First of all, a big thank you to the Na Maalom Afraad (NMA) for giving Karachi the most peaceful day it has experienced in a long, long time. No mobiles were snatched because everyone with mobile phones was safely at home. No shops were looted because they were all closed. No cars were hijacked because, well, there were no cars on the road. The NMA have also spared citizens the ignominy of having to wait in CNG lines and go to unpleasant places like offices and such.
For all this and so much more, I thank them. This thanks is even more heartfelt when you realise that no bhatta collection was possible on this day. Speaking of bhatta, I do feel that an improvement in technology is called for. These days, when I pay my phone bill or make a transaction at the bank, I get a friendly SMS with a receipt number and all that. It really makes my life easier. Now, why can’t extortionists adopt this simple approach? Trust me, it would save a lot of hassle and potential embarrassment. Recently, a Source Who Cannot Be Named told me about a business owned by a close relative of Those Who Must Not Be Named who got a ‘payment slip’ from his ‘own’ people. Many frantic phone calls had to be made and many an overenthusiastic activist was reprimanded. There were many red na-maloom faces that day. I’m no IT expert, but perhaps the simple expedient of a digitally-linked excel sheet coupled with some kind of mass SMS software could easily solve this problem. A sample message could read “Thank you for paying your bhatta, please note your confirmation receipt number”. It’s not like the NMA don’t have access to cutting-edge technology. I mean there they are, chanting slogans, firing in the air and shutting down cities in broad daylight and somehow they cannot be identified. Somehow, the TV cameras cannot capture their visages; somehow, the loud-as-a-1,000-sticks-of-dynamite anchors cannot call them out; somehow, the writing hand refuses to pen their name. It’s so very sad that we, as a nation, simply refuse to recognise the immense talent in our midst.
But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the NMA have many admirers who have tried to replicate their stealth tech, albeit in a ‘Made as Japan’ fashion. For example, you can’t really talk about the Ludicrously evil Johnnies. You should also avoid taking Tyrant Terry’s Progeny to task, even in the language of our colonial masters, as you never know who may be reading. For those who don’t have access to this tech, there are other options. The government should not be criticised because, well, democracy is awesome and all that and also People For Ethical Treatment of Animals may get offended. Why? Because leeches must be allowed to drink their fill before they finally drop off your blood-drained corpse. Freedom fighters must not be condemned when they massacre invading armies of poor, ethnically-challenged labourers because to do so makes you an agent of the Deep State. And the army, of course, is beyond reproach because any criticism there means that the foundations of the earth will tremble and our frontiers, ideological and otherwise, will come crumbling down. Oh, and stay away from criticising the courts because only a lawyer/columnist can frame that criticism without incurring contempt charges. Some day, I do hope to master the art of saying things without actually saying them but until then, I suppose I’ll just shut up.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2012.
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