Monday, February 15, 2016


This country didn’t get the population it has by means of IVF

 Dear President of Pakistan Mr Mamnoon Hussain,
You were looking as dapper as is possible for you on the occasion of Abdur Rab Nishtar’s death anniversary. Unfortunately, while making a speech urging people not to observe Valentine’s Day ‘because it has no connection with our culture’, you missed the hypocrisy: you were wearing a suit and tie which have no connection with our culture either. I see nothing wrong with wearing a suit in Pakistan, but neither do I see anything wrong with celebrating Valentine’s Day, although you claim to.
It isn’t just Pakistan. In Egypt a four kilometres long red carpet, estimated to have cost over $200,000, covered the road over which the presidential motorcade drove carrying the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. His destination? A suburb of Cairo where he was to inaugurate a project consisting of homes for the poor. Do you notice anything wrong with that? Expensive carpet, homes for the poor, representative of the people… no? I didn’t expect you would. Many people don’t.
Most of us, for example, applauded Mr Obama’s visit to a mosque in Baltimore in the US. And many people thought it unfair that a hijab wearing professor was asked to leave a Christian college because of her headdress. It’s obvious that we expect others to be tolerant of our culture and religion, and yet quite a few of these same people would agree with your sentiments regarding Valentine’s Day which means that tolerance is expected only of others, not of oneself. That’s another angle on the matter, doesn’t it seem rather unfair to you? Besides, it’s an inclusive world, Mr President, and although I think it always was, it’s getting more so with every advance in technology. What can a trifling thing like Valentine’s Day achieve given larger issues such as the sectarian violence in this country? Is that violence compatible with our religion, let alone culture? Valentine’s Day is nothing but a Hallmark card hype when people exchange messages and gifts with those they love which could mean any friend, not just a lover. Even if it were the latter, you reckon enough of that doesn’t go on with or without the assistance of St Valentine? And what’s wrong with it anyway? This country didn’t get the population it has by means of IVF. People are tired of such interference, Mr President. But they would appreciate some genuine improvements.
You chose to stress the issue of Valentine’s Day in your speech while there are people out there leading hellish lives, and many are being killed for no reason at all. In Thar innocent children are dying of starvation. In the fiasco surrounding the privatisation of the national airline two persons died, quite needlessly, and a state of emergency was declared in Pakistan as millions of Lahoris fled the city after being disgusted with the performance of their team, the Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League. Or wait, that was from Khabaristan Today; it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. Delete that last bit, please.
So what does your government do in response to these hellish lives mentioned above? It buys more F-16 jets. Will anyone be nosediving those jets into the Thar desert to bore wells into the sand? Or using them to drop food packages for the people who live there? Last I heard, the Sindh Minister for Food Syed Nasir Hussain Shah was blaming those deaths on the children’s mothers, on their mishandling of their children’s diet. Yes, I know Mr Shah belongs to the PPP, not the PML-N, but I expected no other response from you as he is covered by the term ‘you guys’ and all you guys remind me of the men who broke into a house in Karachi and after tying up the inmates but before making off with their valuables, they kissed and touched their foreheads to a Quran they found lying on the table. Still duh? Okay. Here’s another reality check for you:
Yesterday in Defence, three kids jumped out of a rubbish skip right beside my car. One of them was carrying a couple of bananas in her hand. They’d been removing and eating food from the rubbish people had thrown into the skip.
A few days ago at the unbelievably overcrowded emergency department in the Punjab Institute of Cardiology a woman lay silently fitting and unattended on a gurney, while on the other side another woman lay dead, all by herself. The ratio of doctors and nurses to patients does not permit attendance upon everyone. Meantime, outside, the new overpass and what not devour meagre funds that, had your government gotten its priorities right, could have been used to improve medical facilities.
Reality is the young woman whose husband beats her. The particular young woman I speak of took refuge in a centre for abused women where she was beaten by the other residents and made to cook for everyone every day for a week until another new woman arrived and she was subjected to the abuse instead. Later the first young woman tried to kill herself but was saved by her relatives. She is now looking for a job but has not yet been successful.
This is rock bottom reality, unperceived by people who think reality lies in dissing St Valentine’s Day. Get a life, Mr President, at least what you think is a life, and let us get on with ours as best we can.

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