The Dark Side of the Moon

Published: August 31, 2013
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore 

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@

The passing of the first death anniversary of Neil Armstrong last week is an opportunity to reflect on our own connection (admittedly flimsy) with the first man on the moon. Two years before Armstrong landed on the moon, Ghulam Abbas wrote Dhanak, one of the best satirical short stories (The short story has been ably adapted by Shahid Nadeem into a play named Hotel Mohenjodaro) of all times, and unnervingly prescient. Written in 1967, the story begins with the first man landing on moon, not Armstrong, but a Pakistani PAF Captain, Adam Khan. Local and international dignitaries gather on the rooftop garden of the 71-storied Hotel Mohenjodaro in Karachi to listen to Adam Khan’s message from the moon. His brief message is, “I am Captain Adam Khan. I come from the district of Jhang in Punjab … I have landed safely. All praise to Allah … Pakistan Zindabad.”

Pakistan is congratulated all over the world and celebrations begin all around the country. However, like most good things, the triumph is short-lived. In a small town, outside of Karachi, a local imam terms the journey to the moon un-Islamic and satanic. The call of jihad travels from one mosque to another and in a jiffy, the whole country is engaged in the holy battle, chanting for Adam Khan’s death for trespassing into the forbidden domain. Briefly, the government loses the fight and an Amirul Momineen takes over. Sharia is imposed. Foreigners are driven out. All languages other than Arabic are banned. Beards are mandatory. Women are forbidden to leave the house. All technology and ‘Western’ medicine is declared haram. The construction of any building higher than the Jamia Mosque is unlawful. This descent into piety happens in just one month from the sanctimonious landing on moon.

All is not well, still. The initially overlooked question of which sect’s Sharia would be implemented rather violently rises up. Blood runs in mosques. Muslims kill Muslims, both sides fighting in the name of faith. Medievalism descends into chaos. The story ends with foreign aircraft bombing Karachi to rubble.

The date of writing is worth mentioning again — 1967. There might be very few writings in all of world literature that get the trajectory of the future so spectacularly, accurately right. Hotel Mohenjodaro, despite being on a par with anything that Orwell or Huxley have ever written on the subject, is not taught in curriculum in Pakistan. That is unlikely to change in the near future, very particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). The K-P government has decided to reintroduce the verses mandating jihad into the syllabus. The K-P government is also firmly against the Muslims fighting Muslims business, even if the other side of the Muslims has no such qualms about blowing up schools and buses filled with schoolchildren, etc. Women were not allowed to vote in many constituencies in K-P and Punjab. Agents of Western medicine, polio workers are still attacked on a regular basis. Adam Khan’s Jhang is not known today for producing top rate astronauts or PAF officers.

Till present, Mian Sahib has not made a serious effort to be appointed Amirul Momineen. However, in Mian Sahib’s Punjab, the Al-Bakistan licence plates are all the jazz. What we lack in the fight against the Taliban is made up by increasing the intensity in the war on technology. The reports on what the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) seeks to ban are contradictory and murky. However, one thing remains clear — that the PTA is extremely concerned about our morality and decency. The Supreme Court has also, in the past, expressed grave apprehension on the issue of late night telephone call packages, no doubt the evil at the centre of all our ills. Websites are blocked to protect us from sin and being led astray. Prime television programmes discuss jinns at length. Economists argue for the virtues and efficiency of ‘bonded labour’. The one point solution that solves our economic problems is to get rid of ‘Riba’, don’t ask how, and just have faith.

The closest thing that we have ever come to landing on the moon is Dr Abdus Salam winning the Nobel Prize. Like, Adam Khan, Dr Salam lost, and the small time, violent Moulvi won. In a country of water kits, the grave of Dr Salam stands vandalised. Ahmadis are being told to leave ‘Muslim’ areas, and the tricky bit here is that all areas are Muslim areas.

Krishn Nagar in Lahore is now renamed Islampura, Dharampura is Mustafabad. Bhagat Singh’s birth and death anniversaries pass unnoticed, while Ghazi Ilm Din is remembered. To use ‘Hindu’ while intending ‘Indian’ is acceptable practice, even in ‘educated and polite’ society. Using condescending terms and tones while referring to ‘minorities’ is not frowned upon. After an attack on ‘minorities’, the educated and liberal feel ‘ashamed’ at not being able to protect ‘them’, noble sentiments, however blatantly exclusionary. Not outraged, like when ‘we’ are attacked.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui is one of ‘us’ never mind the US citizenship and conviction on terror charges. Aasia Bibi is someone that some of us feel sorry about to discharge our civic responsibilities, of course when she is uncomfortably and occasionally brought up. What is happening to Aasia Bibi is at best (or is it worst?) a ‘shame’, whereas Dr Aafia Siddiqui is when our blood really boils, in ‘how dare they’ tones.

We already live in Ghulam Abbas’s, “Hotel Mohenjodaro”, yet worse, the landing on the moon never happened neither the rooftop garden on the 71st floor. We nosedived even before take-off. No high point, not even for false nostalgia.

What is the point of all this, we already know that? Yes, we do. However, the lesson of “Hotel Mohenjodaro” is that not only can it get worse, but it will get worse; inertia. Once the almost twin Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed, it was only a matter of time before other twin structures were hit. What the PTI and Mian Sahib need to wake up to is that appeasement and surrender does not work with those who ask for the entire world, perhaps ponder over Ghulam Abbas’s warning, cities and countries are sometimes reduced to rubble.

P.S.: As August comes to an end and the mighty seek to restrict freedom of expression, while at the same time fumbling with their own speech, WH Auden’s “August 1968” predicting the Prague Spring because of the inability of those in power to speak to the people bears rereading. “The Ogre does what ogres can, Deeds quite impossible for Man, But one Prize is beyond his reach, The Ogre cannot master Speech, About a subjugated plain, Among its desperate and slain, The Ogre stalks with hands on hips, While drivel gushes form his lips.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Faisal Nadeem
    Aug 31, 2013 - 11:08PM

    I might not believe in all what you have written sir but one thing is for sure. Appeasement is not the answer, was never the answer, will never be the answer. However these Pakistani Taliban and their guns and their caves have been blown out of Afghanistan by the Afghans. Its only fitting we finish the job.


  • G
    Aug 31, 2013 - 11:14PM

    Heard it all before Saroop. New material please. Wrapping up eight paragraphs of minority persecution with an Auden quote is a bad system week in and week out.


  • Toticalling
    Aug 31, 2013 - 11:23PM

    What a nice article. All Mr. Ijaz tells us is simple truth but it appears less and less people talk sensible things like that in Pakistan. It appears everybody is obsessed with interpreting events in the way which has nothing to do with reality. Ban this, punish those and kill the devil. Is that all there is to life?How come others countries not obsessed with relating everything with one eye are doing better, in fact far better?
    Thanks for writing the eye opener and carry on regardless. Good luck. I am behind you. As John Lennon said in his song Imagine. Come and join us.


  • Vakil
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:29AM

    Landing a (Pakistani) Man on the Moon should be the next “big project” by Mian Sahib, instead of these silly highway projects or Bullet-train projects or “corridor projects” from wherever to wherever… that will surely put these Moulvis into their place once and for all. And what is more, it will prove beyond doubt that Mian Sahib himself is Pakistan’s “Man IN the Moon” — and will put him on a far higher pedestal (literally!) than any title he can dream for himself such as Amir-ul-Momineen etc etc..


  • Legend
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:29AM

    What an extraordinarily brilliant piece! It has been heartbreaking to witness the last few years in Pakistani literature. The main theme has changed from grim predictions to lamentation. This is proof that the transformation of the society is now almost complete.


  • Parvez
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:31AM

    What you so eloquently say is now fairly well known and understood. It is time now to name and shame ………… if that is still possible.
    For you to harangue about IK and his PTI and Nawaz and his PML-N is pointless for they are just cogs in the wheel of a machinery that has been set in motion by our so called benefactor brother Arab friends at the behest of their mentors who have rightly judged that for a few pennies in the pocket we would sell our soul to the devil……..crippling the country is but a small thing.


  • sabi
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:37AM

    Very interesting read,thank you.Hypocrites will be defeated- a writing on wall.this is their turn now and it will be very very hard.


  • Baqir
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:38AM

    beautifully written….


  • Arifq
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:40AM

    Dear Saroop, please note for future reference, moon landing was all a hoax, filmed somewhere in Hollywood directed by Ben Affleck! A fantastic hoax conjured by Uncle Sam and his Jewish friends to show the world a fictional leap for mankind to distract honest, holly people from primary belief in greatness of their faith. Sirjee, one day all of you crying liberals, secularists will see how we plant the flag of our faith in all major capitals of the world. That will be the greatest leap(k) for man-kind!.


  • Anonymouse
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:42AM

    “To use ‘Hindu’ while intending ‘Indian’ is acceptable practice, even in ‘educated and polite’ society.”

    I am an indian, I had first hand experience of the above statement from a very well educated pakistani. I was initially offended, but later felt the chasm that exists between both the countries and citizens. I am an Indian and I would prefer to be addressed as an Indian not as ‘Hindu’ or ‘Parsi’ or ‘Sikh’ or etc..I don’t wear religion on my sleeve and religion is a personal matter between me and god. I wish everyone follows it in public discourse to accept the diversity in everything around us.

    I find it interesting at times, pakistani media uses the term ‘Hindustan’ to denote everything whereas the world uses ‘India’. Is this another example of inherent bias ? I don’t know. Peace my friend.



  • Nadir
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:57AM

    It is about time we submitted ourselves to our Saudi overlords. They are having trouble keeping their own ship intact as some women “dare” to drive their own car. I am sure we will be more than happy to submit to their rule.


  • Razi
    Sep 1, 2013 - 2:15AM

    Saroop Ijaz could use a bit of balance in his writings. How about straying from your favourite topic at least once, and writing something about MQM and Karachi along similar lines. Oh, I forgot; it’s a secular party!


  • numbersnumbers
    Sep 1, 2013 - 2:19AM

    Very well written!!!
    Pakistan desperately needs more Winston Churchill types ( who know who the enemy is and can explain what is NEEDED to be done to save the country )!!!
    Unfortunate, Pakistan has evolved into a state with a surplus of Neville Chamberlin types, unsure of anything but peace at any price!!!
    The TTP has claimed killing some 30,000 plus Pakistanis, and the governments STILL search for the magical (impossible?) “consensus” among all before deciding what to do!!!
    Image what would happen if the Israelis/indians/CIA/KFC send a single gunboat to openly shell the port of Karachi, killing just a single Pakistani, why the drums of WAR would deafen the region!!!!


  • hmmm
    Sep 1, 2013 - 2:55AM

    Really well written.


  • csmann
    Sep 1, 2013 - 5:46AM

    It is a living proof of a writer’s acute and penetrating perception of the society and premonitions of things to come.Mr. Abbas certainly must have sensed little things in the surroundings, things most people miss or pay no attention to, and predicted exactly what is happening in Pakistan today.And there are lots of people out there that don’t want to listen to the truths,as one of the readers of this article seems to. But ills need to be identified and dealt with,not brushed aside and put under the rug,and writers and other thinking people constantly need to bring them to the fore. A nice piece of writing,as always!!


  • Gp65
    Sep 1, 2013 - 7:02AM

    I hope that what you say comes true. Do you see anyone in current leadership who can lead such a change?Recommend

  • RK
    Sep 1, 2013 - 7:06AM

    @Arifq – “Sirjee, one day all of you crying liberals, secularists will see how we plant the flag of our faith in all major capitals of the world” – I used to think that people dream when they are asleep.


  • Rehmat
    Sep 1, 2013 - 7:19AM

    Because the word Hindu is used for India, when they see someone with a Muslim name make a pro-India comment, they immediately ask the person to use their Hindu name – not realizing that Ndia too has almost as many Muslims as Pakistan. I have faced ths several times

    As the author said, this practice has not spared even people as.respected as an AVM who regularly writes OpEds for ET.

    We refer to Our country as India or Bharat and over the years the reference to the word Hindustan in contemporary language and literature has disappeared but Pakistanis continue o refer to us as Hindustanis.

    The notion of using Indians and Hindus interchangeably matches the TNT – one nation for Hindus and another for Muslims. It spares the need to ask uncomfortable questions about what was supposed to happen to Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Christians, Buddhists and atheists in such a formulation. It also spares the need to acknowledge the fact so many Muslims ( such as my family ) that lived in present day India stayed back.


  • Feroz
    Sep 1, 2013 - 8:43AM

    Outstanding article even by the high standards of this author. There are many already residing in an make believe Hotel Mohenjadaro. Living in dreamland and fantasizing that one is living in this fantastic Hotel, is the only form of escapism left for many. From birth it has been ingrained into Muslims that the World is against them and therefore must remain steadfast in ones beliefs. There is no effort to imbibe a spirit of rational inquiry, a must for any nation wanting to make a mark in today’s Technological World.
    Today there is emphasis on form rather than substance, a practice of ritual without understanding that the Soul stands at the heart of spiritualism. We must recognize the Soul which is on a timeless journey, not pay obeisance to the body it is housed in. The worship of Mammon and public display of Piety cannot fool ones neighbors or the Almighty. The day people start nurturing and nourishing their Conscience and Soul, the TRUTH will be revealed to them and they can happily shed the fake identities assumed.
    God Bless !


  • Sep 1, 2013 - 9:43AM

    That’s just eerie. Unfortunately, as the author nicely articulated with today’s examples, we truly are haunted by the extreme religious nationalist frenzy that was foretold by Ghulam Abbas’s great work in Urdu back in 1967.


  • Altaf Shakoor
    Sep 1, 2013 - 10:00AM

    Correction pls! (1) Aafia Siddiqi is a Pakistani citizen (2) She was never charged for terrorism.


  • choptocut
    Sep 1, 2013 - 10:29AM

    Great article Saroop.
    These people want to be shown their terrible image in the mirror. And you are The Mirror. Keep it up


  • sabi
    Sep 1, 2013 - 12:10PM

    I hope that what you say comes true. Do you see anyone in current leadership who can lead such a change?
    Well perhaps not.


  • MSS
    Sep 1, 2013 - 2:13PM

    Wonderfully worded and thought provoking piece. Great way of saying what is wrong with society. The ones of have read it already know, while most of the ones who should read this cannot read English.


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Sep 1, 2013 - 3:02PM

    Excellent article author, truely appreciated. Please send zaid Hamid, Hamid gul and the tv charade comedian liaqat into space in a spacecraft for pakistan and India’s sake. Rab rakha


  • Uza Syed
    Sep 1, 2013 - 3:07PM

    Saroop Sahib, I’m sure that you are familiar with the wisdom that warns about the futility of ‘Bhains ke aage been bajana’, (it’s a waste to playing flute to a buffalo !). Sir, do you realize that it’s not just one buffalo, here your audience is more than one, two or a few, it’s a whole herd, a herd of millions of buffaloes, and sir! you can play as much flute as you can or like, it’s going to be appreciated just as much by us the millions as any one buffalo that we have allowed ourselves to be degenerated to, intellectually.Recommend

  • F
    Sep 1, 2013 - 4:09PM

    Brilliant. Eloquent, insightful and accurate.
    Pakistan is on the trajectory chosen by its founding leaders. It is on its way to becoming a theocratic state. The fight between LET, Taliban types and military forces is about power. One group wants it now no matter the means, the other wants to modulate it. The destination is still the same.


  • RAW is WAR
    Sep 1, 2013 - 4:43PM

    excellent article indeed.


  • Andrew Purcell
    Sep 1, 2013 - 6:13PM

    I have known Aafia Siddiqui since she arrived in Texas in 1990. She was a Pakistani citizen with a visa that allowed her to go to school here. When she got married to a Pakistani citizen her visa status was changed to that of the non-working spouse of a legal, temporary resident. That was her visa status when she returned to Pakistan in 2002.
    During the years 2003-2008 she was being held in secret prisons by agents of the US government. She was not given American citizenship during this time.
    When Aafia was brought to New York City she was a citizen of Pakistan. That is part of the court records.
    One of the more macabre moments of the sentencing hearing involved an argument between the judge and the prosecutor over whether she would be subject to three years supervision or five years supervision at the end of her eighty-six year sentence before being deported to Pakistan.
    Since her conviction and sentencing in 2010 she has been in Carswell Prison near Fort Worth, Texas. The United States does not grant citizenship to convicted felons. She is still a Pakistani citizen.
    Simply repeating the claim that Aafia is an American citizen does not make it true.
    Wishing it was true because it fits your story does not make it true.


  • khan ali
    Sep 1, 2013 - 8:50PM

    the author as well as the secular liberal elite share the blame as much as the mullahs. more later


  • csmann
    Sep 1, 2013 - 9:33PM

    @khan ali: Would be interesting to see which elitist non-blamable group you belong to.


  • Np
    Sep 2, 2013 - 1:50AM

    He was being sarcastic.


  • GP65
    Sep 2, 2013 - 2:06AM

    Seriously, you think MQM is secular? Does the only group in Pakistan that actually left India because they did not want to live with Hindus seem like a secular group to you? Tthe rest of present day Pakistanis as you know simply continued to live where they had always lived.

    If rest of the politicians have been quiet, has MQM spoken up about justice for Asia bibi or reverting the blasphemy law to what it was in preZia days where it was even handed across religions and did not carry death penalty? Have they spoken out against institutionalized discrimination against Ahmadis? As a Sind based party, have they shown concern for the Hindu women that are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted? What exactly is the basis of calling them secular?

    You can call them left of center party because of their economic philosophy and opposition to feudals but secular? Recommend

  • RHS
    Sep 2, 2013 - 3:16AM

    Hats off to you young man. Another superb piece of writing….


  • Waqas Siddiqi
    Sep 2, 2013 - 7:17AM

    Aafia Siddiqui has was not charged and convicted on terror charges. She was charged and convincted on firing a military weapon, which by the way did not have her finderprints and plotting to kill U.S personnel, again the validity of that charge has been put in serious doubt by experts. Get your facts right clown.


  • Shamima
    Sep 2, 2013 - 4:41PM

    Brilliant Piece. Love your phrase ‘descent into piety’. Sums up the story of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Singh
    Sep 2, 2013 - 5:59PM

    @Waqas Siddiqi: Excellent English.


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