May 282008

What should we make the CJ’s remarks that the recent depreciation in the value of the rupee is also a direct consequence of the judicial crisis? But has not the crisis been around for over a year and the depreciation only a recent phenomenon? Is that a CJ speaking or a politician?

There is their way, and there is your way (whatever that may be, I know not). And then there is my way.

Is that supposedly a hint of what is to follow in this column? Is this to be a parody on that avidly watched programme with a title similar to this piece?

No. However, having raised that subject, I will say two things: why does the good doctor always present such a grim demeanour, and never smile? Solemnity is not a necessary adjunct to seriousness. Secondly, I wish to make a suggestion to the producers of popular parody shows: are well recognised media personalities, with distinctive styles, not ideal material for caricature and debunking, along with all those politicians?

Agreed, that politicians are a natural target. But so should be all those others who are in the public eye. And, media celebrities are often more easily recognisable than most politicians.

And those thoughts lead to another. The current promo for a religious programme shows clips of various smiling ulema, as the voiceover of its anchor — the host with the most permanent and sensationally ingratiating smirk on record — rhetorically asks, “Who says the ulema never smile?”

As they say, methinks this good doctor (should I really be using that title in his case?) doth protest too much, for the odd swallow a summer does not make. In any case, his name too should be added to the prospective list of candidates for parody.

For, the point is not that the jaws of the ulema suffer from a congenital defect that limits their ability to smile. Only that the great majority of the professional men of religion seem to instinctively adopt a solemn public manner they assume will add gravitas to their pronouncements, on a subject that they believe should demand the unconditional attention and reverence of those being addressed: after all, does their livelihood not largely depend on their being taken seriously and listened to?

Sure, they probably (well, possibly) laugh and smile in private, as much as the next man. For flashing teeth are in the natural human body language — unlike in the animal kingdom, where they say, ‘beware!’ — a signal for others to feel at ease. So, why do we see so much reticence in such worthies to smile and laugh in a public?

Could it be because, as Umberto Eco put it, laughter is subversive? That it thumbs its nose at authority?

Yes, indeed, that must be so. For, laughter is the surest indicator of a free and independent spirit, healthy in mind in body. In the currency of goodwill, a smile is worth a hundred frowns. Why cannot such personages at least emulate Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, whose softly twinkling eyes, mischievous smile, and a generally engaging manner, at least partially off-sets the generally dour and dry nature of such discourse?

But I have got carried away with a digression. My real intentions were to write about some quixotic and mixed-up thoughts that came to mind as I digested the news of the release of our ambassador, the statement of the PMLN provincial minister that the Punjab government will offer full protocol to the CJ in limbo, and the planned ‘long march’ on Islamabad by the lawyers.

I reflect that taking of hostages (ideally, VIPs) for use as bargaining chips, is now very much a way with our Taliban types. Indeed, it could be said — was said by many — that the manner of ‘restraining’ the CJ in limbo, Iftikhar Chaudhry, by the President, too, was tantamount to kidnapping. Another variant on the theme is, of course, the case of the ‘missing’ persons involving our spooks.

Could the disease spread? Will the lawyers (or the Punjab government) ‘kidnap’ (sorry, ‘restrain’) CJ Dogar, on his next visit to Punjab, to reinforce their demands?

That may be far fetched but this ‘protocol’ business could be complicated. Who would be the recipient if both CJ (!) Dogar and CJ Chaudhry were to be in Lahore at the same time, and going to the same wedding reception? And, under a PMLN government that does not recognise the President, will his protocol be also denied in the Punjab as illegitimate and unauthorised government expense? I suppose we can count ourselves lucky that this distinction between ‘de-facto’ and ‘de-jure’ is just so much talk and not actually taken seriously by anyone.

Not taken seriously, that is, by everyone else except, it would appear, by our CJ in limbo. For, has he not, in his recent Faisalabad speech, clearly said punishment awaits those enjoying the perks and privileges associated with currently held illegal de-facto positions and powers?

Incidentally, what should we make of his other remarks in that same speech such as that the recent depreciation in the value of the rupee is also a direct consequence of the judicial crisis? But has not the crisis been around for over a year and the depreciation only a recent phenomenon? Is that a CJ speaking or a politician?

Finally, for the benefit of whoever is listening (do I hear, “no one”?) here is my way of dealing with the threatened long march by the lawyers. First, a tip for the American embassy to win a few hearts and minds, for a pittance of an outlay: arrange for a hundred or so 24/7 mobile vans to accompany the march and serve everyone free Kentucky, McBurgers, Coke and other American goodies. Is not subliminal advertising supposed to be very effective?

Additionally, the vans can be decked out with suitable, non-committal, but praiseworthy slogans (such as “Americans support those who love democracy and freedom”; “have a Pepsi; independent judiciary zindabad” etc.), and assorted rosettes, flags and buttons liberally dispensed.

Meanwhile, and in similar fashion, the Brits can take care of the JI types who reject US cultural imperialism, by serving chicken tikkas, with the slogan that “Britain is proud to agree with you that nothing is better”. Should the Brits also consider a discreet provisioning of their famous yellow nectar for the cognoscenti in the leadership of the movement? I say anything that keeps everyone in good spirits.

And the government itself should put up welcoming shamianas outside Parliament, arrange for Abrar-ul Haq and others to entertain the crowd on a 24/7 basis, provide the biryani and aaloo-gosht, and instruct ministers to mingle with the crowd freely, to demonstrate that in principle they share the concerns of the lawyers.

Let the Punjab police, under the command of the sympathetic PMLN, take care of the law and order situation, but remain at a discreet distance. Let there be no confrontation, and let the festive atmosphere of a jamboree to prevail, for as many days as necessary. We all need to have more fun and laughter in our lives.

The writer is a businessman

Source: Daily Times, 28/5/2008


 Posted by at 12:49 pm

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