in government hospitals in Lahore, Punjab. In a country not having an unhealthy obsession with honour, this would have been the primary issue in the government and media discourse. Mr Chief Minister, to substantiate your credentials as a bodyguard you may want to begin with the ensuring of safety of your tax-paying electorate from fatally toxic medicines.
For all I know, Mansoor Ijaz is driving to the airport to make me look silly right now, yet I will proceed on the wishful assumption that he is not coming. One may go so far and say that he should not be allowed to come, even if he wants to now. The timing is as right as it can be for the idea of forming judicial commissions on practically everything to be abandoned completely. The spectacle of memorandum commission is a punctuation mark on the failure of this notion. Recently, the Saleem Shahzad Commission report was so vague, ambivalent and afraid, that it is, or should be, a scandal. The report after an inordinately tiresome throat-clearing exercise said nothing; actually it is worse than nothing because it inadvertently opens the door for anyone to be murdered ‘mysteriously’. Reading it, one has to encounter the unbearable tedium of staring at the Aztec face of establishment propaganda. Would a parliamentary commission have done better, I don’t know. However, it would have been almost impossible to do worse, of course, unless they concluded that Saleem Shahzad has killed himself or is in fact still alive.
The Saleem Shahzad commission report is an example of officialdom which leaves the situation considerably worse off than had there been no action. The murderers now have at their disposal the neutered report and the glib argument that a ‘neutral’ commission has exonerated them. Had the same report been given by a commission consisting of politicians after the same initial rhetoric, if nothing else they would have been taken to task publicly for cowing down. Now, it has the cover of institutional deference. The Kharotabad and Abbottabad Commissions etc. are unlikely to be ground-shattering or to even cause a mild tremor. My Lords, when you volunteer to adjudicate and do it without fear or coercion, the onus is higher. You cannot decide to sit just one out, either you are brave in the face of terror or you are not. The obsession with judicial commissions should end now.
The anxiety of some of the media with the prospect of fizzling out of the memorandum hype is for reasons of sustenance; it would rob them of an exciting marketable story. Well, I think they worry unnecessarily. They can try and look into the story of the Shias being murdered in all parts of the country, they may even see the semblance of a pattern and hence the contours of a story, maybe even a big one.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2012.