Agriculture is enough — Ejaz Haider

Some people liken the desert to nothingness, a place where nothing happens. They are wrong. Desert is about piety and piety is about abstinence from everything that, for those who know not, makes life worth living
A mail from friend BT tells me that NAPA, short for the National Academy of Performing Arts, has fallen on hard times under the benevolent and liberal government of the Pakistan People’s Party. I am not surprised.

NAPA was established in 2005 under Great Leader, a man faulted since for anything that goes wrong, or has gone wrong with us, collectively and individually. I could actually prove that he arranged my fall in the bathroom last week but that would take some space so I shall let that be. Plus, every analyst is already doing it and there is no point in my adding to the intellectual flatulence that forms the current environment in the country.

Yeah, so I was saying that GL decided that such an academy would be a good idea for a country that is mostly in the news for such dramatic acts as beheadings, summary executions and, yes, suicide bombings. He looked around and found Mr Zia Mohyeddin to lead it.

Mian Sahib, the reigning Great Democrat, should take note and perhaps replace GL’s folly with the sophisticated and much-nuanced Mr Siddiqul Farooq.

NAPA was getting Rs37 million in funding from the federal government to promote arts and culture. It will now get Rs17 million. Mr Baitullah Mehsud who spends Rs3 billion on sending people to hell and heaven — depending on who is being blown up and who is blowing himself up — and who is our true ambassador, can do with some more money for his just cause. My suggestion is that the money the government is going to save from slashing NAPA’s funds may duly be given to Mr Mehsud for the good PR work he is doing for this country.

Mr Mehsud’s cost for transporting people to meet the Maker is already going up because of the global oil price hike and the federal government’s savings from NAPA could help him continue until oil prices stabilise.

BT is angry that NAPA’s funding has been more than halved. But he is taking a surface view of the situation. Consider.

Undemocratic governments need special places for performing arts and GL’s was one such (on that we are all agreed). This is because dictatorships are dull and don’t have much to offer in terms of theatre and circuses. Not so when Lucky Irani Circus comes to Islamabad, as it has. Kings and courtiers and fools and jesters are the order of the day. The whole city is one big theatre and performances range from slapstick to the absurd and tragic to the farcical.

That should be enough. How much more theatre do we need anyway? In any case, what need does Karachi down south have of a special place for performing arts when there is so much and constant fun to be had in Islamabad up north? There’s the man with the perpetual broad grin (no normal jaw could have taken the strain); and then there’s the one with a perpetual frown (no normal forehead could afford it). Between these two gents, the nation is oscillating between hot passion and coolness, a sensation whose delight cannot really be described in, to use KH’s term, a family paper!

But there’s no dearth of sceptics. To them I can only say that while there mayn’t here be “God’s plenty”, there definitely is “goddess Democracy’s plenty”, though one does wish the goddess had bestowed on us a better-looking bunch of priests and priestesses sans botox.

Still, there is no need to lament NAPA’s loss. It was an over-funded place to begin with. And it was created by someone who didn’t do anything right. It is generous indeed of the new democratic dispensation to let NAPA stay despite it being the legacy of the man who has given such grief to the nation.

As for music, the faithful are not allowed to indulge in that satanic activity. Very soon, after Peshawar falls to the faithful, the people who are fighting against the Great Satan, and for whose cause all of us pray, will be in Islamabad. Once that happens and we are all transported to the Great Desert, we wouldn’t need any of this high culture stuff anyway. Agriculture will be enough.

Some people liken the desert to nothingness, a place where nothing happens. They are wrong. The desert is about piety and piety is about abstinence from everything that, for those who know not, makes life worth living. The faithful live for the hereafter. The desert is meant to test their resolve to live in nothingness for their mortal duration.

Plus, we could always have weekly beheadings, lapidations and executions through firing squads. Add to that camel and horse races, sword fights, wrestling, climbing trees and other activities for which people normally join the army and we will have fun enough.

In this scheme of things, between the march of democracy and Mr Mehsud’s army of the pious, NAPA doesn’t stand a chance. It should be content with the Rs17 million that it may still get, thank you.

Ejaz Haider is Consulting Editor of The Friday Times and Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times. He can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, 29/6/2008

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