OVER A COFFEE: The Mayan 2012 in Pakistan —Dr Haider Shah
No lions roared inside the Supreme Court when Saleem Shahzad was murdered within a short distance from the court and when Osama bin Laden was found enjoying a visa-free stay in the garrison town of Abbottabad
The tearful 2011 bade us farewell leaving behind sweet and sour memories of all sorts. The new year does not look much different from the previous years but it has stepped in with a halo of significance hovering above its head. The popular US urban superstitions industry, drawing inspiration from ancient Mexican mythology, has been packaging the year 2012 as the apocalyptic year. Like any faith system, the doomsday believers also believe in things they want to hear and hence live in a world created by their imagination. They churn up all sorts of religious, scientific and astrological reasons why a Central American ancient civilisation’s hypothetical calendar foretells the end of life on planet earth. The fact that NASA denounced such stories as an “internet hoax” is not sufficient to shake stern believers.
Faith is always a big industry and opportunists do not miss any chance of making hay while the sun shines. A 2009 science fiction movie ‘2012’ directed by Roland Emmerich was the major promoter of the destruction myth. The marketing team of the movie actively promoted spurious claims about the end of the world in 2012 in order to pocket good revenue from the movie. Interestingly, our pseudo-science expert preachers are also making good money by running documentaries about the end of time on many private channels. The Mayan prophecy may be as good as a nursery rhyme such as the ‘Humpty Dumpty’ story but I feel like subscribing to the myth as far as its descent on Pakistan is concerned. The profiteers from the 2012 myth claim that the apocalypse will happen in different ways. Some point fingers at a rogue planet Nibiru or ‘Planet X’, which is going to hit Earth in 2012. Others look suspiciously at some sort of cosmic alignments while still others hold solar storms responsible for causing massive earthquakes. The movie ‘2012’ popularised these cosmic events resulting in a massive tsunami destroying the whole world. All these stories are figments of popular science fiction and NASA astronomers laugh them away. But maybe not in Pakistan!
The year 2012 here began under the lengthening dark shadows of the Memogate saga. We have time and again been warned of a tsunami by our cricketer-turned-politician as well. As if this was not enough, the Planet X is soon going to descend on us. The only difference is that instead of Nibiru, the planet hitting our country is named Mansoor. The volcanic activity in the Supreme Court is also dangerously high and it seems that huge tectonic movements resulting in the collision of various institutions will result in large scale earthquakes causing destruction of all that was so painstakingly built in the last four years. Mayan soothsayers say that December 21 is the doomsday but in Pakistan the cataclysmic forces may not wait that long. The gods of mayhem seem to have already written down the script. Only the mortals are now left to play their part to engineer the destruction.
Standing in the freezing December wind of London to join a demonstration for the restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2007, I have come a long way to become a subscriber to the doomsday prophecy for Pakistan when the apex judiciary is considered to be free and independent. Sometime back I wrote about perception management in this paper and had argued that in public life it is always important to watch our actions and see what perceptions are being strengthened or weakened. While I find the mayhem-mongering of our TV anchorpersons a sign of impatience, I also find the present government criminally negligent in responding to the negative perception of corrupt and bad governance. On this yardstick I found the main opposition party, the PML-N, and the Supreme Court more sensitive to public perceptions as they responded immediately to negative criticism on many occasions. But as the shadows of Mayan year 2012 reached Pakistan, some strange forces have started impacting everything in the country.
For quite some time, like many others, I have been holding the Supreme Court in great esteem for exhibiting independence and bravery after its restoration. But I am also not unaware of the perception that the judiciary’s independence in swirling the stick ends where the military’s nose begins. It is pointed out that no boldness has so far been seen in the alleged abduction and murder of the Baloch youth by the security agencies. No lions roared inside the Supreme Court when Saleem Shahzad was murdered within a short distance from the court and when Osama bin Laden was found enjoying a visa-free stay in the garrison town of Abbottabad. The memo petition was therefore a great opportunity for the Supreme Court to dispel any aspersions cast on its very honourable image. The golden opportunity has unfortunately been lost. Despite the harshness of her tone, I feel that Asma Jahangir deserves a keen hearing when she declares that she has sniffed the movement of tectonic plates.
Justice should not only be done but also be seen to be done. The Supreme Court could have used the opportunity to show to the world that the doctrine of necessity was dead for good. If it thought clubbing a phony petition of a Canadian national with the main petition was in the interest of justice, it should have also not ignored the petition filed by the chairman of the Communist Party of Pakistan, Engineer Jameel Ahmad Malik, who had prayed that the ISI chief should be suspended and investigations be ordered as Mansoor Ijaz had claimed that the ISI chief had visited Arab countries to stage a coup against a democratically elected government. The claim may be totally wrong but if investigations can be ordered against one government servant, why can the same not be done in case of another government servant? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If for the traditional ‘national interest’ reason the court did not want to go to that extent then at least it could have ordered the Parliamentary Committee to complete its investigations within a reasonable period, say one month, and advised the petitioners that they could return to the court if they were not happy with the outcome of the Parliamentary Committee’s investigations. This way the court would have shown its respect to parliament and the perception that it is menacingly encroaching upon parliamentary powers would have been dispelled. Unfortunately, the judgement has strengthened the perception that the demon of the doctrine of necessity has returned with a vengeance.
Reportedly, the planet Mansoor is aiming for Pakistan soon. The Mayan prophecy therefore might come true in Pakistan, if not anywhere else.
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org