Bazaar of storytellers —Mahmud Sipra

What a marvellous movement it would have been if the “Long March” had carried a banner that said: “Enough! No more!” and those fiery speeches had been directed at those that are the true enemies of the State

Go ahead with your long marches to have the judges restored while Kalashnikov-wielding vigilantes of the Tehreek-e Taliban swagger through the streets of the capital of the NWFP.

Carry on with your political posturing, bickering and your political chicanery while the country’s towns and resorts are torched and businesses, schools and homes are plundered and shut down.

Don’t cancel your parties and dinners and fashion shows while the Taliban insidiously creep into your residential boulevards, case your commercial areas, and mentally mark the areas they are going to bomb next.

Sit in the air-conditioned luxury of your homes and watch mindless serials on television channels, and listen to the wise political pundits hold forth on talk shows and current affairs programmes while the Taliban brutally slit the throats of more than 27 elderly peacemakers.

Don’t let anyone stop you from planning, plotting, writing and speaking about the newfound obsession of ousting, impeaching President Musharraf!

There are those who will flood me with emails asking how dare a person like me highlight these exaggerated reports and make up stories about what is going on right under their nose. Others will remind you of the “solah crore awam” who have “spoken”.

This kind of misplaced arrogance, malaise and apathy it seems has become part of the psyche of the Pakistani. Those that will smirk at my use of the word “psyche” here are invited to look to the origin of this word and its history in Roman mythology.

How often have you heard the phrase “we are fighting America’s war”?

Really? So what are the Taliban doing in and around Peshawar, a grenade throw from one of the country’s most important and strategic airbases? Just because the paramilitary forces have launched their offensive against them finally doesn’t mean they’ve gone away, you know.

Prof Shahida Kazi in a well-researched column titled “the Myth of history” in 2005 observed:

“History is a discipline that has never been taken seriously by anyone in Pakistan. As a result, the subject has been distorted in such a way that many a fabricated tale has become part of our collective consciousness. Does mythology have anything to do with history? Is mythology synonymous with history? Or is history mythology?”

One is tempted to recall Coleridge’s lament here: “If only men could learn from history — what lessons it might teach us.”

Prof Kazi lists a number of commonly held “myths’ that are taught as “history” in the classrooms and have now entered the realm of folklore. Forget the Kissa Khwani of Peshawar — as we knew it — the whole country is now a bazaar of storytellers!

The most common one being the one used by those who will rubbish all warnings by crowing “Oi don’t forget we are a nuclear state and an Islamic one at that!”

What? We are going to use a thermonuclear device on our own people who have been subjugated and terrorised by a group of imported thugs, who would slit your throat as easily as they would a bleating lamb?

We pick up all the right causes. Here are a few:

An independent judiciary. Glad you thought of it, pal. Lofty cause, but there is a sting in the tail: you want the ousted judges back. Is the cause of the restoration of judges more important than the sovereignty and the security of the country? False argument, you say? Fine.

Let us move on to the next one.

President Musharraf should be forced to “resign…then impeached and put on trial”. What is that famous phrase: “We ask for quarter but we’ll give none!”

Now I hold no brief for President Musharraf. Truth be told, I have been informed that he dislikes me. That is fine by me. Considering I’m not looking to be appointed an advisor, an ambassador or director general of the National Shipping Corporation or some other behemoth state-owned enterprise.

But when I saw a news flash on NDTV that “the Taliban have encircled the city of Peshawar and it is about to fall…” I have to admit that alarm bells went off in my head. I found myself reaching for the nearest telephone to call my editors at DT to check on the veracity of the news.

Peshawar is after all the city where I spent some of my years growing up learning to assemble a “crystal radio set”, climbing trees laden with nectarines and taking in the sights and sounds of the Kissa Khwani and other colourful bazaars steeped in history.

But coming back to President Musharraf. I have often wondered how his departure at this particular time of turmoil is going to help put the likes of Mangal Bagh and his ilk back in the bottle.

What a marvellous movement it would have been if the “Long March” had carried a banner that said: “Enough! No more!” and those fiery speeches had been directed at those that are the true enemies of the State, warning them: if you do not desist from desecrating our Faith — the sovereignty of our Land and terrorising our people — We, the People, will take this war to you, wherever you are.

Now that, if it ever came to pass, would be a story worth telling.

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, 3/6/2008

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