It comes but once a year — the coincidental birthdays of Jesus Christ and Mohammad Ali Jinnah which are celebrated by the chosen few, very few, and which usually violate the laws of the land. However, since what passes for leadership indulges wholeheartedly in marking the festive season, to blazes with the law. So it has happily been since 1979 and the introduction of the Hudood ordinances.
Laws in this strange land, neither fish nor fowl, are made to be bent and broken. The detestable Zia ordinances on the one hand are observed in full when facilitating brutality towards women, but are ignored in toto when the ‘haves’ wish to besport themselves. Why are they still on the statute book? Because those who have been in positions of power since the mango episode of 1988 have been short on spherical objects and long on kowtowing to the clerical faction which somehow manages to hold sway over the uniformed top lot which in its turn holds sway over remaining riff-raff put in place to govern and administrate, neither of which ever happens.
And the other factor which was brought home so well was in an editorial in this newspaper on December 21 titled “The blasphemy law and lack of moral courage.” Until a radical change is brought about, both in the qualities of leadership — either in or out of uniform — and in the national mindset, which is formed by the men who stick by their own version of the religion they practice and propagate, moral courage is a far cry and the blasphemy laws will be around to be used at will for revenge or gain. To quote: “The debate is clearly bifurcated. It has not even started in Urdu. In English, it is getting nowhere because of the idiom’s lack of influence on national thinking.” Full stop — that says it all in the proverbial nutshell.
Now to the matter of change — Pakistan defies the philosophical thinking that things come about with change. It sticks firmly in its worn groove ignoring the time-honoured fact that politics is universally all about change. In 1988, there were grand hopes that some form of change would come about, but it did not as the politicians were rendered paralytic by the mighty army. And so it continued, until in 1999 the mighty army moved and in parachuted General Pervez Musharraf and with him even greater hopes of change. But he succumbed to the usual mix of the religious right and the stale politicians. He brought nothing new, he brought no change, he merely revived the old and worn. His ‘enlightened moderation’ was a hoax — the on-going blasphemy laws being a prime example.
In 2008, he left the country’s political scenario unchanged. For those who keep up with the media there can be little merriment. We are stuck with characters that have been around for over two decades. Zardari, Gilani, the Sharifs and Hussain of London Town, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and their hangers on, Wali and Fuzzy Wuzzy and the rest of the old gang. Of the new introductions made by the PPP-Z, well they are infinitely forgettable, Interior Malik and the Monticello Man being but two prime examples. These two are the most visible and make the most noise amongst those of the Zardari branch of the party, the old Benazir supporters having been sidelined into silence. But that is hardly change. And the subservience to the military-mullah clique remains highly visible (though the unfortunate man who occupies the prime ministerial chair does his best to pretend otherwise).
One question posed to Secretary Hillary Clinton at the December 16 AfPak press conference in Washington: “Who’s in charge of Pakistan…? I mean, who is it that’s running Pakistan? Is it the civilian government? Is it the military? Is it the intelligence agency?”
Published in The Express Tribune December 25th, 2010.
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