Over the top: Pass the buck

By Masood Hasan
All is not well with the prime minister’s security. This is in spite of the superior intelligence of the Super Intelligent Mr Malik who cunningly outfoxed the terrorists by nimbly shifting the big dinner attended by the new powerbrokers, from the now charred Marriott to the Prime Minister’s House. This left the confused terrorists no other option but to take their dumper to the hotel and dump its contents on dozens of innocent citizens who lost their lives and sustained serious injuries. But the VIPs were saved as sunset fell on a stunned Islamabad. It is another matter that the worthies were unable to partake, as the saying goes, of the considerable goodies that were laid before them, because hardly had they touched the first courses when the big explosion took place and the VIPs ran to save their precious lives. I guess the staff must have had a feast later in the night.

We should not talk about the snorkel/s that did not work, the Fire Brigade hose pipes that had no water pressure, the absence of trained, well-equipped and well-fortified security, the CDA fire extinguishing helicopter/s that cannot fly at night – and didn’t fly next day either – or the utter slow-motion response of the CDA, which finally arrived and saw the inferno like other curious spectators. So much for the state-of-the-art preparedness of the CDA in this country’s highly secured capital. I guess a cigarette butt could extinguish the entire capital one of these days. The Margalla Fires are to Islamabad citizens as commonplace as the obscene number of date trees and palms the CDA has thought fit to plaster the city with. As for the governments, past and present, their priorities are elsewhere. Everyone who is anyone wants a bullet-proof tank for themselves – hang the ordinary folk and let them bite the dust. A public report, in honourable tradition, will never be made public.

No one has thought this city and others are sitting ducks. Things such as modern fire-fighting equipment – something that can come to the rescue of thousands of ordinary folk and those who take their chances and come to our country for business or duty – are alien to our way of thinking. Instead of a modern, interactive and foolproof security cover, we happily blow Rs700 million on an ugly monument on top of the Shakarparian Hills and say this is an inspiring work of art. It is as inspiring as a turnip resting on a rotting cabbage leaf. Islamabad has a high speed 7th Avenue, but nothing for pedestrians and nothing remotely resembling what could be in the larger public wellbeing. But that’s the way it has always been and nothing is going to change. As Ayaz Amir said to me from Chakwal, “even the gods have deserted us.” This in spite of Ayaz invoking them in many columns to come to the aid of Pakistan. Even gods can have second thoughts, can’t they? And deserting Pakistan is the flavour of the month. The Brits and the Americans have shut down their visa sections, and who can blame them?

But it is the PM’s security we began with. News has broken that the two specially trained German shepherds, Max and Maggie, used to sniff for explosive materials are now in Karachi with the Federal Investigating Unit (FIU). No, they have not been arrested for interrogation or links with some shadowy terrorist organisation, and neither are they RAW agents or, heaven-forbid, Zionist agents. They are not even part of the “Foreign Hand” plot because their paws, when inspected, showed no embedded chip relaying devices. These dogs are in Karachi undergoing apparent “treatment” at some local vet outfit because they are suffering from maggots and serious ear infections. Considering that these are lethal for any dog, the poor Shepherds are soon going to be history. One was reportedly loaded onto a rickshaw that trundled off God knows where and the other in a private car (no number plates?). The picture and story published in Daily Times shows two FIU agents, and one man probably from Abyssinia, who have gagged the Shepherd on a steel table and are poking it about. There is no doctor in the picture. Maggots and pus flowing from ears are serious diseases that develop over long periods of neglect. Because the Shepherds, though highly intelligent, have yet to learn the art of self-medication they are dependent upon their handlers. In this case they have been simply neglected, and these are no ordinary dogs. Considering they are detailed for the prime minister’s security team, their mishandling and the cruelty and indifference of their masters to what were easily preventable diseases, shows how low we have regressed.

It should be their handlers who should be gagged and trussed up like common criminals. They should be charge-sheeted because, were these dogs on serious duty, they would not have been able to do their job properly. And if they are ill in Islamabad, why were they taken to Karachi? Is there no vet attached to this high-importance unit? The irony is that they will not be treated properly in Karachi. Most likely they will be given the usual sulphur solution ear bath which will further damage their advanced hearing system and the maggots which multiply by the thousands in hours will defy any medication. Dr Raza Khan, Lahore’s celebrated vet who works with Brooks Hospital – no, it is not a Pakistani organisation which works to save lives of four-legged animals, mostly the beasts of burden, the horses and donkeys who toil all day and live out their lives in wretched conditions till they die – said that as far as he was able to tell, only he had the proper medicines to treat this kind of advanced infection and was more than willing to step in and try and save the dogs, because they are prize animals, highly skilled and do not deserve to die at the age of two. But who is going to ask him? A country which cannot manage most things will hardly have the inclination to manage two severely infected dogs even if they are on the Prime Minister’s VIP duty.

The dog story may sound meaningless, but in the larger context of the sorry state in which we find ourselves, it is relevant and revealing. The truth is, nothing really matters to us. Nothing really makes an impression on us or leaves us with any lasting lesson. We are immune to all things and watch most of what happens in our country with a kind of detached manner, almost as in a stupor. We are not interested in anyone else’s plight or willing to give something to the many causes this country needs to support. All we are interested in, is getting ahead, the more crooked the path, the better. What matters is how good you are at grovelling, how well-honed are your flattery techniques or how much money you can “invest” – new aspirants to Punjab’s governorship offering an alleged Rs1 billion cash. Nothing changes. Things just get worse. The government’s much touted “austerity in everything” is in shreds, just like the country’s security where dumpers with hundreds of kilos of explosives roam at will in red zones. The news from the Big Apple is that the President’s lean-mean USA delegation has been infected successfully and now totals 65 mostly freeloaders who are having a ball at our expense. Limos are thrown in and evenings are free from any duties so that night life and its accompanying pleasures can be savoured at will. This is a case where both the flesh and the spirit are not only willing but egging each other on. Whoa! Way to go, sirs, while those with belts tighten them further.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com

Source: The News, 28/9/2008

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