No spin: Ophiuchus, say that again! - Anjum Niaz - January 23, 2011

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Our Mother Earth is in a wobble. “The astrological positions calculated some 2,000 years ago no longer apply,” says The Christian Science Monitor. “Nowadays, the stars have shifted in the night sky so much that horoscope signs are nearly a month off.” And guess what, all you Sagittarians and Scorpions out there, stop reading your horoscope. Your star sign from now is ‘Ophiuchus’ (sorry but don’t know how to pronounce it as I’m one of the affected and lost in celestial crosshairs for now).

But some guys on Google Earth in a land called ‘holy’ refuse to change. The pharaohs of Pakistan are like the termites I see on each and every tree as I walk in a park skirted by big monstrous houses. Sector I-8 of Islamabad, where all the corrupt and not-so-corrupt CDA (Capital Development Authority) biggies reside has become a gold mine. I’m told the TV talk show hosts are buying homes upwards of Rs50 million in this sector. Well, it’s good to know that, apart from our politicians and the establishment, the ‘4th Estate’ is flourishing by leaps and bounds. There’s such a rat race for plots and ‘Mac mansions’ (pretentious and ugly) that no one has time to tend to the termites!

The park was once a beauty, joy and pride of the residents. Every spring I’d see new saplings planted, old ones cared for, shrubbery and grassy plots spruced up, flowers livened. But, today it stands abandoned as though to say it’s beyond the CDA officials to kill the termites and save the trees. Metaphorically speaking, the state of Pakistan faces a similar fate. The human termites have eaten into its roots and made it hollow. From generals to captains; from air marshals to aircraftsmen, from admirals to petty officers; from attorney generals to magistrates; from clerks to grade-22 bureaucrats; from the local mullah to maulanas; from small time shop keepers to business magnates; from cub reporters to chief reporters and press barons…these human ants have fed into the state resources
pushing the 170 million Pakistanis into a mass well of poverty, ignorance and sub-human existence.

Human rights organisations should be clamouring for equality and justice; not sham democracy that feeds these termites eating into our roots of nationhood.

America should be more concerned about the rising numbers of poor than Al-Qaeda. Instead, Obama and his colleagues are handing out millions to our rulers
and the establishment to continue doing whatever they are doing best: corruption! Our own president would rather fly to the US on the pretext of attending a memorial for Richard Holbrooke, who died a month back, and cosy up to Obama for more money than stay back and be a voice of hope for the masses looking for succour. When his loyal lieutenant in Punjab fell a couple of kilometres from his presidential palace, Zardari was in Karachi and when the coast was clear he made a quick dash to Lahore to condole with his widow and then rush back to Karachi fearing for his own life. Note the stark difference between Obama and Zardari.

When a congresswoman in Arizona becomes the victim of a mad man’s bullet and is currently struggling to live, the First Couple bow their heads in prayers before a congregation at the White House and then fly to Tucson to be by her bedside and later address a crowd of thousands telecast all across America. “It is a president’s responsibility to salve a national wound,” says an editorial in The New York Times. “He was there to comfort and honour, and instill hope… The president’s call for calm was an important contrast to the ugliness that continues to swirl in some parts of the country. The accusation by Sarah Palin that ‘journalists and pundits’ had committed a ‘blood libel’ when they raised questions about overheated rhetoric was especially disturbing, given the grave meaning of that phrase in the history of the Jewish people.” The term ‘blood libel’ refers to an accusation or claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murdered Christian children for their religious rituals.

A religious debate is ensuing in Pakistan presently drowning out the voice of reason. Had Zardari the courage to summon the soul of a nation as Obama did after the gun attack on Rep Gabrielle Giffords, imploring a polarised nation to hold a dialogue “in a way that heals, not in a way it wounds,” as Obama said, our respect for our president would have risen. But sadly, AZ’s timing to fly off to foreign lands in times when he’s badly needed in Pakistan is becoming a routine.

When the Great Flood hit, he took off for Paris to stay in his 16th century castle or whatever.

Why could Zardari not have addressed us and said what Obama said: “I believe we can be better…We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.”

More than America, we in Pakistan need to hold a civil discourse and not a shouting match as we see nightly on our television channels. But first off, let’s bring in terminators who may yet salvage parts of society spared by human termites. The first step is to make Pakistan termite proof by getting rid of decaying institutions like the NAB, FIA, PIA, Steel Mills, and many others. Human termites love decaying institutions and are always looking for ways to get into mainstream. Next is to check Pakistan’s foundations for further cracks. Sealing can prevent future decay. But the final solution is to make iron clad barriers that stop human termites from penetrating.

The above steps, if taken sincerely (not Nawaz Sharif’s silly 45-day deadline to Gilani asking him to end corruption), is our last hope. Even Mother Earth has forced the house of Zodiac to think afresh. The result: Ophiuchus, star sign # 13! why can’t Zardari, Gilani, Sharifs and all other chiefs of political parties change? If the youth in Tunisia can reject and kick out President Ben Ali, who only kept promising to change and end corruption, our politicians’ turn may be next. Fueled by social media and cell phones, the Tunisians mobilised and mobbed Tunis to demand that Ali quit. Such a populist uprising sends a strong message to corrupt leaders.

Meanwhile, can someone from CDA attend to the termites on the trees in the park?

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