A beautiful mind-set

If it had not been for the anger of the masses, now in full display across the country, would Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his government have woken up to the power crisis?

By Ayaz Amir (PAKISTAN)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sat 24 Apr 2010, 10:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:08 AM

The answer is no. It is only public fury which has interrupted their slumber and driven them to some form of action.

We are now being instructed in the virtue of saving energy. This education should have started two years ago when the present political dispensation took office. But a year was wasted on the judges’ issue, another year over the intricacies of the 18th Amendment. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto managed to change so much in a hundred days. That was the speed at which he operated. Our present-day paladins have a somewhat different conception of time and space.

Iqbal, our national poet, we have turned into a soulless monument. We pay lip-service to his memory but perish the thought that we should care about his ideas. If this was a country modelled on Iqbal’s thinking, there would have been no Objectives Resolution, certainly no hallowed place for it in the Constitution. If Pakistan has still not been overrun by the religious right, if religious parties have not been able to expand their sphere of influence, it is because the temperament of the ordinary Pakistan is anti-theocratic. Despite Gen Zia’s false proselytising in the name of Islam, in the mind of the ordinary Pakistani the role of the mullah is to officiate at the rites of marriage and death.

In worldly affairs our holy fathers are given short shrift, a testimony to the fact that at heart this remains an easy-going society. But this would be a more relaxed society if only we could rid ourselves of one of the worst legacies of the Zia period, the Hadood Ordinance.

Raza Rabbani and his committee of the wise should have concentrated on ridding the Constitution of its Zia-inspired anachronistic sections. But this would have required courage and vision, commodities often in short supply in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s salvation lies in freeing its mind from the shackles of self-contrived shibboleths. For 800 years Islam has flourished in the sub-continent. It will still be around 10,000 years from now. Our problems are about concrete, material things, not the state of our souls, or the condition of our spirituality. We can do with less rhetoric and turn a bit more to doing things and solving problems. Power shortage is not a spiritual issue.

The frontiers of spirituality end here. Beyond it lies the secular world of expertise and capacity. We have to deal with that world on its own terms if its problems are to be resolved, or at least mitigated. But returning to anarchy, Iqbal in one of his most frequently-quoted couplets says: be not afraid of contending winds or the approaching storm; they are meant only to make you soar higher across the skies.

The signs of anarchy we see in Pakistan are not harbingers of doom. They are raising the curtain on no Kyrgyzstan situation. We are too laidback for that. And despite all the manufacturing of gloom at which we are so good, this remains, fundamentally, a sturdy state.

Putting up with President Zardari and his knights of the round table, and not suffering consequences worse than those already on display, also provide evidence of our underlying strength.

No, the rioting in the streets, the burning of tyres and effigies, are signs that the people of this country are alive. Gilani and his cabinet, and the four chief ministers, would have remained an immoveable mass but for this turmoil.

If finally government at the centre and the provinces is getting serious about power blackouts then it only means that the disorder we are seeing is creative, from which some kind of policy can emerge. Lawyers taking the law into their own hands and browbeating judges and thrashing litigants, as is happening all too frequently; senior lawyers pestering the Supreme Court with constitutional petitions, some with a decidedly surreal edge to them; all the talk of a looming clash of institutions; the never-ending saga of the quarrel between the actor Veena Malik and Muhammad Asif, the cricketer; the media and popular interest in the marriage of Sania Mirza and Shoaib Mirza; are all signs of a people not dead but alive. And if the pendulum in some cases is swinging too much to one side, as in the case of our quarrelling lawyers, with time it will come to rest in the middle.

Life goes on in war. Life went on even during the World War II. People still made love and went to cafes and bars. There were shortages and bombings and, for some, huge suffering. But human beings are resilient. Beyond the evil and the banal in us, resilience and tenacity are two of the good things about our species. We have the capacity of endurance, even the capacity to exult in that endurance.

Despite our many troubles life will go on and we will perhaps emerge better and tougher from our travails. Only in fire is steel tempered.

Years ago at a party in Lahore with Salmaan Taseer (yes, I have to confess I have known him) lounging on the floor in front us was Imran Khan in thigh-hugging jeans and someone with him also encased in an attractive pair of jeans. Salmaan was never a pushover in this department but we couldn’t help noticing that all the ladies were finding excuses to talk to Imran and his friend. About the injustice of it all I asked Salmaan and he said, memorably, that one flick of their legs was worth all my columns put together.

I remember once listening, glasses and ice bucket close at hand, to Hadiqa Kayani singing “Boohe baarian” and Shazia Manzoor (where is she?) singing “Ghar aaja sonhrian” and thinking to myself that a place whence came such haunting voices couldn’t be such a bad place after all. “Never give in”, the Lawrence College motto: there’s always something to celebrate.

Ayaz Amir is a distinguished Pakistani commentator and Member of National Assembly (parliament). For comments, write to opinion@khaleejtimes.com

More news from