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Sixth Miskte

The sixth mistake | F.S. Aijazuddin

IF ever Pakistan needed a spinal transplant, it is now. X-rays have revealed that, whatever rudimentary backbone it may have had at birth, over the years has atrophied.

On two occasions recently, it has taken intervention at the highest level for the flabby administrative organs of our government to take action. It took a chief of army staff to order the director general Rangers to remove decade-old illegal encroachments outside Bilawal House in Karachi, before the culprit — a former president — ‘volunteered’ to remove them himself.

It took an order from the chief minister Punjab for his police to arrest the son of a former minister of state for foreign affairs for allegedly killing an innocent young man in a fit of drunken road rage in Lahore’s Cavalry Ground. The suspect was traced to Khushab, surrendered and then confessed.

If Pakistan needs a new spine, some medico-sociologists might prescribe a number of other replacement procedures as well. It could benefit, for example, from lung transplants to replace those damaged by polluted air. It badly needs a new pair of kidneys for those destroyed by contaminated undrinkable water. It could do with a new liver to process food adulterated with invisible toxic additives. What about a stomach transplant in place of one ravaged by gluttonous self-indulgence? A heart transplant to replace one thickened by callousness and insensitivity? Or cornea transplants to enable us to see our national priorities in perspective?

Everybody needs a head and within it a brain that can think, can reason. Our prime ministers as the head of government are expected to rationalise and decide what is in our body politic’s best interest, and what is not. Today, Nawaz Sharif finds himself again a victim of political schizophrenia. It happened once before in May 1998 when, after the Indian nuclear blasts at Pokhran, he had to decide whether to retaliate or not. A visitor who met him during those days of incalculable tension recalls, that during the 20-minute interview, the prime minister’s concern appeared to be primarily when his guest’s elders had quit the old city of Lahore (andrun-i-shehr) and whether another branch of relatives had come from Ferozepur or from its andrun-i-shehr.

If Pakistan needs a new spine, some medico-sociologists might prescribe other replacement procedures as well.

He exhibited a similar sangfroid at the recent joint session of parliament while the prodigal PTI returned to its seats after agitating for months to remove him from his. A former president of PTI has revealed that the 126-day long dharnas last November/December had been orchestrated by a former head of an intelligence agency.

No one in parliament (with the possible exception of Aitzaz Ahsan) is a classicist. Had they been, they would have been warned against such unconstitutional interventions. As Cicero said that “a nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.

“For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

Watching Mian Nawaz Sharif’s calm unruffled demeanour of late indicates that he has made up his mind on the Saudi/Yemen crisis. He can see the dangers churning in the whirlpool into which Pakistan is being sucked, by invitation. He must have calculated the predictable sectarian backlash between the Shias and the Sunnis within the country and on its border with Iran.

But he is bowed by the burden of the debt his country owes to Saudi Arabia and his family to the House of Saud. He knows that largesse is a rain-check, issued by affluent desert tribals who wish to encash it with the Saudi equivalent of interest

The Saudis expect their kindnesses to be repaid in military kind. Being a politician, Nawaz Sharif will appear to manoeuvre, prevaricate, stall, but to understand his true mind, one should remember that he began politics under Gen Zia, and once aspired to be ameerul momineen.

If our parliament is bereft of classicists, so are the United States and Saudi Arabia. Had they opened their Cicero, they would have read his warning of the six mistakes that mankind has made century after century. The last mistake in Cicero’s list reads: “Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”

The writer is an author and art historian.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2015

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