What price pietism?

In this one month, public display of pietism ensures that almost all grinds to a halt — this year, even human lives


Amina Jilani July 03, 2015
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Ha-ha, a great headline this week after our prime minister, the first, just about, amongst his related equals, when he finally hopped into a subsided Karachi this week: “Those responsible for heatwave deaths to face action, says PM”. Is our great mega-constructor actually going to take action against himself? After all, he is supposed to be in charge of the entire country and, putting aside present circumstances, we have to assume that Sindh and its capital are part of the great democratic Islamic Republic. And, no constitutional amendment has decreed that a heatwave is a provincial affair.



In the past, it has been asked if one can shame the shameless. These leeches, who have returned to the seats of power, after having been shamed in our eyes time after time, are impervious to even the idea of adopting a mite of responsibility for the multiple ills that have beset this land for decades (including the loss of half of the Jinnah-made country). Shameless they are and shameless they will remain for as long as those who have the vote, to whom elections are more a form of entertainment (this being a scarce commodity in the land besieged by false piety), continue haplessly and thoughtlessly to bring them back in.

The disgraceful government of Sindh should naturally bear the brunt for the alarming events in Karachi at the start of the holy month, but no, it shrugs off nonchalantly all responsibility to K-Electric. The media has naturally gone to town on the heatwave deaths but so far, few have come up with any rational explanation. Some civic body should have been able to undertake a survey of sorts to find out how many of the total deaths were due to no electricity, or due to the law of the land that during Ramazan, any public display of drinking is illegal, therefore, depriving, say, daily labourers, beggars and others from rehydrating themselves. Then, there are the homeless and the druggies. How many were they? Were any well-heeled amongst the dead or were they all members of our poverty-stricken majority?

One of the finest exposes on these latest Karachi killings was written by Mohammed Hanif in The New York Times under the title, “A fatal mix of heat and piety in Karachi”. His focus was on the Respect of Ramazan Ordinance, that inducement to false piety which our pretentiously pious leaderships of all hues have felt necessary to keep on the statute books. Hanif’s contention is that the majority of deaths were due to the heat (which should have been foretold) combined with the sensibilities of some of those who fast. There are religiously prescribed exceptions to the exhortation to fast, so for these, why should a law be in place that disregards their needs?

In the era prior to the terrorised enforcement of religious intolerance — in the name of a religion that preaches peace and tolerance — upon the populace long ago and beyond the memory of the majority, fasting was entirely a personal matter. Those who chose to fast did not inflict their so-called seriously feeble sensibilities on others. As with all matters pertaining to religion, it was between a man or woman and his or her God — not the business of the state (exactly as Jinnah put it in his now famous Constituent Assembly address).

Rational beings, fasting or not, dread the holy month. During the other 11 months, it is difficult to get things done — anything. But in this one month, the public display of pietism ensures that almost all grinds to a halt — and this year, even human lives.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th,  2015.

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COMMENTS (8)

Dal | 6 years ago | Reply What about the hundreds that died before Ramadan? The thousands that died in India? Was it because they were fasting and weren't allowed to drink or eat in public? Unnecessarily blaming Ramadan for the heatwave. Have you been to Dubai? Temperatures here reach 52 degrees. Nobody has died due to a heatwave here in this whole month and before.
Hand of Nod | 6 years ago | Reply Toticalling, do you mean this paper? http://www.dw.com/en/ramadan-leads-to-dehydration-in-pakistani-heat-wave/a-18543776
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