By M.A. Niazi
The main thing was probably the Long March, though the government thought that by launching the Budget on us, it could probably distract us from this most momentous of events. After all, there are five budgets a year (the federal and the four provincial), a process started off by the Budget presented in Islamabad, which was duly done.The hero of the whole episode was Ali Ahmed Kurd, or rather his hair. He is proof, if there is none else, of the advantage of hair. But the thought of all those lawyers converged on Islamabad brought to mind two things: first, for some odd, but eminently practical, reason, the Bathrooms at the Lahore High Court; then, the advantages of hanging on to your hair: not only do your wedding photos pass muster, but you might find yourself in leadership positions. I think that if the lawyers are going to embarrass the President by getting the judges, they should be embarrassed themselves by having to be in Islamabad, and having to find somewhere to go, and no client to do the paying, as is usual. Anyway, the sight of Ali Ahmed Kurd with Nawaz Sharif was quite something; so much hair as opposed to so little (though recently increased with so much difficulty). The long march didn’t come to an end because its objectives were achieved (the restoration of the November 3 judiciary, and the embarrassment thus caused the President), but because there are no public bathrooms in Islamabad, and a lot of lawyers had to go. So, according to reports from Islamabad, they did. Now, it is known as Islamabad the Stinking. Though some lawyers used their black coats, or rather the coat-pockets, but still had to abandon their coats, so were like their more unsophisticated colleagues, who made do with the nearest wall.
In reply, the government let Naveed Qamar make his maiden Budget speech. Naveed Qamar was Finance Minister for a few days when the World Bank demanded that V.A. Jafery be replaced by someone eligible for a proper ministry, and Makhdum Shahabuddin found he had no more speech-reading to do. But Naveed Qamar lasted so briefly, that he presented no Budget, because his assignment to Finance was apparently the signal to Farooq Leghari to use Article 58 (2b) on the second Benazir government (either that, or the Murtaza murder). Naveed Qamar almost didn’t make it again, because Ishaq Dar was scheduled to repeat his performance, but then Dar resigned, and the rest is history, and Naveed Qamar made his first Budget speech at last in 2008, instead of 1997.
But maybe Naveed Qamar should’ve resisted, or at least not read the Speech, leaving that to Rehman Malik, whose impression of a minister seems to be to imitate General Cheema, the popular spokesman of the Interior Ministry whose great contribution to modern, mullah-less civilization will remain the Benazir-lever suicide theory. Naveed Qamar was expected to bring some relief to the ordinary man. He didn’t, and only brought more taxes, and no subsidies, which put the ordinary citizen out of pocket. Because the normally smiling Naveed Qamar was reduced to scowls, expect the provincial budgets to bring little cheer, and to have provincial finance ministers who do a lot of scowling. As a matter of fact, the first scowl-session will kick off today with the Punjab budget, which will be Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s fourth, but his first after the military break. Again, the common mass of citizens should expect to be taxed to their last gasp, in return for the education and health care that the Punjab government is used to give out.
But leave aside the government, and let’s look at another activity other than the payment of taxes, the seeking of a bride for that suitable boy. This has really got active now, because those rishtas have to be settled in time for the coming winter, when the fixtures come off. Try and imagine the mothers telling the mother-of-the-girl that the light of their lives has gone to Islamabad for the march, because he is a lawyer, leaving unsaid but hanging in the air that it is as if the President has determined that if their boy is there, he will throw up everything and accept any embarrassment. And meanwhile the lawyer in question is busily, even anxiously, seeking a bottle, having duly handed over to seniors the ones he has already found, and is even thinking longingly of the pockets of his black coat.
The Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, must be wondering about the Almighty, and how much honour has been done him in this city, where he is homeless, where he never was done so much honour when he had the full pomp and glory of office, or rather he must be concerned about getting a bottle from somewhere. That is an advantage that the President has, and the reason why he is not only not leaving office, but will never leave it, not as long as it carries an official residence, which he need not occupy (in this case, the Presidency). Because he needs no bottle in Islamabad, unlike so many thousands of lawyers.
Source: The Nation, 16/6/2008