The nation, we were told, celebrated the 64th anniversary of its agonised birth with ‘zeal’ and ‘fervour’ (favourite words of the press when it comes to any national festivities). Well, the fervent youth of our cities were certainly zealous in their form of celebrations which consisted of, as is usual, tearing around the roads in gangs with the silencers of their motorbikes purposefully mutilated. That says a lot about the options of entertainment open to the young, the future of the nation.
Then we had the co-chairman of the ruling party, up in his stronghold of Islamabad, tucked behind high walls with his plastic surgery grin, demeaning and demoting the national award system, dishing out civil awards as if they were ludoos handed out to his most ardent, fervent and zealous supporters. A glance at just a few of the names involved confirms the mockery.
Farooq Naek, who was his most efficient adjournment lawyer for years and who was amply rewarded with the Senate handed over to him; Salman Farooqi of the insalubrious bureaucratic background, ill and in exile at the right time, and his niece Sharmila caught up in her civil servant father’s financial shenanigans; Dr Fehmida Mirza, wife of his best buddy, who was rewarded with the national assembly; Rehman Malik about whom any comment is unnecessary; Nargis Sethi, who has apparently rendered ‘public service’ which is puzzling; the same goes for Khushbakht Shujaat of the MQM; Farhatullah Babar, poor chap, valiant but unconvincing co-chairman cum presidential spokesman who does not deserve to be in the company he keeps — and lots more with the right ‘connections’ of this era. Strangely and inexplicably missing from the awardees was the Monticello ‘Doctor’ whose present-day dealings with the judiciary have so fervently and zealously guarded the presidential immunity.
Thus are the nation’s awards so downgraded that any individual with self-respect should shudder and retreat if he found his name included in the lengthy list of 185 national stalwarts.
And, symptomatic of the state of the nation and largely ignored was the killing of 17 people on August 14 by a bomber in the remote town of Dera Allah Yar in Balochistan, who zealously and fervently targeted a restaurant for wayfarers as his contribution towards the national celebrations. Whilst the head of state and his wooden prime minister, keeper of his own private shrine, were droning on at their respective celebratory functions, 17 families were stricken and left mourning, and over 30 individuals were wounded and maimed. But who cares?
Balochistan is a lost province, the government ‘package’ put together to soothe matters there was but a sham as have been so many of the acts of this present one-man rule known as democracy’s revenge. Shot to death in Khuzdar, also on the auspicious date of August 14, was a local journalist, Munir Ahmed Shakir who was casually gunned down. Also targeted by those ubiquitous beings known as ‘unidentified gunmen’ on motorbikes were two labourers in Lasbela who hailed from Muzaffargarh in the neighbouring province. Baloch nationalist parties are sprouting furiously and unsurprisingly. Forty-three per cent of the land mass of Pakistan is a wilderness of violence, extreme poverty, tribalism at its dismal best, ungovernable by its own government and ignored by the centre — its population is too negligible to really matter in the governmental scheme of things.
Moving over to Sindh, the home province of the co-chairman and in reality of the PPP, the Badin area was ravaged by floods. But again, who cares? Over 100 villages stood inundated on August 14, with some half a million Sindhis (and maybe others of a mixed bag) displaced from their homes, deprived of all basic facilities, scrabbling for space in woefully under-equipped over-populated makeshift camps. Where were the Big Chiefs (or even the little ones) of the party of the people? Leaping up and down in zeal and fervour in places far away.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.