23 August 2011 Pakistan Today
With economies around the world floundering including its own, the British government initiated cutbacks in Britain to offset the ill effects. This resulted in the recent British riots. No public anywhere is ever thrilled by cutbacks, and had David Cameron accepted this obvious truth, that the riots were the backlash of a long disaffected public, his credibility would have increased. Instead he insisted that the riots were ‘criminality, plain and simple.’ As a result there is now an uncanny resemblance between David Cameron and our home grown Rehman Malik who, ever ready with startling statements, insisted a couple of months ago that not only was the law and order situation in Karachi well under control, but that the CIA was not conducting operations in Pakistan.
Of course, this being Pakistan and Mr Malik a representative specimen, he produced the additional mysterious piece of information that ‘during the last five months forty eight police personnel had ‘embraced shahadat’ while taking action against the criminals.
Wait, what...?! What does this have to do with the law and order situation, or the CIA, or anything?! And just how did this happen? Instant mental picture of forty eight police officials racing after criminals shouting ‘La illaha....’
What basis Mr Rehman has for any of his statements remains shrouded in mystery, to a lesser extent the same could be said for Mr Cameron’s statement about the riots. The motive of both, of course, is obvious.
A bemused Pakistani public is still trying to figure out the appointment of Ms Khar as Finance Minister. Her relationship to Ghulam Mustafa Khar of Feudal Lord fame has raised eyebrows, but really, he is of less importance than her wardrobe.
Hina Rabbani Khar with
the famous Birkin bag
Every person’s wealth is his/her personal business if legitimately earned. However, Pakistan being an indigent relative among the family of nations and Ms Khar being Pakistan’s representative, one expects her to possess more sensitivity than to flaunt her personal wealth on official trips. It’s like cell phones ringing from somewhere about a beggar’s person. Her staggeringly expensive wardrobe must anger foreign observers expected to use their people’s tax dollars to bail out Pakistan on a regular basis.
Ms Khar’s clothes and accessories when compared with Sonia Gandhi’s elegantly simple handloom Indian saris produced locally and holding special significance for whichever community she visits, should make Pakistanis blush; for look as hard as one may it is impossible to find any connection between Mr Hermes or Jane Birkin, and Pakistan. However, it may be best to give the young Ms Khar time to acquire some experience, and taste, which isn’t all about a wardrobe.
And meantime in the Karachi with a law and order situation well under control, hundreds of people have died since June, and God knows how many more will in the violent future. Visuals of buses and buildings on fire in Karachi bear an uncanny resemblance to others ablaze across the globe in London. Ashes and flames after all look exactly the same everywhere.
The explanation for this violence has filtered through the sieve of many theorists, and what remains appears to point towards something so sordid it is difficult for even Pakistan, sensitized as it is to morally ignoble and mercenary deeds to accept. It is increasingly understood that the violence is less racial and much more a war between gangs that extort bhatta, or protection money all over the city.
For years, businesses in Karachi have paid protection money to gangs and the practice apparently has the support of a ‘mainstream political group.’ The police appear powerless to prevent this practice, and is often said to be involved. Businesses have shut down or moved locations to escape this drain on their budget, where they have come up against other similar gangs. Thousands have died because they have refused or been unable to pay. This definitely is criminality, and like most criminality it has its roots in an underlying rot.
A disaffected public rises up in protest for many reasons. It is worth realising that the threshold for protest and even the threshold for a major revolt have been crossed in this country some time ago. It is now a question of when this revolt will take place, and what form it will take. It can only be hoped that it will be as quickly suppressed as the riots in Britain, and the causes dealt with. However, given Pakistan’s history, and leadership and people like Mr Rehman Malik, who speak authoritatively in percentages, there is a 99.8 percent chance that this will not be so.