May 252008

Masood Hasan

From Thatta Sindh comes a most interesting and moving story which will not make any difference to anything that I know of but being almost allegorical in content, it makes for a good read. Not half as exciting as the good Dr Ashraf’s capers, but reasonably good enough. And as a card carrying member of the Ayaz Amir club, I agree with him that there is little point in climbing the walls and moaning about cricket and the innings defeat the PCB has inflicted on this game when this is but the norm and pox on those like us who raise their hands and say, ‘hey guys cool it.’

Were George Orwell to write this, he surely would have put a great twist to the story and given us much food for thought, but for the moment we will have to go by the Pakistani version of what happened when cattle thieves (those not familiar with this profession are advised to visit the Stolen Cattle Museum in Gujrat for edification) broke into the house of a cattle farmer Saleh Mirabahar in Ranta village near Khirsar Forest and stole four of his buffaloes at gunpoint. The buffaloes were not held at gun point since they wouldn’t know what guns look like. It was the farmer, our friend Saleh. All this happened near Khirsar Forest, an area not exactly renowned for safe tourism. Exit Saleh, four puzzled buffaloes and assorted robbers.

Scene shifts to a posse of policemen disguised as policemen from the Bannu and Sujawal police station who having raided the cattle-pen of Shanu Turk in the Bannu area, were now in possession of Turk, unlicensed arms (naturally – what’s the sense in keeping licensed arms?), a pickup, a cow and nine stolen buffaloes – a Sindhi version of Noah’s Ark in a manner of speaking. Now these items cost a pretty penny and the police having realised that they had hauled in a nice catch, decided that under the circs. it was best to keep mum. Exit posse, one poker-faced cow, nine very confused buffaloes and assorted props.

The scene now shifts to village Ranta where the villagers have gotten wind of the police raid and recovery, so a trio called the Ranto Trio comprising brothers Yaqoob, Yar Mohammad and Talib Ranto made contact with the Bannu police party, the boys who look out for our well being. When asked if they had the buffaloes in their custody, the Bannu police force was most offended and administered torture number 354 on the three villagers. After all, you cannot accuse the cops in Sindh interior and hope to get away with it. The cops beat the three men black and blue – one day the head police cop of Pakistan will explain why to us confused readers, but that’s a day which may not actually arrive.

Having beaten them to their heart’s content – yes cops too have hearts, they were sitting down to a well-deserved round of tasty snacks, when the villagers stormed the station led by Awami Tehrik leader Dada Qadir Ranto – obviously the Ranto tribe is big out there and demanded that the hostage animals be returned to their owners. Meanwhile, PPP MNA, Dr Wahid Bukhsh Soomro, hopefully not related to PIA 777 conqueror Mianmuhammad Soomro, telephoned the cops and demanded they disclose the twice stolen buffaloes to the rightful owners. The cops told the MNA to take a hike and surreptitiously – all cops are very good at this, and began shifting the animals moved to a ‘safe-pen’ in Bannu Town. As good and business-savvy cops, they had by now realised that the herd was worth quite a bit and rightly felt that possession being nine tenths of the law, the remaining tenth part also with the cops, there was no reason to surrender the buffaloes. A police ‘muqabla’ was quickly ruled out since the cops realised that they wouldn’t be able to eat so much meat.

While the police were denying that these were stolen animals – heavens forbid, and all confusion was going on as the animals were being shunted off, a buffalo, God bless her noble heart, recognised her forlorn, downcast and undoubtedly dust-laden owner. In a scene which has all the moves of an epic drama, the buffalo broke the barriers and the ropes that the captors had harnessed her with and ran towards her master. Giving him kisses on his face and licking his hand in great joy, she proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that she indeed was this man’s pride and joy. There were far too many witnesses and it is possible that the thought of gunning down these meddlesome villagers might have crossed the minds of the defenders of the downtrodden but some better sense, a genuine shortage of ammunition and a slight pang of shame, forced the cops to abandon the loot. The villagers, for once in a position of strength, rallied forth, the cops abandoned the scene and animals and owners were reunited. One less case for my lordship the Chief Justice to decide when he regains his chair soon.

What does this teach us? I suppose nothing at all. We are a country of animal haters and tree fellers. We cannot stand the sight of great trees and cannot rest till we chop them down with knives, saws, ropes and a will bordering on the insane. We have brought Pakistan down to less than 4 per cent forest cover and we are still not happy. There are ugly rumours afoot that New Murree that blight on our souls, is back in full swing and the mass murder of the great pine forests is going to begin soon enough. Is it possible that were that dark day to dawn, we all volunteer to allow ourselves to be tied three to a tree trunk and ask the cutters to cut us down first? Can the residents of Islamabad do it? The residents of the Murree Hills? Will the WWF mobilise this movement? Will we petition the highest in the land and lay down ourselves on the road past Patriata leading to the great forests?

Pakistanis are so cynical that they do not believe anymore in their collective power. Having been betrayed again and again at the ‘Neharwalay Pull Tey,’ the lilting Madam Nur Jehan number which sent CBR Czar, Mr Abdullah Yousaf, into a dance trance the likes of which we are yet to see, the average folk feel despondent. They should not because they have seen again and again that when the winds start to blow, insignificant at first but gaining strength, the outwardly sturdy bastions come crashing down. Here in Lahore, one of the great cantonment barracks built in the time of the British, right on Waris Road, have been pulled down, the debris carted away on donkey backs and carts. Now the Ministry of Defence wants to build more obscene cement structures in its place. Friend Rafay Alam is fighting a crusade all on his own. We should all join in and save Birdwood Barracks and give them to the people as a public park where the thousands of residents who have no gardens to go to, can ease off a little. Will the MoD do this great turn and win the hearts of their fellow countrymen or will Pakistan’s real god, Mammon have the last word again?

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email:

Courtesy: The News, 25/5/2008


 Posted by at 4:48 pm

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