Monday, May 30, 2016


Pakistani women need to see more role models
‘Chalo gurya gurya khalain!’ is a popular refrain amongst little girls when they wish to play with their dolls. It’s a game encouraged by parents since it fosters caring and nurturing traits. You may wonder: if dolls are able to foster such traits what else might they achieve, and how they and other things that have access to the public mind, icons, can be used to manipulate attitudes.

There is no doll as well known as the Barbie doll, the doll with an impossibly curvaceous figure. Ruth Handler the person who initiated the Barbie venture was an enterprising business woman. She gave Barbie a stupendous wardrobe, such as Lahore begums aspire to and often achieve. An exhibition in Paris at one time displayed 7000 designs for Barbie’s clothes, from bikinis to dresses to furs to you name it. There also followed other friends and family members and before long a boyfriend doll named Ken, also with a large wardrobe.

In a changing age the dolls changed accordingly. Barbie had always been available in blonde or brunette, but with changing ideas regarding race and body image Barbie soon came in brown or black complexions, tall or petite heights. As women became more confident about themselves the way Barbie looked out at the world was transformed; her eyes previously averted to one side looked straight ahead, viewing the world full on. The doll became an icon, just as actors and singers are icons, and it became clear that it had a symbiotic relationship with humans. Each gave the other certain messages, the traffic went both ways. Girls received some unrealistic messages regarding body image from Barbie but the doll that had started life as a ‘female model’ now also grew into the various professions women were beginning to get into. There were sportsman Barbies, she became a computer expert, an artist, scientist, manager…suggesting that it is possible for girls to be all of these, as they were indeed starting to be. Barbie became the way it is because women out there were doing all this. Even those with little beyond sheer style had a strong image such as Jackie Kennedy. And then, the BBC reports, back in 1992 a Barbie came onto the scene in a ‘Clintonesque electric-blue suit, way before any female candidate had ever made it onto the presidential ballot.’

Unfortunately, sites for potential icons in Pakistan, morning shows or plays available to the public on television, still reach out only to the worst western images and fail to reflect the Sharmeen Chinoys, Sherry Rehmans, Bilquis Edhis, or Naseem Zehras that Pakistan has managed to produce against all odds. These sites, the shows on television are stiff, with dumb simpering shrill dolls with silly blond hair and fussy clothes; female roles in plays on every channel consist of women incessantly weeping, walking with a shuffling gait, or being persecuted by a mother in law, husband or father. The themes consist of marriage, marriage and marriage again, its issues, or the lack of the state thereof. Not the smartest offering for a country that has a very long way to go before it can achieve even the semblance of progress, or for a society still mired in the middle ages.

People need icons. Not simply so they can applaud them but so that they can emulate them, their actions and whatever it is that makes them stand out. It is what Mohammad Ali and Nelson Mandela were to black people, Emmeline Pankhurst to female suffrage, and what Malala Yusufzai represents for women and all those who value education, freedom and gender equality. Manipulation is not only a good thing when used to create role models that have access to the public mind, child and adult alike, but it is possible and it is necessary.


The 'Hijarbie', created by 24-year-old Haneefah Adam, will be initially available in the US and will be sold in the UK from mid March. PHOTO: THE ECONOMIC TIMES
Let’s open a can of worms (an interesting exercise if indulged in occasionally) and wonder what it would be like if Barbie (of Ken fame) came to Pakistan as a franchise.
Since a non-Muslim woman before being co-opted into a Muslim family must become Muslim and change her name, Barbie, before being launched in Pakistan must do the same. I speak of Pakistan which rejoices in the name ‘The Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ as of a family, however dysfunctional, and of Barbie as a sort of Qaum ki bahoo, (the nation’s daughter-in-law) which puts Sania Mirza’s nose out of joint.
It’s weird that Barbie would have to change her name considering the number of Tonys and Pinkys and Annies in Pakistan but the Tonys and Pinkys and Annies of Pakistan come backed with something like Tanveer and Parveen and Quratul Ain which koshers them, so to speak.
Barbie, on the other hand, comes backed with Mattel which is owned by Ruth Handler, a Jewish lady, and although they’d keep that quiet if Barbie came to Pakistan as a franchise, Barbie would be renamed Bubblee to preserve Pakistani sensibilities.
Bubblee in Pakistan would look like, well let’s just say she would look as though she’d been poured into her clothes and forgotten to say “when”. Okay, that was lifted straight from PG Wodehouse but I couldn’t have described it better because she’d need a touch of Aruj TV and impossibly blonde hair to make it in this place.
In Pakistan then, the Bubblee doll would come complete with an extensive wardrobe, and the following accessories.
1. A chaste white hijab for prayers.
The original design included little silver discs sewn into the edging which clashed together and made a noise that tuned out unmelodious azans (call for prayer), but it was still rejected. The accepted design would include tiny silver minarets with large pink loudspeakers stamped all across the edge.
2. A shiny pink vanity case complete with purple lipstick for parties, a pale nude for prayers, and a bright pink for all other times.
There would be besides several bottles of nail polish, required since water does not permeate polish and renders prayers invalid so the polish needs to be changed five times a day. There’d also be a bottle of attar, not scent since Estee Lauder was Jewish too and therefore, haram. Really they do crop up. Oh and there’d also be a tube of fairness cream.
3. A cell phone, since no self-respecting person these days is seen without a cell phone and Bublee, is a respectable doll.
There’d be some controversy regarding which car Bubblee should drive. The issue would create much discord amongst the masses so it would be decided that Bubblee should drive a Honda Accord. Not that the Accord is a particularly proletarian choice but Bubblee stopped being proletarian after being poured into her clothes.
Bubblee can be bought with a Ken, or to give him his Pakistani name, Kashif. Ken would not normally have been renamed because not being a woman he may keep his identity, but because Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men, and Bubblee and Kashif if unmarried would come under the blasphemy line which is a competitor, the whole thing would be classified as, yes, you got it, haram.
So Ken is Kashif here, a name made up of two words: ‘Kaash’ and ‘If’, a good choice when someone has to marry a Bubblee.
Kashif comes with his own extensive wardrobe with the following accessories:
1. A cell phone
2. A nikkah nama
In packs that contain both Bubblee and Kashif this is a mandatory accessory. The document comes preserved in food grade plastic in case Kaash-if ever needs to eat his words.
3. A broom
When the need arises this is to be used to beat Bubblee lightly. It comes signed by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and sealed with the CII stamp, a telescope circled by a moon and hatchet.
There was some debate once again, this time about how this last item could be reconciled with the fact that Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and someone suggested that a broom should also be included amongst Bubblee’s accessories to eliminate the discrimination against women. But that person has since gone into hiding and has been declared…haram, yes, because he does not possess a CII stamp but the CII would love to stamp on him.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Mr. Nawaz Sharif delivered a speech to the nation following the Panama Leaks where he claimed to have a vision for this country, a vision involving a progressive nation and a brighter future. His rivals’ vision on the other hand, he complained, involved nothing beyond impeding his.

While it is impossible to argue with the latter half of this statement, the first half is open to dispute. As the Punjabis would say, ‘kera vision?’…or, ‘which vision (followed by a snort) is this’, that Mr. Sharif refers to? Could it be the one that starts with some floral baskets, roads, train tracks with a generous sprinkling of Chinese, and ends with another term in office, or the one that starts with bridges, metro rails and motorways with a generous sprinkling of Chinese, and ends with another term in office? It has to be one of these, there’s no other vision in sight. And that has been the problem with all Pakistan’s leaders barring the first: none of them possessed a vision for a country which has so many problems that even a person with a slight resolve to make a difference could have achieved something.

Things have been different elsewhere, as in France, which is currently the scene of nationwide protests against proposed labour reforms, where thousands of people have been thronging the streets there, and many protestors were arrested when clashes turned violent. Traffic was disrupted; flights cancelled and schools shut down. France’s President Francois Hollande is adamant however; he plans to push through those labour reforms by mid-2016 regardless of their unpopularity, because the reforms are part of his strategy aimed at lowering unemployment rates in the country.

France’s labour laws are contained within some 3,500 pages and are not easy to get your head around. One thing is clear however that something is not working, no pun intended: France has an unemployment rate of 10%, approximately twice as high as each Germany, China, the US, United Kingdom and Australia each taken separately. Hollande, France’s socialist President has – in a word revered by our media and politicians alike – ‘vowed’ to bring unemployment down, or resign if he fails. Earlier, he outlined exactly how he plans to lower unemployment rates, in part by increasing working hours per week, lowering overtime pay, and making it easier to lay off workers, therefore making it possible hire new ones.

The only possible reaction to such reforms was always likely to be the riots now taking place, because the immediate impact of such measures would be decreased job protection for workers. But this is to be followed, if Hollande is right, by more hiring power and a lowered rate of unemployment, but only over time. Whether one agrees with Hollande or not, this may be called a vision. Clearly some leaders are willing to put their necks on the line and risk a loss of popularity if it means long term benefit for the country. We’re envious.

It is useful having a metro line running through Ferozepur Road in Lahore, but hospitals all over the country are crying for help. Smaller rural hospitals are even dirtier and more understaffed than larger ones, and their doctors are often not present on the job leaving entire communities without medical help.

The floral baskets along the Mall and DHA boulevards are extremely picturesque but we could do with better sanitation everywhere, and better schools, preferably ones that teach something. There are students studying at the Intermediate level at government schools who have never seen a magnifying glass or heard of that thing called the equator, or the North or the South Pole.

There is an urgent need to address the culture of inequality reflected everywhere in society, in the well cooled offices belonging Medical Officers as opposed to stifling patients’ wards, in the well cooled headmaster’s office as opposed to hot and airless classrooms, and in the superb conditions that the few…specifically the ruling elite… live in as opposed to the conditions under which the majority of this country lives, suffers and struggles to survive.

There is the energy issue, more specifically the provision of renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuel. Related to this is the matter of climate change and being prepared for it. For now in Karachi one newspaper has reported that ‘Graves and hospitals are ready in Karachi in case the heat wave strikes again.’ Would this ever be a headline if there was enough power to go around and if all facilities were ready and well run as a matter of course?

Pretty as they are, hanging baskets and metro rails are not likely to help at all with any of these problems. If Pakistan’s leadership possesses another vision it appears to be invisible for now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Can anything be learnt from his success?
In ‘Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence’, Karen Armstrong talks about the various ages of human civilization, that we have arrived in the commercial age after progressing through the hunter-gatherer age and the agrarian age. Armstrong mentions various leaders belonging to each of these phases of human development, from unknowns (because they were too limited in scope in the hunter phase), to Gilgamish, a noble yet tyrannical king during the agrarian phase who despite his nobility was said to have ‘savaged his flock.’ Given that trajectory the Donald appears to be an inevitable choice for the commercial age since surely it would be difficult to get more commercial than him. That of course is if you define commercial with its negative connotations, since there are those who have built multi million or billion dollar enterprises without losing a decent outlook on life, the Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburgs and Azim Premjis of this world, and others through whose hands great sums of money have passed but who retained nothing for themselves, like Edhi. But I digress.
Trump brings out various reactions in people, including sorrow, because his success is such a disturbing reflection of what the world values today.
Jon Stewart, who will be sorely missed from the “Daily Show” was recently interviewed by David Axelrod where Stewart revealed an altogether different face, and I don’t mean just the beard; Jon was more introspective and serious, although humour was never too far. Who else would describe the Donald as a ‘man-baby, with the physical countenance of a man and a baby’s temperament and hands’? Stewart observed that it says something about the Trump’s constituents that they find nothing distasteful about his assurance that although he is being immature now he will behave more maturely once he is President. If nothing else they ought to have found the assurance offensive because it is tantamount to saying that unless he, Trump behaves stupidly he cannot win their support. It also means that he’s willing to compromise on his values and promises when it suits him, that whatever his professed views now he will change them later. Truly, what does it say about a huge segment of society in one of the world’s most ‘advanced’ countries when its willing to support such a shallow man? If he says he won’t allow Muslims into USA and his support’s dependent on that platform, surely one thinks even less of him for offering to make an exception in Sadeq Khan’s case, or ‘softening his (declared) stance on barring Muslims from travelling to the US’ now or later.
This is a digression once again but I might as well make it: how do you decide who is Muslim (or any other faith) and who is not? I could profess to be a Muslim without having a shred of Muslim in me, and vice versa. Or does it mean that coming from Pakistan I must be Muslim? Any of those would be quite an assumption for an individual to make let alone an assumption the official policy of a country is based on. But let’s return to the previous argument, about expediently changing one’s views.
What would we think of Jinnah for example if after saying that the new country would be home for Muslims and non-Muslims alike he had murdered non-Muslims once Pakistan came into being? That is what we did, not Jinnah. We know, we are sure he would yell blue murder at our actions if he’d lived to see them.
So Donald Trump’s inconsistent and puerile and has no real convictions, but he’s just one man. The astounding thing is that all those people who support him live in what’s supposed to be an educated or at least a moderately educated society which is also supposedly be liberal. It’s enough to make one give up striving for a liberal education here in Pakistan. If education and being liberal can still produce this mindset, is it worth trying to change anything?
Yes it is worth it, but it is momentarily very discouraging. It only goes to indicate that something crucial’s missing whether in the definition or implementation of education and liberal – an important realization, so clearly even Trump has his relevance in the grand scheme of things.
It’s only now that Trump’s on the public scene that the redneck side of the United States stands exposed so completely, although no one doubted its existence. There are many American detractors in this country, but most of the time they’re ill informed, avid followers of tabloids, biased in more ways than one. They base their opinions on a second hand, a distorted perspective – even though it has some truth in it. But with Trump’s bid for Presidency, that red neck is visible in black and white. Complacency would now be a mistake. The bigotry and xenophobia can now be dealt with if the American people have an interest in dealing with it, proving that it’s always a good idea to bring an issue into the open. Like the Panama leaks, racism and sectarianism. It’s why one deplores a tendency to ban books, movies and television shows. If people are bigots let us hear about it. If they are racists, sexist, cruel, black hearted jerks we want to know so we can review our opinion, talk, argue, teach those things away if required. What is the point otherwise of democracy, of all this technology, of the liberal outlook and freedom of speech man appears to have won for himself?
That brings us to another point the Trump phenomenon presents: that freedom of speech comes with certain caveats. That makes for perhaps the hardest debate of all and one that is hardly ever likely to be resolved. But that’s possible fodder for another column.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Guido Menzio, an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Things have been really tough for the Americans since 9/11. All those people in and out of the country speaking so many languages, and if you’ve never gone beyond your local 7/11, how on earth would you be able to tell this language from ‘that’ one, you know, the one that all terrorists speak; Arabic!
Which explains what happened to Guido Menzio.
Menzio took an American Airlines flight from somewhere to somewhere, right? And the intelligent woman next to him caught him writing something and how was she to know what it was? Acting on the principle, that anything that does not look like the ticker tape at the bottom of Fox News, she did the right thing and called the crew’s attention to his suspicious behaviour.
The flight was held up. The intelligent woman never returned. She wasn’t going to sit on any plane that carried people like him. That man was questioned as to who he was and what he was writing. They had to send the scribbles off to be tested and they came back positive for equations. Math. Well how was anyone to know? Math after all includes Al-Gebra, an Arabicword, just a hop away from codes and terrorism and all of that.
They had to let the man go. He was not even Arab, he was Italian. In fact, he was an Ivy League economist. But olive skin and curly hair. You know!
There is, therefore, a list being compiled as we speak of terms and things one should avoidwhen in the US, particularly when flying an American airline. It’s still in the making but here’s as far as it’s got for now:
Math: Well math of course. I mean you can say ‘Math!’ as many times as you like, ‘Math! Math! Math!’ They’ll put you down as a nutter – anyone would – but they won’t think you’re a jihadi. Not unless you wear a hijab. In which case, even if you ask for a peanut butter sandwich, the person in the seat next to yours will run shrieking off the plane. I mean who knows! But that’s beside the point. For now you must NOT – whatever you do – sit in your seat scribbling equations and stuff. Think of the curly haired economist, and desist!
Frieze: This may sound odd but hey, life is unexpected and this is just an example. It’s not as if you’re likely to see a frieze on the plane. A frieze is one of those decorative things you have on the front of a building. You may see one on a temple or perhaps in the travel section of an in-flight magazine. Well, if you do, you may find yourself unable to stop sharing the information with the person next to you. Because some friezes are just so very pretty that you can’t help sharing a frieze with someone. You know? One has these urges.
But whatever happens keep the frieze to yourself. Don’t share it! No matter how desperately you want to. It doesn’t matter how intelligent the person next to you looks. I mean, look what happened to the curly haired economist. So, it’s okay to read ‘frieze’ silently in your head as many times as you like, like ‘math’, ‘frieze, frieze, frieze’, but never ever point out a frieze to a fellow passenger. That would be like ‘Frieze!’ with a gun and all that! I mean Freeze! Yeah, that would do it.
Istinja: If you go in for that kind of stuff, please remember that one of the very, very few words that rhymes with Ninja is Istinja and we all know what Ninja means. Agents trained in martial arts and stealth that were great at espionage, sabotage and assassination. So it doesn’t matter, istinja or ninja, it’s all the same. If you ask the stewardess for the best place to ‘make’ istinja she’s not going to think of a turtle first, unless she’s under the age of 20. She’ll figure it’s you telling her who you are and then you may as well have to say ‘Frieze!’ and hold her up with a page of calculus.
Ziyad: If you have a son called ‘Ziyad’ please do not address him sternly in a loud voice. Think of a nickname and stick to it. Zadi, Zid Zid, anything but Ziyad which is too bloody close to ‘jihad’ and you know what that means. And while we’re here, also avoid talking about ‘milad’ and ‘Riyadh’ on your next flight. Too close. Too close. Sometimes people don’t hear very well. Or read. Or think. Really, it’s best to call all your kids Bill, Lucy, Bob or Hank.
That brings one to the last two words.
Al and Bin: Never ever say a name or anything that starts with an ‘Al’ or has a ‘Bin’ in it. ‘Al’ is the one word Arabs ALWAYS use. It helps pick them out. It’s like Al-Gebra again – the curly haired economist, don’t forget him. ‘Al’ is only okay if it’s rapidly followed by ‘gore’ because gore means blood. Blood and gore. So that’s someone American and that’s okay. But just ‘Al’? No!
The same goes for ‘Bin’. There’s a ‘Bin’ somewhere in every terrorist. Bin is just too ‘Laden’with meaning. Stay away from it. On all American flights, ask for a trashcan. Ask for the garbage but ‘Bin’ is a bummer. Make that your mantra: Bin-is-a-Bummer. Only when you come to the bin part, keep your mouth shut and don’t say it out loud. Remember the curly haired economist!

Monday, May 9, 2016


The legal system of Pakistan has failed its people at every level.
Amber should have been studying for her ‘A’ levels, doing an internship, groaning over school assignments, listening to music, and trying to avoid cleaning her room. Instead, a bit more than a week ago Amber’s charred body was found in a burnt van near an abandoned house. She had been drugged, strangled, and then killed by being set on fire. Amber’s murder was not committed by an individual, it was a prescribed death, a formalized one, call it what you will. She was condemned to die this way by the local Jirga, for the crime of helping a friend escape the village to marry a person of her, the friend’s own choice. The local MPA said this was the first time an incident of this type had taken place. Presumably he meant within his jurisdiction, but is that important in such a case? And isn’t ‘incident’ too feeble a word for something so terribly, horribly monstrous? There was Sikander Bhutto (he was not from KP where Amber lived, but once again, is that important?); he was also condemned to die by a Jirga for the crime of reporting a case of domestic abuse. And then, after he died his body was to be fed to the dogs. He managed to escape that fate which is another matter. Mukhtaran Mai, could not escape and was paraded naked through her village and gang raped by the orders of the local jirga. And then there was that group of men and women videoed clapping and singing. For this crime the women were all killed by order of the Jirga but the men escaped and went into hiding.
In 2008 a twelve year old girl was married to a forty year old man in settlement of a dispute which had nothing to do with either of them. The same year fifteen girls between the ages of three to twelve were to be married off to men of a rival tribe, again to settle disputes. These events may not be as gruesome as Amber’s death but the children were as good as given over to a living death since aside from their ages and the age difference between them and their spouses the treatment meted out to persons from a rival tribe in a society that condones this brand of ‘justice’ can only be imagined.
Work your way outwards from the nucleus of the event in Makol, where Amber lived with her family. The village is located not somewhere in the sticks but in Galiyat, a strip of land between mountains that contains several popular tourist resorts. It lies within cooee distance of Islamabad the capital of Pakistan, where the country’s central executive, legislature and judiciary are located. What can you say about a country that allows such things to take place not just within its borders but within arm’s reach of the seat of its government? The MPA promised that “strict action” would be taken against the jirga which ordered the brutal ruling. Bull.
The Jirga system exists and thrives all over Pakistan under various titles spewing forth sickeningly violent judgments. It is one of the several traditional para- legal systems of the country. The reason for the continued existence of such systems, aside from official apathy, is that the official (or formal) legal system of the country does not function the way it should. A few years ago the National Commission on the Status of Women commissioned a nationwide survey to examine all these various systems and found that three broad categories of systems co-exist in Pakistan: i) A formal legal system  ii) a parallel legal system, and iii) a parallel informal and illegal system. In its recommendations the Commission observed that ‘the prevalence of the formal legal system is inversely proportional to the prevalence of the informal legal system. This means that the more reliable the formal legal system is the less attractive the informal legal systems will be, and vice versa. A large majority of the participants of the focus group discussions felt that if the formal legal system was strengthened to ensure speedy delivery of verdicts, low costs, and easy accessibility across the country there would be no need for parallel systems.’ And this is so. People continue to resort to such systems in the absence of a viable option. The legal system of Pakistan has failed its people at every level.
Regarding bringing terrorists to justice it is as Saad Rasool says in his article Judicial Failure, that ‘according to a study conducted by  the Public Policy Review Centre (PPRC), of the sixteen high profile terrorist incidents in Rawalpindi/Islamabad since 2001, the Anti-Terrorism Courts (and its appellate process) has not returned a single conviction.’
With regards to his day to day legal requirements, the common man of Pakistan finds himself dealing with a corrupt police and a broken judicial system that is not above being bribed. Faced with prolonged legal proceedings, prohibitive legal fees and at the end of the day a careless, often biased decision, who would not look elsewhere for relief? Pakistan does, and therefore these Jirgas with their free, swift, but perverted brand of ‘justice’. If the government does not move to put an end to these and other similar groups to bring an end to cases such as Amber’s, if the government does not attempt to improve its own performance where the legal justice system is concerned, it will make it clearer than it already has that it does not care for this country and its people, and is unfit to fill its position.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Certain aspects of Maalik do aim to unsettle, or perhaps unseat

There are several things wrong with the banning of Ashir Azeem’s film ‘Maalik’ and the furore surrounding it.  The film clearly bears a message (that its authorship has several question marks surrounding it is another matter, but we can come to that later). Maalik is a film dealing with the subject of corruption; it also portrays a fictitious and corrupt chief minister (coincidentally enough, of Sindh). Predictably, none of this appears to have gone down well with a government that provided the inspiration for the movie: a government that has many forces bearing on it and which is beset by controversy.
The details of the ban are confusing. ‘Maalik’ was apparently cleared for viewing by the censor board and has been across the country since the 8th of April this year, but the film’s message was perceived as threatening by the federal government, which decided to ban it via the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage – in spite of the censor board’s clearance. They cited various reasons for their decision: that various aspects of the film would incite unrest; that it portrayed the police, the government, and certain ethnic groups in a negative light and a biased manner.
Whatever its reasons, the federal government’s action smacks of ‘chor ki dari main tinka’ (a guilty conscience), and exposes the readiness of the various components of the State to resort to overbearing tactics, ironically bearing out the movie’s message. That certain aspects of the movie do aim to unsettle, or perhaps unseat, is another matter altogether.
Banning things invariably rebounds upon the ones who ban them, it rarely achieves anything else, but it is a lesson we have still to learn. Remember the ‘Satanic Verses’ which became a best seller not because of its literary merit but because it was banned? Almost every Pakistani heard of the book then, and a few even read it. Customs officials were known to pounce with triumphant yelps upon copies of the bestseller in travellers’ luggage ignoring genuinely threatening material.

“Whatever its reasons, the federal government’s action smacks of ‘chor ki dari main tinka’ (a guilty conscience), and exposes the readiness of the various components of the State to resort to overbearing tactics, ironically bearing out the movie’s message.”

Following the ban on Maalik, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government jumped into the fray announcing that it would be willing to screen the movie in the KP. The KP Information Adviser Mushtaq Ghani declared sanctimoniously that since the theme of the movie was corruption and the government in KP was against corruption it believed the film ought to be screened.
Yes, Mr Ghani and PTI, we hear you saying you’re against corruption which is presumably meant to convey that your government – unlike the rest – is not corrupt. We also heard you’re willing to screen a movie that has been banned by the federal government, however questionable that ban may be. You are therefore attempting to right one wrong by committing another yourself. It is something your party chief appears to do often – which is surprising for a sportsperson – what with his repeated threats to ‘come out on the streets’, a threat that smacks of Donald Trump who has threatened riots if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination. It is a similarity many people have noticed, since over the years Imran has threatened to take to the streets and riot for various reasons: if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did not answer his questions, if the PM did not resign, if the government did not accede to his five point demands, etc.
There are lessons to be learned from this small incident. Institutions are formed in the hope that they may thrive and be allowed to do so. If they are constantly overridden by an overbearing government, or by politicians and other officials careless of their remit, no institution will ever get off the ground. If therefore the censor board allows a movie to be screened it is in the best interests of a government to go along with it, never mind what the movie contains. If a politician feels that the government is not cooperating with him he is advised to find and use constitutional means to get the government to cooperate. If the military feels it does not see eye to eye with the civilian government on certain matters it would be advised to remember that constitutionally it…and its intelligence agencies…are subservient to the government, and are answerable to it, not the other way around. The armed forces and their related agencies cannot subvert the civilian government and attempts to do so may be viewed as treason – constitutionally.

“Yes, Mr Ghani and PTI, we hear you saying you’re against corruption which is presumably meant to convey that your government – unlike the rest – is not corrupt. We also heard you’re willing to screen a movie that has been banned by the federal government, however questionable that ban may be. You are therefore attempting to right one wrong by committing another yourself.”

If the civilian government subverts the country it is meant to serve, it would be wise to remember that the public is not completely foolish, appearances notwithstanding. Unlike a movie the public cannot be banned. A government on the other hand may be removed constitutionally.