Should one laugh or cry? —Munir Attaullah

Who are the people who talk vaguely of muzakirat? Without much doubt it is those who allow their religious sentiments, laced with their hatred of America, to get the better of their stillborn rationality

Traditionally, I wait till the end of the year to write about some choice reported absurdities of the preceding twelve months. My reason for doing so is simple. Ever the optimist (or should that be ‘stupid’?), at the end of every year of unfulfilled expectations, I continue to hope that the coming year will bring at least an incremental advance in sanity, and realism in the thinking of the ashraful makhlukat. My little year-end exercise in remembrance is intended as a personal counterweight to this wild over-confidence.

That tradition will be maintained. Meanwhile, I cannot resist offering you today a little preview on the same theme. For, in the past fortnight, some of those usual suspects given to media pronouncements on any and all subjects have come up with some gems that have left me gasping in astonishment and disbelief. And to appreciate their full absurdity requires that they be dealt with while the memory of their context is still fresh in the mind.

I start with the Iranian President Mr Ahmadinejad. Will his analysis of the current global financial crisis soon be enshrined in our textbooks on the fundamental principles of economics? After all, if religion can find its way into our biology textbooks, why should the teaching of economics be not similarly modernised?

The precedents for explaining everything in religious terms are well established. Did not a significant proportion of our countrymen, in similar vein, explain the earthquake of a few years ago not through the logic of geology but as the Almighty’s punishment of our misdeeds?

Here are Mr Ahmadenejad’s memorable words of wisdom:

“Their economy is collapsing… The reason for their defeat is that they have abandoned faith in God and piety. The financial crisis is a sign that the domination of ‘international thieves’ is over. The repercussions of the credit crunch are evidence that God’s promise is being delivered; that tyrants and corrupt people should go and be replaced by the pious and believers. God willing a global government of justice will be set up with the resistance of the Iranian people as the flag bearers of the movement.”

Should we quibble with such a masterly and incisive analysis? I know not about you but some obvious questions are troubling my mind. If the reason for ‘their’ defeat now is to be found in their abandonment of faith in God and piety, that particular western mind-set is not a recent phenomenon. It has been around for a fairly long time. Why then have they been given such a free run for so long and defeated only now, and not earlier? Indeed, why have such ungodly and un-pious people flourished for so long, while those who never abandoned God and piety suffered, and continue to suffer?

And, is God’s promise really being delivered, or about to be delivered? How many can really visualise Iran (in association, perhaps, with Venezuela?) as the new world power that will soon topple the ‘evil’ west from its position of dominance? Remember, Europe and the US between them, still control some 75 percent of global finance, and that is not likely to change much anytime soon. But then who can fathom the mysterious ways in which the Almighty chooses to operate?

That in turn raises a further question: let us accept for a moment that the global economic meltdown is indeed part of a divine plan; why should the Iranian President be the one to whom such privileged information is vouchsafed?

Incidentally, I am also a little confused at the apparent confusion prevailing in the ranks of sundry men of God. After all, has not our own Qazi sahib declared the crisis to be actually a saazish of the imperialist powers?

Some months ago I publicly resolved not to write any further columns on the subject of terrorism in our country even though it is the single most serious issue we face as a nation. My reasoning was simple. Over the years I and others have written so often on the subject that by now there is hardly anything new left to say. If, despite that, a frighteningly large number of us still cannot see what is staring us in the face and will, in true Pakistani style, wake up from our slumbers only when it is very late in the day, then there is not much I can do beyond leaving the ignorantly determined to their inevitable fate while making prudent contingency plans for myself.

Is such an attitude cynical, selfish and ‘unpatriotic’? Or must one doggedly resolve to stick around through thick and thin come what may? I don’t propose to discuss here this classic existential dilemma that has no definitive answer. What got me thinking again about it were those snide observations in sections of our media that Mr Asfandyar Wali has done that most un-Pashtun thing, and supposedly ‘run away’ to Manchester after the attempt on his life.

This, of course, is a variant on that old ‘if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen’ theme. That may have been sound advice in the old days but the technological age has dramatically increased our options. For example, I can install air-conditioning. But, whatever be Mr Asfandyar’s motives (others report he has gone for medical treatment for his back problem), what should we make of Mullah Fazlullah’s related pronouncement of October 8 announcing a ‘conditional amnesty’ for pro-government leaders?

The rebel cleric from Swat said that public representatives, government officials, social and political workers, and even other clerics, will not be legitimate objects for target killing by his followers only if they give up on their differences with the Taliban, and stop supporting the security forces.

Should we really ‘negotiate’ with such people who have so clearly spelt out their agenda, and whose primary political weapon is physical intimidation, targeted assassination, and indiscriminate killing of innocents? Should we really invite the representatives of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan — those who not only target state forces and authorities but have also accepted responsibility for suicide bombings in our cities — to address Parliament and ‘present their point of view’? What did those prolonged ‘negotiations’ with the Lal Masjid crowd achieve?

If that is what we should be doing, I can think of a still better option: recognise the Taliban as the legitimate government of a new country — composed of our Northern Areas — and be done with it.

The clearest way to see the problem we face is to look at from the perspective of the secular-religious divide. I doubt if any secular minded person in our country does not support the Army operations. Who are the people who talk vaguely of muzakirat? Without much doubt it is those who allow their religious sentiments, laced with their hatred of America, to get the better of their stillborn rationality. To allow this wishful thinking crowd to dictate the political agenda and lead the nation is to invite disaster.

The writer is a businessman. A selection of his columns is now available in book form. Visit

Source: Daily Times, 22/10/2008


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