OVER A COFFEE : Droning rationality all the way — Dr Haider Shah
By connecting Salman Rushdie with Malala Yousazai in a sloppy overstretching of the context, one can easily see mischief floating on the surface of Orya Maqbool Jaan’s writing
Reading columns in Pakistan’s Urdu media or listening to discussions in TV programmes often proves an excruciatingly painful experience. Last week, the pain levels crossed the threshold many times. Ever since the announcement of the prime minister’s visit to the US, the media seems to be suffering from ‘dronocitis’ infection. The narrative presents drones as the only worthwhile issue in Pakistan. The staged discussions make us believe that Nawaz Sharif has gone to the US to threaten President Barack Obama of dire consequences if the drone attacks were not stopped. A sane but feeble voice came from Mr Yousuf Raza Gillani, who said that instead of over-projecting the drone issue, we should be demanding of the PM to discuss Pakistan’s overall security situation, and how the two countries could jointly deal with the existentialist threat of militant extremism.
The energy crisis has nothing to do with the drone attacks. Our unsustainable population growth rate and our inability to eradicate polio disease have no connection with the drone attacks. General Sanaullah Niazi and Israrullah Gandapur — who represented the state of Pakistan at the highest level — were not killed by drones. To add insult to injury, the militants who claimed responsibility for bombing General Niazi’s vehicle, posted a lengthy video on social media sites, in which they not only glorified the act of killing the army general but reiterated their resolve of killing everyone that resisted their campaign of imposition of shariah in Pakistan. Somehow, we see drone attacks on these kinds of militants as a national calamity, while we are ready to look the other way in the face of tens of thousands of murders, from school children to senior police and army officers, by those who find a safe haven in the tribal region.
In one popular TV talk show, a journalist-turned-politician was dishing out a sermon on ‘how to be courageous’, and was advising the prime minister to act like a Hollywood hero. The worthy Senator wasted all opportunities of any demonstration of such valour when he was a part of General Pervez Musharraf’s ruling team after betraying his political benefactor in the mid of night. The honourable senator, relying on half-baked theories, concluded that the US was in great need of Pakistan, as only Pakistan could guarantee a safe passage of US troops and equipment in 2014. The victorious tone of his analysis reminded me of Somalian pirates who feel very powerful during negotiations when the hostages are in their custody. The governor of Sindh and Ansar Burney paid millions to the Somalian pirates in order to secure release of the kidnapped Pakistani crew. Thanks to our association with criminal militant gangs, should we also feel proudly powerful in the same way when interacting with the international community? If that is what such commentators make us believe then they should also not forget that as we see the Somalian pirates, we are also viewed in the same way. Isn’t it high time we brought some sanity back to our foreign affairs? Mr Nawaz Sharif has expressed this desire many times. He cannot do it alone, and it will be a criminal failing on our part if we do not help him in this arduous task.
Pakistan is gifted with many assets; however, its progress is stalled because of the dearth of rationality in many spheres of life. The droning of rationality is mercilessly done by Mr Orya Maqbool Jaan via his Urdu column, and his saintly appearances in TV talk shows. If like Ibne Safi, he was generating fictional literature I would not have even mentioned his name. But glorifying ignorance, he is regularly abusing his taxpayers’ paid position as a government servant in misleading our youth. The jurors of ancient Athens would find a more fitting case for the charge of corrupting the youth if they could visit us today. In a recent column, Jaan went to extraordinary lengths to express derision for Malala Yousafzai, who has bewitched the world with her innocent charm. Liking or disliking another person is our basic human right, and therefore, one cannot question Jaan’s right of disliking a girl that symbolises our pursuit for education against all odds. But the carefree author went below the belt by invoking the sensitive blasphemy issue. There are much better ways to gain attention. By connecting Salman Rushdie with Malala Yousazai in a sloppy overstretching of the context, one can easily see mischief floating on the surface of Orya Maqbool Jaan’s writing. Some time ago, I had exposed his maverick use of obscure historical references to generate a misleading narrative for unwary readers. But unfortunately, in our media professional ethics have little sanctity. Fake degree holders and users of profane language become hosts of religious programmes for corporate reasons. It seems to be a no-holds-barred game.
When I decided to make my non-conformist opinions known in the public, I resigned from a civil service career and joined academia. I am rather surprised to see people like Orya Maqbool Jaan enjoying the best of both worlds. In the evening, he lambasts the west for conspiring against Pakistan, and condemns the government, and in the morning, he shows Hilary Clinton around the Badshahi Mosque. ‘Rind ke rind rahe, haath se jannat na gaee’ (remained disbeliever, didn’t lose paradise either). It appears that the government is incapable of enforcing its ‘Efficiency and Discipline Rules’ on government servants who bring infamy by issuing statements that often contradict official policies. In that case, why should we complain when the gun-toting Taliban take the writ of the state for a ride?
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org