Our despair's funny side - S Khalid Husain - Friday, November 12, 2010

Source : www.thenews.com.pk

Living in Pakistan is not all despair; there is a funny side to it too. To break the tedium of people's daily struggle to survive, in the mayhem that prevails in the absence of anything resembling governance, there are entertaining, almost comical, distractions provided by the architects of national despair – the politicians

The two most recent distractions of this kind are Law Minister Babar Awan's vehicle being halted by soldiers, and made to wait, until their chief's motorcade went through; and Marvi Memon thrown out, bag and baggage, of her parliament lodge, by two parliamentary colleagues from Balochistan,

Babar Awan – he of the dubious "doctorate" who can blatantly disregard the Supreme Court's invalidation of the NRO, who flies to the country's bar councils to rain money on them literally, who is said to have billed the Bank of Punjab under a two-way arrangement; one for legal services and the other for getting a favourable judgment, who had the decency to stop when his car hit the Sialkot Nazim – Babar Awan, of all these accomplishments, froze in his tracks when a soldier raised his finger. When the law minister's driver gathered the courage to keep moving, the soldier raised his gun instead of his finger, and that did the trick.

Babar Awan's run-in with the soldiers was hugely enjoyed by people. Serves him right, was the common sentiment. People are sick and tired of being treated by the police when a VVIP/VIP cavalcade goes by, the same way as Babar Awan was treated by the soldiers. Now that the law minister has had a taste of the medicine dished out by his party's regime to people on our roads, he can begin to ponder how an element of sanity can be brought into VVIP and VIP movements.

MNA Marvi Memon has not stopped screaming since being evicted from a parliamentary lodge by Senators Jan Jamali, the deputy chairman of the Senate, and Humayun Khan. The parliamentarians' fighting over accommodation has been a cause of considerable mirth. Also of some disgust, that so much time should be spent, and vitriol spewed, over a matter they should be well over, and have little time for if they were doing their job as lawmakers.

The politicians' grappling with the Supreme Court's invalidation of the NRO and the matter of their fake degrees – if it were not for their damaging consequence to the country's polity, these would be the two most comical situations. The invalidated NRO hangs like the sword of Damocles over the heads of many politicians, particularly the president. The minister of law, the redoubtable Dr Awan, has little time for anything except finding ways around the Supreme Court order for the government to write to Swiss courts, asking them to reopen the corruption cases against President Zardari.

The country's high commissioner in London is dubbed as Zardari's personal "baggage master" – that is, when he is not issuing visas to makeup girls from Mac cosmetics to travel to Pakistan to do bridal makeup at some VVIP wedding. He has that nickname because he is moving trunks full of papers from Geneva to London, and wherever else, so that they do not land in the "wrong place" at the "wrong time". The "Wrong place" perhaps means the courts of law, where the corruption cases against the president are most likely to be opened.

How much of the president's time, and that of his key factotums, is spent in dodging court orders on the NRO is not known. But since nothing else of any worth gets done anyway, conjuring excuses and taking evasive actions on the court's order must consume most of the time.

The politicians' attitude towards the fake degrees, which they formally submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan together with their nomination papers, was exemplified by the chief minister of Balochistan when he calmly stated: "A degree is a degree, real or fake." The ministry of education, whose minister was suspended for a while by the ECP for not declaring his assets, is acting for the president to kill the issue, since most of the fraudsters with fake degrees are from the PPP. The apex court has ruled against the fraudsters being allowed to complete their terms but, like the NRO, this issue under the manipulations of the president's legal eagles, is headed for a long journey nowhere.

If the court orders on the NRO and the fake degrees are implemented, the National and Provincial Assemblies will become heavily depopulated. At the same time, the prison population will register a sharp increase. Politically, it could be curtains for the PPP, not because the PML-N and other parties are made up of angels, but because the NRO is strictly PPP-specific. Almost all the NRO's beneficiaries are from the PPP, so it is they who will be the targets of its invalidation.

Corruption in Pakistan is well-recognised the world over. The country has been rated higher in world rankings in this than in any other field. The corrupt are everywhere, including in the ministry supposedly safeguarding religion against evil. This year the Hajis (haj pilgrims), and a Saudi prince with them, got taken like never before. The ministry, and its Haj directorate at the embassy in Riyadh, may be laughing all the way to the bank, but the people are not amused.

And, as if the politicians alone cannot be burdened with the task of providing entertaining distractions, the co-chairman of the ruling party – who is also the president of the country – has selectively placed his nominees in government and quasi-governmental institutions so that they can supplement the politicians' efforts. One such presidential nominee is the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. The chairman's tomfoolery with the media, when the Pakistani team got caught in the "spot fixing" scandal, in what's funny in itself – this "home series" against Australia, in England – was great entertainment for cricket fans worldwide and kept the scandal, and Pakistan, as the lead story in the cricket world's media for a long time.

If the Pakistani team could not provide entertaining cricket in the field, the PCB and its chairman more than made up for it off the field. The PCB chairman had to apologise to the England Cricket Board for his reckless remarks, and he had to eat crow in the on-going "home series" against South Africa (in Abu Dhabi and Dubai) by having to include Mohammed Yusuf and Mohammed Yunus, two players whose careers he was determined, and did his utmost, to end. Then the team's wicketkeeper legged it to London despite the PCB's "strict policy" of "zero tolerance" for player-indiscipline.

This and not a small collection of such mirthful happenings in the PCB would surely earn its chairman an Oscar, if there were one for comical off-field performance in cricket.

The writer is former corporate executive. Email: husainsk@cyber.net.pk

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