- The stomach cannot
Demonstrations and sit-ins were staged by various ‘religious’ groups across the country recently. These demonstrations were suspended by the leaders of these groups when the government caved in to their demands, but only after the law Minister, Zahid Hamid, was forced to resign, barely escaping with his life and that of his family. A demonstration in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore staged by the TLY carried on. That too has finally ended, with the government managing to save the Punjab Law Minister Sanaullah’s job. Mr. Sanaullah’s reprieve though is only temporary, since Maulana Asif Jalali of the TLY, the person who now dictates to the government, has clearly stated that although he is not taking back his demand for the minister’s resignation, he will kindly allow the government to carry on doing what it wants for a period of one month.
The government has had to agree to the other demands.
You’re strongly reminded of the recent news in the BBC about a zoo in China where people turned up to see exotic animals, and were instead confronted with air-filled toy penguins, and a handful of roosters and geese. To spell it out, just so did the public in Pakistan hope for a government and were met instead with inflated dummies and a handful of fowl persons with a predominance of geese.
The policy of not negotiating with terrorists has a contentious history but it makes sense and still exists. Whether a country agrees with the policy or not, even if it is a signatory to the agreement that prohibits payment of ransom and negotiating with terrorists, some governments have caved in, and secretly or quite openly given in to demands. Each government of Pakistan has, of course, firmly adhered to the policy of having none but the knee jerk policy, which says ‘do whatever you need to do to keep ‘em quiet, keep yourselves in power, and to hell with the people’. You have to give it to each successive government for living up to this on every occasion.
It has now agreed that the report compiled by Raja Zafarul Haq’s committee regarding events that led up to the demonstrations is to be made public later this month by the 20th. Meantime the government is to pay reparation (with tax payers’ money) for the people killed during operations to remove protestors from around Islamabad recently, never mind that these operations were conducted because these people had hijacked the capital of the country and were forcing the government to accede to their demands… or else.
Also agreed upon is that yet another commission is to be set up to decide how many loudspeakers each mosque is to be allowed in the province. It is infuriating, since the said loudspeakers are used not just to relay the call to prayer, but also to pander to the sitting mullahs’ yearning for an audience and predilection for Bollywood tunes. They are also used to rally people to protests such as these recent ones across the country.
What is probably most terrifying is that the ulema are to review the religious views contained within the curriculum of schools in the province.
Not the smallest organisation can be run much less an entire country without first deciding where the country stands on certain crucial matters. Pakistan, unfortunately, has the reputation of agreeing with the loudest speaker, or doing whatever is demanded when its arm is twisted, and/or its leaders are offered the appropriate incentives.
When the US Defense Secretary arrived in Islamabad to discuss Pakistan’s support in defeating the Taliban, Pakistan’s representatives course presented a cooperative front, with $$$ in mind. How they can maintain even that farce is another matter, keeping in mind the government’s caving in to the demands of a group of persons with much the same agenda as the Taliban. It is after all because of the TYL that PEMRA recently shut down social media for a couple of days throughout the country, since the group was using that platform to ‘incite hatred’. It is as a direct result of this group’s appeal to the baser instincts of the public that several persons died, and the government and people of the country suffered economic losses in the billions.
The ultimate measure of satisfaction is peace and at least a basic level of material satisfaction: sufficient food, access to housing, education and water, healthcare and transport. Neither the so called religious parties nor the government can draw wool over the public’s eyes for very long when both fail to deliver in this matter, since for the living houris can wait but an empty stomach cannot. A limp government that can be dictated to leads only to chaos. Neither these parties nor such a government fulfil the public’s longing for prosperity. Instead both pander only to the avariciousness of people in power on either side which is a desire that can never be satisfied.