In our God-given Republic, politicians often tend to act strange and Thursday’s proceedings of the National Assembly fully reflected their inherent inanities.
Law and order, to begin with, is an issue that the provincial government is exclusively responsible for. There supposedly is a democratically elected government “functioning” in the province of Sindh as well.
Although after returning to the provincial assembly with a clear majority in 2008, the PPP preferred to form a coalition government with full participation of the MQM nominees. This was done to provide visible content to much trumpeted notion of ‘national reconciliation’ and to ensure smooth relations between the so-called urban and rural stakeholders of the power pie.
Conveniently disregarding the abovementioned facts, Haider Abbass Rizvi of the MQM felt no qualms while taking the floor immediately after completion of the question hour. “The masses of Karachi residents are feeling depressed and besieged these days. As if electricity and gas load shedding were not enough to make their lives miserable, street crimes have turned rampant to force them to remain confined to their homes. Far more serious than frequent mobile snatching is the recent trend of ‘BHATTAKHORI (extortion)’. With reckless immunity, criminal gangs are targeting even mid-level traders to collect protection money,” he wailed and wailed.
He finished the speech by forewarning the government that in case immediate and visible steps were not taken to improve the situation, the MQM legislators would boycott the joint parliamentary sitting that President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to address on March 17. Just to show that he had not made an empty threat, Rizvi also walked out of the house. All MQM legislators followed him by aggressively chanting slogans against ‘BHATTAKHORI.’. No one from the ruling party made any serious attempt to bring them back. Dealing with the MQM has obviously been ‘outsourced’ to the interior minister by Zardari-Gilani government and Rehman Malik was not around.
Far more pathetic than the conduct of MQM legislators remained the behavior of a few ruling party MNAs. Dr Lal Chand, a Hindu representative from Sindh, triggered another controversy. It related to the alleged kidnapping and ‘forcible conversion’ to Islam by Ms Rinkle Kumari. The vocal segments of the Hindu community had been flooding various social sites with claims that Rinkle was lured to elope by a Muslim tailor. Both ended up at the shrine of Bharchoondi Sharif in Gothki district. Mian Abdul Haq alias Mian Mithoo is the custodian of this shrine and he also happens to be a PPP MNA from that area. He is alleged to have “facilitated the conversion and eventual marriage” of Rinkle and ‘protected’ her from her family and community. After much noise making, the Sindh High Court took up the matter, suo motu, and the girl was sent to a government-run shelter to make a final decision about her life in protected isolation.
Lal Chand and the minority MNAs following him continued to claim, however, that Rinkle was denied the required isolation and disconnect from conflicting pressure groups. They kept insisting that the DPO of Ghotki had visited her Wednesday, ostensibly to “force her to stay firm with her conversion and the decision of marrying a Muslim”
The controversy could have ended there without much ado. But then Dr Azra, sister of President Zardari, stood up. In a choked tone, she confirmed that minority members were not so wrong in feeling insecure living in Sindh these days. She was fully supported by Nafisa Shah. Sitting in the gallery, I could just not fathom why these two noble-hearts were feeling so helpless. If Azra’s brother, President Asif, and Nafisa’s father Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah couldn’t instill the feeling of security amongst the Hindus of Sindh, who else could?
Mithoo, the custodian of Shrine, was present in the house. Initially, he tried to act deaf. Then he resorted to non-verbal bullying by aggressive posturing and finally took the floor to tell his side of the story. He claimed that before welcoming Ms Rinkle to the fold of Islam, he tried hard to talk to her father and various community leaders of Hindus. No one cared.
Telling his side of the story was not his priority, however. He insisted that some “foreign funded NGOs were trying to scandalise the conversion of Rinkle to malign Islam.” Too ominous he sounded while forewarning his PPP colleagues that by racking up the issue they were “annoying and alienating their voters in Sindh, who after all hailed from the Muslim majority.” No one dared to confront Mithoo after his speech. With a proud grin, he got away with his version and forewarnings.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2012.