It must be very difficult for politicians like Imran Khan and his minions to be always truthful. I've always known he is a braggart and a blusterer, even though I've never met him. But from what he has said over the past few years it's been clear that he frequently backs out from what he's said before, which earned him the nickname (among many others) "U-turn Khan".

So the other day he made it official. "Yes, I do take U-turns. A leader cannot succeed if he doesn't do so". Then that other moron Arif Alvi (whom I know personally) who is president of this banana republic, also claimed proudly that he too has indulged in frequent U-turns. After that, most PTI politicians have been falling over backwards explaining that U-turns are very necessary in politics.

So we have a very interesting situation here. How will other world leaders ever trust Imran Khan now? I can imagine the Chinese finance minister telling Asad Umar, "Hey, how do we know you won't take a U-turn and refuse to return this loan?"

But one aspect of the matter seems to have escaped our analysts. If, as Imran Khan says, only those leaders succeed who make U-turns, what about those who ruled over the successful State of Madina fourteen centuries ago? Imran Khan has frequently said he wants to make Pakistan like the state of Madina. Does he not know the rulers of that highly efficient state were men of integrity and  never made U-turns? It's only a matter of a few days before the clerics ask him this awkward question. I'd love to see him squirming and trying to get out of that situation.

I don't think the young men of today realize that their elders had to suffer a lot when they were young. I remember going to school in the 1950s. We had to walk for fifteen minutes to reach the bus stop, then walk for another ten minutes after getting off the bus to reach school. And usually we were caned for being late (through no fault of our own). 
Today's generation has had everything handed over to them on a platter. Most young men of today have cars and motorbikes. They think their parents are dim witted. We couldn't argue with our elders, it was unthinkable. Everything our elders said was acceptable as the truth, and most of the time they were right. When the first martial law was imposed upon the country, my father predicted that it would ultimately cause the breakup of Pakistan (it did). Yet the youngsters of those days (myself included) were brainwashed into believing that Ayub Khan was the great savior and would lead the country to greatness. When Bhutto appeared on the scene, I was old enough to recognize him for what he was (a stupid, arrogant autocrat), even though most men of my age thought he would be able to make the country great after its dismemberment (for which he was partly responsible).
In those days it was impossible for a high court judge to be corrupt. He would refuse to attend parties (unless such an event was held by close family members). He would never accept gifts and usually he dressed and led a lifestyle which was commensurate with his income. Nowadays, no one is surprised when a judge is photographed with politicians, wears expensive shoes and designer clothes. And we all know that our country's top judges are biased against the leader of one political party and openly favor the leader of another (while turning a blind eye to his corruption). 
Of course, this kind of thing is the norm in most third world countries. But Pakistan was supposed to be a state where the poor would not be oppressed, where the minorities would be safe and where the corrupt would be punished. It didn't turn out that way, and we know that "those who cannot be named" are responsible.

I grew up believing in Jinnah's Pakistan. I thought it would be the greatest country on earth. Jinnah's Pakistan was supposed to be one in which a liberal like me would be free to speak and write his thoughts, even if what he spoke and wrote offended the mighty and powerful people who ruled over the country. 

I hasn't turned out that way. Four days back, the country's top court acquitted a poor Christian woman who had been on death row for many years after having been sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy. 

No one should have been surprised at the response of those who call themselves the guardians of the country's ideology (an ideology invented by those who opposed the creation of Pakistan).

I'm filled with despair. Everywhere I go, even most educated people I know want the Christian woman to be hanged. I can understand illiterate drivers and security guards having this opinion, but some of the educated ones have studied in elite schools of the country. Without reading the text of the judgement, they believe that the woman is guilty, and those who accused her of blasphemy are truthful.

It hasn't happened overnight. Even though I studied in a missionary school, there were a few even then who told me not to get too friendly with Hindus and Christians. We were told not to drink from the same glass they did. We were told to have separate plates for Christian and Hindu guests on the rare occasions some of them had dinner with us. Four years back I employed a Christian driver whom I allowed to sit on a chair in my office on very hot days. My manager objected (he's Urdu-medium graduate with two degrees), on the grounds that he couldn't even think of drinking from the same glass as the Christian did. Then there was the time a cousin appointed a Hindu clerk. The next day his entire staff threatened to resign if the Hindu was not sacked. This is what Zia did to the country, he made most of us so intolerant that we cannot bear to even talk to those of other faiths.

Even though the fanatics openly called the army chief Bajwa an infidel, even though they asked for the immediate execution of the three judges and even though they demanded the overthrow of the civilian government, no action was taken. Ultimately, the government of Imran Khan capitulated, in what can only be called a shameless surrender (very much like the surrender of East Pakistan to the enemy in 1971). 

And in the midst of all this, with both the army and the police acting like impotent cowards, one man proved that the loonies on the streets can be defeated. After being stranded on the highway for hours, he lost his temper, took out his klashnikov, and indulged in aerial firing. The mob dispersed immediately. The army chief should see the video of this incident instead of saying that he can't fire upon his own people. Apparently, in his opinion, the protesting Pathans in the north are not Pakistanis. He should remember that in 1971, Bengalis were not considered true Pakistanis, and that mindset ultimately led to the dismemberment of the country. The country is on the road to another break-up.

There have been many rigged elections in Pakistan since independence. The 1977 elections which Bhutto's PPP won with an overwhelming majority were heavily rigged, and resulted in his overthrow (after weeks of protests). The recent general elections in July 2018 saw Imran Khan becoming prime minister of the country. Everyone knows he couldn't have won without help from the army and the judiciary which imprisoned leaders of the party that had ruled for the past five years. If Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam had been allowed to campaign in the final weeks before the polls, Imran Khan would most certainly have lost.
As expected, Imran Khan has proved he has no idea of how to govern the country. His ministers do nothing but hurl charges at their political opponents. So far, the opposition has not done much to destabilize his government. But his luck is running out, and if history is any guide, his days are numbered.
Even though the opposition is still divided, the turning point came today, when the judges acquitted Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy many years ago, and whose appeal against her conviction was accepted by the apex court today.
As expected, the fundamentalist parties came out in protest to paralyze the country. The protests are being led by a foul mouthed illiterate cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi (who last year paralyzed the previous government with Imran Khan's support). Imran Khan made a short speech today, deploring the abuse heaped upon the judges and the vitriolic speeches by the clerics asking soldiers to overthrow the government, alleging that the army chief is not a Muslim. You could see he's a worried man. He's leaving a day earlier than scheduled for China, and this I think has been decided by his palmist wife (the equally fundamentalist Pinky, who takes advice from djinns and fairies). 
I find it highly amusing that history is being repeated: the same people who were used by the establishment to weaken the previous government so Imran Khan's party could win are now trying to dislodge him. And Imran has the audacity to say that what they are doing will damage the country's interests. Funny, he never said this when he was doing the damaging these past five years, asking overseas Pakistanis to use the illegal havala route to send money to their relatives in Pakistan (remitting through banking channels would have increased the foreign exchange reserves of the country, and Nawaz Sharif would have benefited. For this alone, he should have been tried in the courts. I have no love lost for Imran Khan, and I sincerely hope his government falls soon, even though I don't like the other two who looted the country. But at least they are not stupid morons like him.

I firmly believe that Pakistan should be re-named "Corruptistan". In this country, you are surrounded by corrupt people. So much so that you are compelled to be corrupt yourself (if you want to survive). 
Just think of what happens when you declare your true income to the income tax officer. He immediately says your income is three times what you say you earned, and asks you to pay tax accordingly. After many days of pleading, and finally paying him off, you are able to resume living normally.
If you are an importer, you are victimized by the customs appraiser. He knows that you'll have to pay ten thousand rupees a day as port charges if he doesn't accept the value of your consignment. So he'll do everything to delay the clearance of your goods, asking you to prove that you have declared the correct price, even threatening to send samples to the laboratory (where testing will take at least two weeks). To avoid all this trouble, you have to pay him under the table. I once estimated that every customs appraiser earns more than twenty times his salary in bribes.
The same can be said of our policemen. If you make the mistake of walking into a police station to lodge a complaint against one of your employees or anyone else, God help you. The cops will register the complaint only if you pay them, unless of course you have powerful friends. 
The problem of course is that our politicians, judges and all those who rule over us are also very corrupt. So they will do nothing to improve the system. 

I was thinking about the millions of poor Pakistanis who don't have access to modern education and health facilities. Such people invariably go to quacks or holy men for relief. There are many who desperately want to have sons, so they ask the holy men to pray fervently for their wives to deliver male children. And there are those who suffer from rare diseases which cannot be cured (like polio). They too want help in getting cured.
Nine out of ten people in rural areas of the country probably believe in the power of holy men called "pirs". The pirs tell them to  recite mantras hundreds of times and they are told that if their faith is strong they will have their wishes granted. 

So I've thought of a few more mantras for these simple folk to recite many times daily, based on what we have been hearing from our "honest and upright" prime minister Imran Khan and the very able chief justice over the past few days:

1. Pakistan needs more dams!
2. The formula of water is Aitch two zero!
3. Those who don't want dams in Pakistan are traitors!
4. Pakistan will have no rains unless dams are built!
5. Soon, we'll have so many dollars we'll be able to give loans to other countries! 
6. Muslim countries believe only Imran Khan can help resolve disputes among themselves!
7. India will soon hand Kashmir over to Imran Khan! 
8. Pakistan exists only because Imran Khan exists!

There will of course be other mantras as long as IK is prime minister. Let's hope he gives us more mantras to recite.

Our self-proclaimed expert on dams (Chief Justice of the country) doesn't know what every school boy in class six does; the chemical formula of water (H2O). Speaking at one of those seminars on the shortage of water in the country, he said that the formula of water is Aitch two zero ( But strangely enough, no one in the audience corrected him (perhaps they didn't want to be charged with treason). 
One of the first things I'm going to do, after the man retires, is to tell him a lot of things he doesn't know, like making another dam will mean disaster for the country. In fact, I'd like to sen him this article on what has happened in Egypt after Ethipia constructed a massive dam on the Nile ( Our coastal areas have already suffered enough damage due to the two mega dams (Mangla and Tarbela). So, in my opinion, anyone who supports making another dam does not know the devastation it will cause.
But of course, just because some so-called experts think that another dam is essential, he has to do what he is not qualified to do. Instead of exploring ways and means to reduce wastage of water in the country (like closing down sugar factories, which use about three times more water than necessary), he wants to spend 16 billion dollars on a dam which will take at least ten years to build. I hope he has the sense to realize that the proposed mega dam (Diamer Bhasha) has the potential to cause widespread resentment.

When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assumed power in 971, one of our maids told my mother, "Now we'll live in your bungalow, you and others like you will have to live in our huts". It seems PPP workers had told simpletons like her that this would happen if they voted for the PPP. Much like today, when the ruling party's politicians promised the moon to the masses in pre-election campaigns.
Bhutto was arrogant and despotic, just like Imran Khan. He too went after the press, putting many journalists in jail and forcing others to leave the country. It seems whenever a government finds itself on the defensive, it either imposes draconian press laws to stifle dissent, or put restrictions on women. 
Unsurprisingly, Zia thought all his problems would disappear if both the press and women were curbed. Flogging of writers became common and women were compelled to wear headscarves. Many women came out in protest, burning their headscarves in public. 
Later, the Punjab government under Shahbaz Sharif also ordered college girls to cover themselves, as if doing so would prevent rapes in the province. Again, women protested, and the order was withdrawn.
So I wasn't surprised when a male guard prevented girls in Lahore from entering a public building because their heads were not covered, saying that seeing women with uncovered heads disturbed the males in the building. Of course he couldn't have done it without approval from the top, and it was thought that Yasmin Rashid (a PTI minister) had given the order. She denied it, of course, even though I strongly suspect she was the one who was behind it all. 
But the most dangerous move of the present government is to make a new law punishing those who defame the present ruling party. Apparently the fat and corpulent Fawad Choudhry (the information minister) doesn't know the meaning of defamation. He doesn't want the truth about his party's failures to be told. Just like Bhutto, who thought anyone criticizing him was a traitor. In fact, also like the present chief justice, who made opposing the construction of dams a treasonable offence. Future generations of Pakistanis will wonder what exactly made the chief justice do what is not in his domain. But then, this is Pakistan.

The mentally retarded Imran Ali was hanged today. He was alleged to have raped and killed eight year old Zainab (the cops said he had killed many other little girls as well, but you can't believe what our cops say). The parents of the dead girl had demanded that the killer be hanged in full view of the public, but fortunately the court did not agree. 
People have often asked me why I say that killers and rapists should not be executed. The main reason, of course, is that in third world countries like Pakistan, innocent men and women are likely to be hanged. In the UK, a Muslim man was hanged in 1957 for a murder which he did not commit. The actual killer confessed on his death bed to the crime, the government realized its mistake and repealed the death penalty. I'm firmly convinced that many innocent people have been killed by the state for no fault of their own. Sometimes people are implicated in blasphemy cases by rivals who want their lands, or due to old enmity. It is very easy to give ten thousand rupees to a police inspector and file a case of murder against anyone you want. A Christian woman has been charged with blasphemy after a quarrel which resulted after she drank water from a well from which only Muslims were supposed to drink. Some Christians have been burnt alive after someone accused them of uttering blasphemous words or sentences. To give him credit, the notoriously corrupt AAZ didn't allow anyone to be executed in his five year stint as president of the country.
I believe that capital punishment should be abolished entirely, whatever the crime committed. It doesn't serve the purpose of preventing others committing rape or murder and other crimes. In Saudi Arabia, heads are chopped off for smuggling drugs and hands are cut for theft, yet both crimes continue to occur. That is why the death penalty is never imposed in highly civilized countries like the UK and the European Union. We should follow suit.

Crisis of leadership
This refers to the article ‘The bubble of life’ (Oct 11) by Kamila Hyat. The fact is that in our country nothing will change unless the government goes after the real looters of the country (smugglers, tax cheats and other such elements). But since every government has the support of such people, no one has so far gone after them. The present government too is not likely to do so as well.
Pakistan’s bad luck is that its politicians are not sincere. Their only concern is to enrich themselves as soon as possible. The inevitable will happen, and the public will come out on the streets (as they did to remove Ayub Khan). And I strongly doubt that Imran Khan will learn from history.
Shakir Lakhani
The News, October 15, 2018