When numbers predict the course of events…

Published: August 2, 2014


Quite a lot of concern has been expressed over what is likely to happen this year on the fourteenth of August. In fact, at least six people have asked me if I have started to stock up on provisions — essentials like wheat flour, rice, lentils and drinking water. I have always been something of a sceptic and invariably took the position that nothing disastrous was going to happen. However, if such an alarm had been raised about thirty years ago, members of the Doomsday Club would have consulted the oracle up north whose reputation had spread far and wide.

Some of you might have heard of him. He was an astrologer in Rawalpindi in the 1980s that was consulted on a regular basis by Pakistani presidents, prime ministers, politicians, industrialists, cricketers, bankers, actors and people from all walks of life. For fifty rupees, he would tell you what you wanted to know … and also what you didn’t want to know. He was something out of the Old Testament — a cross between a retired patwari and the guy from Mount Ephraim who gave his mother eleven hundred shekels of silver. He used to hang around a bicycle-repair shop which also doubled as a tea shop where the brew which was served was five parts sugar four parts milk and one part tea. The shop was in striking distance of the Murree Brewery. I went to see him because I was writing a feature on people who claim they can predict the future through reading palms. Instead, I was treated to a new broadcasting orthodoxy and received a lesson on how numbers have played a role in determining significant political events in the past.

We sat on a charpoy under a shady peepul tree while I hoped that the chorus of pigeons holding forth in the upper branches would postpone their morning toilet. After putting down his cup the soothsayer suddenly said, “All important events can be explained through a predetermined sequence of numbers. Let’s start with 1947, the year this country came into existence. Now add four to seven and what do you get?”

“Eleven,” I replied pleased that the exercise was still at a stage where it hadn’t gotten complicated. ”Now add eleven to forty-seven and what do you get?”

“Fifty eight.”

“Right!” The exclamation was something in between a seven-no-trump call and the roar of a hungry lion on the Serengeti whose meal had been pinched by hyenas. .

“Wasn’t that the year when Martial Law was declared and democracy came to an end?” There was a certain hush and a liberal quantity of bird droppings anointed the soothsayer’s left shoulder. “Now take five and eight and add them. What do you get?’


“Right.” The astrologer rubbed his hands together. “Now add thirteen to fifty-eight and what do you get”.

“Seventy-one — the year Pakistan lost half her country and the end of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan.” As soon as I had made this comment one of the feathered vertebrates in the branches above in a display of intense nationalism streaked my blazer and anointed one of my brass buttons. However, I decided to play the game through to the end. I added seven to one making eight and added the eight to seventy-one … making seventy-nine … the year ZA Bhutto was hanged. The relentless logic of numbers started to become a little alarming especially when the soothsayer was able to work out the year of Ziaul Haq’s demise. Soon after the fellow disappeared and I gave up playing the game of numbers, for one never really knows who is listening.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (8)

  • MSS
    Aug 3, 2014 - 3:52AM

    The numbers can be applied to any event. Something always gets some sense of ‘yes! Oh no!. The recently crashed Malaysian airliner crashed on 17/7/2014.its maiden flight was also on 17/7/1997 exactly 17 years after. So far you see three 17s. 2014 add up to 7. So now you see three 7s as well. If you discard the two 9s in 1997, you have another 17. Now what was the flight no.? MH17.
    How is that for a coincidence? We tend to connect the ‘unconnectables’.


  • Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks
    Aug 3, 2014 - 5:53AM

    So, come on and predict something for 2014, I am holding my breath, don’t let me kick the bucket.


  • Anticorruption
    Aug 3, 2014 - 7:08AM

    what is the logic of Zia’s crash? Just curious


  • dada
    Aug 3, 2014 - 10:40AM

    Why do you call it Jinah’s Pakistan all the time? It was designed, developed and supported by angloes. It is definitely not Pakistan of Jinah and people residing in the geographical boundry. Pakistan was created to destabilize India and Soviets. Here after it will be used against China as well.


  • Feroz
    Aug 3, 2014 - 11:51AM

    Has this got something to do with Fibonacci sequence of numbers :-

    1 + 2 = 3
    2 + 3 = 5
    3 + 5 = 8
    5 + 8 = 13
    8 + 13 = 21 and continues that way

    Fibonacci numbers are often used as a tool in forecasting Business cycles and also in mapping market price movements to estimate prices supports and resistances in the Bull or Bear cycle.


  • MSS
    Aug 3, 2014 - 6:21PM

    You are right. You can start with any two numbers and carry on. Then if you divide the last term by the previous term you always get a number becoming increasingly stable at 1.618……
    This number is known as the Golden Ratio used by many architects and painters in their work. It is also discovered in nature. Fibonacci is the most researched sequence in the world of mathematics since the eleventh century named after an Italian mathematician Fillip Bonacci.


  • Anwer Mooraj
    Aug 4, 2014 - 8:16PM

    Jinnah’s Pakistan refers to the two wings of the country as they existed before the establishment of Bangladesh. I didn’t quite understand your point about the Anglos ( by whom I assume you mean the British creating Pakistan to destabilize India and Russia and China !!!. Read your history again, especially the Stafford Cripps plan and what Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel did with it .


  • Gp65
    Aug 5, 2014 - 11:16AM

    So India too got freedom in 1947 but nothing significant happened in 1958. Any explanation?


More in Opinion