The writer is a political analyst. Email: Twitter @Imran_Jan

Patriotism on Covid

During the 90s, dish antennas were in fashion in Pakistan

Imran Jan October 26, 2023

During the 90s, dish antennas were in fashion in Pakistan and quite frankly, they were our portal to the outside world, away from the boring national television of Pakistan. Though unlike the internet, we could not produce or broadcast anything to this world, we could only consume what this world was beaming to our antennas mounted on our rooftops. I remember seeing an Indian ad for some nasal decongestant that provided relief for a stuffy and congested nose. The ad was such that this guy with a stuffy nose before using that medicine had mistaken guano for henna since both looked alike and he had no sense of smell. He applies that guano to his entire head thinking he was actually applying henna. Once he uses the medicine, his sense of smell returns and he realises what he had just done. I have been thinking about that ad a lot lately.

One of the symptoms of Covid-19 is that people can lose the senses of taste and smell. I remember those excruciating days when I had Covid. My favourite food didn’t taste like it used to do during normal days and the food I never liked didn’t taste any different either. For a while now, the state of Pakistan, it seems to me, perhaps has Covid. The state has lost some of the important senses required to know and differentiate between friends and enemies, between sincere and selfish, between well-wishers and criminals.

Pakistan allowed foreign enemies to enjoy impunity after they were directly attacking the state or killing its citizens. The state has jailed and trashed domestic patriots and journalists whose only crime has been that they have an opinion. Turns out our national Covid compels us to cuddle enemies and trash friends.

This national Covid is quite contagious like the Covid-19. The people of Pakistan also become sick after they get the virus from the state. When people see those politicians, whose only resume in politics has been that they stole enormous amounts of money after being caught red handed, simply trick the system and run away to foreign lands, and how they can return after some years by buying their way back into legitimacy, then the people question their own belief system. Because such a belief system is not compatible with the practical system in place in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan, his corruption cases disappeared, and he is set to perhaps become the prime minister again. The system has sanitised him.

The people, too, have lost any sense of taste and smell and so they are no longer able to differentiate between morality and immorality, between how truth is good and lies are bad, between right and wrong generally. Winning matters and winning in this system requires being a con and a fraud. Honesty is punished and corruption is rewarded. Who wants to be honest? Raise your hand. If I ever run a political party, here would be my slogan: screw hope, screw honesty. And I will win.

I used to appear on Indian talk shows where I used to fiercely defend Pakistan and criticise India. I used to argue fiercely here with Americans who criticised Pakistan. I no longer feel the urge to do so. I no longer watch cricket matches between India and Pakistan. I no longer argue about why Pakistan is not written before India in a sentence like the previous one. I felt nothing when Pakistan lost to India and Afghanistan some days ago. I used to loathe the former American ambassador Hussain Haqqani. But I have no hatred nor respect for him now. I decline Indian TV channels’ request to appear on their shows because I no longer want to get into those arguments. I have Covid, only this time I can taste and enjoy my favourite food just fine. I just have lost the sense of differentiating between the enemies of Pakistan and Pakistan today. The nation needs a big moral decongestant.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2023.

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