The dead horse syndrome

Published: September 7, 2012

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According to the tribal wisdom of the ancient Plains Indians of America, “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount”.

And according to one wit of modern times, when governments finally realise they are mounted on a dead horse they adopt more advanced strategies. In their modern wisdom, they resort to measures such as: buying a stronger whip, changing riders, appointing a committee to study the horse, lowering standards so that dead horses can be included, hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse, harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed, visiting other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses, providing additional funding to increase the dead horse’s performance, declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed it is less costly, carries lower overheads and, therefore, contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than other horses. They also resort to rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses and, of course, promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

So much for governments. Now for what is supposed to be governed but is in fact ungoverned. In the case of Pakistan, it could be said that the nation has been astride a dead horse for decades of its life, the majority of its citizens being fully aware of the fact but seemingly willing to not only to continue to remain astride but to ignore the horse’s steady decomposition and stench of decaying flesh.

This fully illustrates the fact that elections alone do not make a democracy nor do they provide governance, and the state of Pakistan is a prime example. The nation has adopted a few strategies to counter its predicament but when the occasion arises and it is given the choice of selecting those it wishes to represent it in its government it has, time and time again, chosen to opt for dead horses. Even when bereft of choice, with leadership or dictatorship — whatever one wishes to call it — thrust upon it, the nation has happily acquiesced to a man on horseback until circumstances, external as well as internal, have forced a change of dead horses, from one colour to another, from one breed to another.

Right now, some say that the condition of the dead horse has rarely been in such a deplorable state. The government is more than static, doing only what it needs to do to keep itself in a position to be able to continue to loot and plunder whatever is left in the depleted kitty. The nation keeps itself mounted, watching, whilst the various body parts of the dead horse — from president to prime minister to judiciary, and on to such bodies as the ministries of national harmony, national regulation and interfaith harmony — all ensure that harmony is, in the republic, a far cry.

Barbaric massacres of citizens of a minority sect, the Shias, continue from north to south, unchecked and seemingly unstoppable, making a mockery of the law-enforcement agencies and even of the mighty military which merely keeps its distance when it comes to such matters.

Laws completely in contradiction to interfaith harmony flourish, protected by the state, under which citizens of all sects and faiths are murdered at will or made to suffer deprivation, pain and humiliation.

Occasionally, very occasionally, there has been a bright spark that has unexpectedly cropped up as has happened in these past days. A brave member of the clerical brotherhood, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, has spoken up and publicly revealed just how the blasphemy laws are used in greed and to grab property. Now that the honest cleric has spoken up and the world has reacted in horror, will a government, any government, manage to rake up as much guts and courage as the good Hafiz and act to deal with these laws as they should be dealt with?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • John B
    Sep 7, 2012 - 11:17PM

    No. The author is beating a dead horse. Blasphemy law business is here to stay in PAK.

    One should understand that no one argues against stupidity of the blasphemy law in PAK, with exception of few. All are interested in preserving it for proper enforcement only including the cleric, whatever that is.

    If people are really interested in changing, amending or repealing the law, by now the constitutionality of the law would have been challenged in the SC.


  • Ahsan
    Sep 8, 2012 - 12:25AM

    Is Pakistan a dead horse? No not as yet in spite of the fact that four generals rode it. The fifth general will finish the task.


  • andleeb (Ottawa,Canada)
    Sep 8, 2012 - 3:40AM

    Very hard hitting article. But does the author know that since Pakistan is an Islamic republic, minorities have to learn to adjust. I support blasphemy law and strict adherence to sharia law especially for minorities. That is the only way forward for us.


  • Feroz
    Sep 8, 2012 - 9:22AM

    @andleeb (Ottawa,Canada):
    I know that dead horses do not have blinkers but after your comment makes me doubt my judgement.


  • Imran Con
    Sep 8, 2012 - 10:20AM

    @andleeb (Ottawa,Canada):
    The fact you’re not living in the country makes that humorous at best.


  • Ali
    Sep 8, 2012 - 1:38PM

    Well said. Indeed.


  • Neutral
    Sep 8, 2012 - 1:47PM

    @andaleeb…is there blasphemy law in Canada ? hv you read the law that is prevalent in Pakistan, otherwise, you wud not hv commented it…come down to Pakistan to enforce Sharia law by setting personal example..come & stay in Pakistan for a month & I assure you, you will regret that you came…leaving with firm belief not to return ever or even think that there was a country by the name of ” Pakistan “….commenting from Canada is very easy….Recommend

  • observer
    Sep 8, 2012 - 2:01PM

    Now that the honest cleric has spoken up and the world has reacted in horror, will a government, any government, manage to rake up as much guts and courage as the good Hafiz and act to deal with these laws as they should be dealt with?

    This is what the ‘honest Hafiz’ with ‘guts and courage’ had to say
    “There is a conspiracy to abolish the blasphemy law and investigators (of Rimsha’s case) should expose elements behind this act,” Ashrafi said.

    Exposing a ‘conspiracy against the good law’ is very courageous indeed. Now what would you like the ‘government any government’ to do?


  • Logic Europe
    Sep 8, 2012 - 2:33PM

    a pathetic attempt, as usual, to discredit democratic process, just verbosity no substance


  • Raza Khan
    Sep 8, 2012 - 4:20PM

    Whole nation is living in denial mode!


  • antanu g
    Sep 8, 2012 - 5:12PM

    Author has nothing to offer….except criticism. This way things will never change in Pakistan since such articles are bound to discourage the populace. What a role Paki intelligentsia is playing in NATION BUILDING.


  • x
    Sep 8, 2012 - 7:23PM



  • Asif Magsi
    Sep 9, 2012 - 3:30AM

    I second Miss Jilani’s opinion.
    Just do not know why people in pakistan instadad of walking on straight path themself, try to be leader and THEKEDAARS OF ISLAM. The solution is not taking out few buckets of water from well instead the solution is taking out the dog from the well.Recommend

  • Gratgy
    Sep 9, 2012 - 8:19PM

    The horse is not dead, in fact it is running towards the 15th century at breakneck speed


  • Sep 10, 2012 - 12:19AM

    @andleeb (Ottawa,Canada):

    No wonder Canadians are growing more weary of Islamists being amongst their mists these days…

    I’m not surprised by the hypocrisy. You’ll find a few, if not some more, Pakistanis overseas still propagating the backward Zia mentality and holding onto twisted supremacist ideology despite living in a cosy secular environment with full freedoms as a minority.


  • Hasan Mehmood
    Sep 10, 2012 - 5:43PM

    @andleeb (Ottawa,Canada):
    {minorities have to learn to adjust}
    Adjust to what? Blatant misuse, whimsical charges, victimization, score settling etc through invoking Blasphemy law at the drop of a hat? Please elaborate. Thanks in advance.


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