I knew it would happen, the only surprise is that it took the new government five months to do it. Whenever a regime in Pakistan finds itself cornered and finding that it is no longer popular, "Islamic" steps are taken to distract the people from the government's inefficiency. In the past, both Zia and the Sharif brothers tried to compel women to cover their heads and dress in a manner that would not provoke men.

Imran Khan's illegitimate government suddenly came to the conclusion that the problems being faced by the country can be resolved by forcing TV channels not to show “indecent scenes, dialogues, extramarital relations, violence, inappropriate dressing, rape scenes, bed scenes, and intimate moments between couples.....  in utter disregard of Pakistani culture and values". The outgoing chief justice (Saqib Nisar) has also ordered that "Indian content" should not be shown in our TV plays and advertisements. By "Indian content" he apparently means women who wear sleeveless dresses.

Even in the U.S., the courts have not been able to decide what is is "indecent" or "pornographic" or "obscene". For those who belong to religious parties, "obscenity" means a woman who is unveiled.

But what exactly is Pakistani culture, which the government wants to protect? In small towns and villages, you see heavily bearded men and fully veiled women all clad in the national dress.

I was at the "Karachi Eat" festival today where most men wore shirts and trousers. There were very few women wearing the hijab, most were dressed in jeans and shirts with their heads uncovered. This is what you see in shopping malls and cinemas also. And this apparently is the "indecent" dress that disturbs those who think they're the guardians of our culture.

As for "indecent scenes, dialogues, extramarital relations, violence, inappropriate dressing, rape scenes, bed scenes, and intimate moments between couples", I'm reminded of the student activists of the Jamat-e-Islami, who even today beat up boys and girls who talk to each other. Recently they thrashed a couple in the Punjab University for walking together, even though the woman kept screaming that the man was her husband.

Of all people, Imran Khan should not have resorted to this measure. He was perceived to be women-friendly and modern (until he married a deeply religious woman last year). His female supporters are surprised that there are only four women in his cabinet of 46 ministers and advisers. It seems that he's changed a lot in the past year. 




I often come across so-called "educated" people who talk like those who lived in the Stone Age. Just because they have bachelor's degrees (which in some parts of the country can be obtained by paying a suitable amount to clerks working in universities), they think they're educated. I'm reminded of Murad Saeed, the very vocal minister who was easily able to get a degree from Peshawer University by sitting for examination in just half an hour (https://tribune.com.pk/story/1737209/1-rules-murad-saeed-gets-degree/). 

Many years ago, I read a book "Self-help" by Samuel Smiles, published in the nineteenth century. The writer narrates an incident about a man who got his degree and told the dean, "I've finished my education". The dean snapped, "Indeed. I haven't yet begun mine".

This attitude towards education was common when I was in school and college. We were encouraged to read a lot. My father used to subscribe to several English and Gujrati newspapers, as well as magazines like Time, Life, Readers Digest and the Saturday Evening Post. He would also buy books written by Erle Stanley Gardner, Edgar Wallace, James Hadley Chase and other popular writers. 

So our family was very different from the average Memon/Gujrati families around us. I still read international newspapers like New York Times on my smart phone whenever I'm alone at wedding dinners, so most guests think there's something wrong with me. They use their smart phones for watching video clips sent to them by their friends who think reading should be avoided at all costs.

The difference between a well-read man and an illiterate man is great. Most of those who work in my field have not read a book after graduation. I had a relative who used to say forcefully that those who read newspapers should not be employed. 

So, knowing that most people would rather watch TV than read a book, it's not surprising that our corpulent information minister (Fawad Choudhry) said that a helicopter consumes fuel of only Rs. 55 per kilometer. Or the prime minister Imran Khan saying that in China they have trains which run at the speed of light. Or the Chief Justice saying that sometimes he made "intentional" mistakes.

The man who reads a lot cannot be brainwashed. Not only in Pakistan, in most other countries, people have stopped reading, perhaps because reading requires a lot of effort. That could be the reason for the radicalization of young people, who are easily influenced by what they're told by those with vested interests. In India, for instance, the rampant killing of Muslims would not be taking place if its people were well-read.

It seems that the future of mankind is bleak. People will remain ignorant and enslaved unless they develop the habit of reading. The few parents who still read books should make their children read regularly. In fact, they should sit with their children and read with them books downloaded on their computers or Ipads or Kindles.

My father often used to tell me about how his Hindu teachers would claim that their ancestors invented the airplane. A few years back, no less a person than Indian Prime Minister Modi said that ancient Hindus were plastic surgeons and one of them had planted the head of an elephant to a human body to create the Hindu god Ganesh. 

Another myth is that the bridge connecting India and Sri Lanka was built by the monkey god Hanuman to help Ram rescue Sita. According to scientists, this submerged bridge (across which people could cross over to either side at low tides about three hundred years ago), has been naturally formed over millions of years. So, when the Congress government decided to make a gap in the bridge to allow vessels to sail from one side of India to the other, Hindu fanatics raised an uproar. In the Supreme Court the Congress said that there was no proof that Ram or Hanuman ever existed. This leads to another interesting question: "If Ram never existed, how do Hindu fanatics say he was born at the place where the Babri Masjid was built?"

Coming back to the incredulous claims by rabid Hindus, a vice chancellor of Andhra Pradesh university said a demon king in the Hindu epic Ramayana had twenty four types of aircraft and a network of landing strips in Sri Lanka. Another illiterate Indian (the education minister of Rajasthan, no less) says, "The cow is the only animal in the world which both inhales and exhales oxygen". 

And now they say that the ancient Hindus also invented stem cell technology. I wonder why they haven't claimed that their ancestors also went to the moon, Mars and other heavenly bodies. I won't be surprised if one of these days they give the exact date when ancient Hindus flew to the moon and landed there.

 

In almost all the "self-help" books I've read, the authors have stressed that to succeed, one has to be born in either a poor family or a lower middle-class one. I've seen the truth of this many times. I have many wealthy relatives, and I've seen that in almost all such families, their sons have been failures. Some of them are able to survive only because they have rented out the properties they've inherited. One relative of mine wakes up at noon, spends the rest of the day gossiping at his club and goes to bed very late at night. Not having a goal has made him lazy, and the only time he walks is when he has to go to the bathroom or when he gets out of his car and walks a few steps to his house or club.
 
Now it's been found that being born in a poor family also ensures that you can be healthier than those born rich. Researchers have concluded that those born in prosperous families are very likely to be at risk of contracting diseases like leukemia, hypertension and diabetes. The rich are also more likely to suffer from allergies. This is due to the fact that babies born in affluent families are protected so much that they do not get infected, particularly in their first year. It seems that the immune system is actually strengthened whenever the body is infected, particularly in babies. Maybe that's one reason why people from Singapore and other healthy societies get sick whenever they visit dirty places like Pakistan, India or Bangladesh.

The most controversial Chief Justice of the country (Saqib Nisar) is due to retire in a couple of weeks. This absolutely unimpressive man did everything he was not supposed to do. Instead of improving the highly corrupt and painfully slow judicial system, he devoted the past couple of years in matters which should not have concerned him. And for this it is doubtful if he will be remembered  by future generations as someone who did anything good for the country. Rather, history will probably say that he did incalculable  harm to Pakistan.

The most inexplicable thing is his obsession with dams. For some reason (perhaps it will become apparent in the near future), he considered the building of dams to be essential for the survival of the country, even though he time and again said that there would be no water (or very little water) in our rivers by 2025.The question naturally arises, if there will be no water, what would the dams be filled with? When people from Sindh said the Kalabagh dam would damage the ecosystem of the province beyond repair, he said he would make opposition to construction of dams a treasonable offence. However, thank God there are sane voices in the country who pointed out that we have enough water in our rivers to sustain us, even if the two mega dams suddenly collapsed. We do not need any mega dams, all we have to do is to repair the linings of our canals, which will prevent leakage and save us water equivalent to more than ten mega dams every year.

Then there is his obvious interference in national politics. He declared a proven liar (Imran Khan) as "sadiq and ameen", despite the latter having fathered an illegitimate girl child and not declaring her as his dependent. For this alone, Imran Khan should have been disqualified from contesting elections. Now that he is prime minister, not a day goes by without Imran Khan making a U-turn, the most recent being his decision to ask the courts to close the Asghar Khan case (which he vociferously demanded to be heard and decided before he formed the government). Saqib Nisar's bias is also evident in the case of Imran Khan's sister (Aleema Khan) who was not asked to provide the money trail to buy foreign property. Instead, she was simply let off with a penalty (instead of being sentenced to a prison term, as happened in the case of Maryam Nawaz).

Then there is the case of Imran Khan's mansion and other properties built where no construction is allowed. Instead of ordering the demolition of Imran's house, the chief justice asked him to "regularize" it, ignoring the fact that thousands of shops and houses belonging to the poor were demolished on the orders of the apex court. Moreover, the government official who opposed the regularization was unceremoniously dismissed from service, a fact that was ignored by the chief justice. It seems there is one law for the rich and powerful, and another for the poor. Malik Riaz, who (according to Saqib Nisar himself) defrauded the nation of a thousand billion rupees, has not been punished, the chief justice has told him to pay half the amount and he will be spared punishment.

So, Justice Saqib Nisar will be remembered only for making a mockery of the law, resulting in Pakistan being the laughing stock of the whole world.


I started writing at an early age (in 1956, when I was 12). My late father used to subscribe to three English morning newspapers, three evening newspapers, the Reader's Digest, Time, Life and Saturday Evening Post (as well as The Times of India and the Indian Express, until these were banned after the 1965 war). He must've spent a fortune on those English periodicals. We also used to get one Gujrati morning newspaper as well as a Gujrati evening newspaper (these were also read by my mother). In addition to all this printed matter, my father would buy a book every week (usually works of fiction, the ones by Edgar Wallace, Leslie Charteris, Erle Stanley Gardner and James Hadley Chase were his favorites). So I spent most of my childhood and teenage years reading avidly.

The Morning News (which went out of business long ago) used to encourage children to write. Since it was printed in East Pakistan as well, it had a wide readership. Once, a cousin of mine submitted a short story, which was printed in my name by error. Perhaps the editor was much more familiar with my name, so he automatically printed the story under mine. Needless to say, I used to scan all three newspapers first thing in the morning to see if any letter or story of mine had been printed. I still do, but not many of my pieces are printed nowadays. About six months back, the editor of DAWN called me and asked me not to contribute so often, as they had to accommodate other (younger) writers as well. I was incredulous, since the letters written by younger writers are full of grammatical mistakes, which the editor or his assistant don't have the time to rectify (they apparently don't care about the negative image this will create among their readers, particularly those in English speaking countries). They simply copy letters from the writers' emails and paste them in their newspapers. How different it used to be in the old days, when I would submit contributions written in longhand, the editor would edit and type them out and then publish them. 

My first article ("A day at the Custom House") was published in DAWN magazine in 1994 or 1995 (a very small piece), for which they paid me Rs. 250 (they later increased the payment to Rs. 500). I was puzzled, as I didn't know they paid unknown writers or beginners. The editor was the late Naushaba Burney, whom I visited a couple of times. I'll never forget the encouraging letter which accompanied the first cheque: "Good luck, and keep on writing", she had concluded. In fact, the new generation of DAWN editors is downright rude, compared to those of other newspapers. In one of my trips to Dubai, I visited the office of Khaleej Times, the editor of which actually thanked me for contributing to his newspaper, and asked me to continue doing so.

So, whenever my friends and relatives ask me why I have stopped writing letters and articles in DAWN, I tell them to read my pieces  in the Tribune and Daily Times. Over the past four years, I've written a lot, which I know most of my friends and relatives have not read and will not read, perhaps because they spend most of their time watching TV or Whattsapp videos. I write not because I love to do so, but also because I want to leave a record of events that happened in my lifetime for future generations (if there are any).
 

An Indian woman (with the help of two men) chopped off the genitals of a much younger man who had been harassing her. Well, not harassing, he was actually in love with her, even though he is almost ten years younger (and she is the mother of two). He actually told her husband that he wanted to marry her, which led to friction between the husband and his wife. The poor victim will never be able to have children, which at least is good for India, as it means at least six less hungry Indians in future!

I remember a similar incident in Pakistan many years ago, in the 1960's. In that case, the man wanted to marry a woman of another caste, and since the woman didn't like him at all, marriage was impossible. When he persisted so much that she couldn't tolerate it any longer, she asked him to accompany her to some bushes in the fields nearby. He eagerly followed, thinking what every healthy male does in such a situation. She persuaded him to take off his pants, then cut off his penis with a knife. I'll never forget the headline in the English newspaper which printed the news item. It was "Marriage problem solved!"

I strongly believe that Mr. Jinnah (like Jesus Christ) was not born on December 25. So by claiming to be born on Christmas day, he ensured that the Christians of Pakistan get a holiday on that day. 

But that killjoy, the chief justice of this benighted country (who is to retire next month) objected to its being a holiday. There are times when I wonder how this man ever became a lawyer, as he doesn't seem to know much about the law. After he retires, and if I have the opportunity to talk to him, I'll tell him that he has done great damage to the country by interfering in matters which were not his concern.

Yesterday (December 25), I spent the day without unfettered access to the internet, as the cable had been chewed by mice. This meant there was no TV as well. So it was that I thanked God for creating the man who invented smart phones (I may be wrong, but I think it was the late Steve Jobs). My internet service provider (Mobilink) provides me with 4G wifi for five hundred rupees a month. Normally, I use only three to four GBs every month, but yesterday I consumed 1.5 GB watching the news and reading newspapers, besides watching video clips sent to me via Whattsapp. 

But what would I have done without the 4G connection? I suppose I'd have finished a book about the partition of India which I first read in 1980. I've read half of it, and at this pace it'll take me another fortnight to finish it. 

But this brings me to the main point: I don't read as much as I used to. Even though there are three English newspapers on my desk, I don't like holding them, I prefer to read them either on my computer or on my smartphone. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, because the future is digital, printing of books and newspapers will become obsolete in a few years.

Among the two hundred million (most of them virtually illiterate) citizens of Pakistan, there is usually a simple explanation for natural disasters. The late Qazi Hussain Ahmed, who was unusually well-read for a mullah, once said that earthquakes are caused by our sinful ways. So I wrote in a newspaper asking him why quakes occur on the moon as well as under the oceans, even though there are no humans there (and therefore no one to commit sins). Of course he had no answer, but one of his followers did. He said fish can also indulge in sins (!), while there must be living things on the moon committing adultery. This is what Bhutto's nationalization of schools and Zia's hatred of science has done: our graduates are just like the illiterate peasants who are multiplying like flies.

Maulana Fazlur Rahman is another one who has a simple explanation for why earthquakes happen: girls wearing jeans. According to his primitive mindset, girls who wear jeans are more likely to think about sex most of the time. I wonder why he doesn't blame males for earthquakes, as most male teenagers talk about sex and nothing but sex when they're not stuffing themselves with fast food. Come to think of it, why don't earthquakes happen in the U.S. and Europe, where (according to another Jamat-e-Islami member I know) most men and women indulge in adultery? The usual answer is that they will rot in hell in the hereafter, while most good Muslims (those who are not responsible for causing earthquakes) will enjoy the fruits of heaven. 

Can the mullahs explain why innocent people are killed along with the sinful ones in earthquakes? In the 2004 earthquake which killed thousands in northern Pakistan, I don't think there were many who indulged in illicit sex. Of course, there may have been some who were homosexuals when they were young, and no doubt among the dead there were a few gay men, but why did the earthquake strike a place where probably ninety nine percent of men and women are pious, god-fearing Muslims? I doubt if Maulana Fazlur Rahman or Siraj-ul-Haq have a satisfactory explanation.

Corruption has always been a fact of life in Pakistan. Years ago, I used to think that only government officers were dishonest. When I started my own business after working in the oil and chemical industries for nine years, I found that corruption is rampant in the private sector as well. 
A purchase office of even a small trading firm would ask me to jack up the price a bit, and pay him the difference. In a major petroleum company, I was astounded when the engineer awarding the contracts asked me to pay him ten percent of every invoice (I had known him for a long time and never suspected he was dishonest). When I asked him why he needed the extra illicit income, he said he wanted the money to build his own house. After the house was built, he didn't stop taking money from contractors and suppliers. He now needed the money to pay salaries of security guards, gardeners and other servants).
Police constables in the country have to pay hefty amounts to be transferred to those police stations where they can become millionaires overnight. They share part of the loot with their superiors, who in turn transmit part of it to their bosses, it goes right to the top of the pyramid, and even those ruling the country get some of it.
It is said that the reason for corruption among government servants is that they are not paid as much as those working in the private sector. But even some of those not working in government are also dishonest.
I strongly doubt if corruption can be eradicated easily. Civil servants will have to be paid at least five times their present salaries to make them honest, in addition to those caught taking bribes being awarded exemplary punishment. We need a leader like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore to make this happen. Imran Khan simply doesn't have what it takes to transform the country, as he himself is surrounded by those who have become rich illegally. No one will believe he is honest until he holds his own corrupt friends accountable for their misdeeds. I don't think he'll ever do it.