Even though the government had posted policemen outside all mosques today (to prevent the faithful from going in and getting infected), many die-hard Muslims refused to obey. In three prominent mosques in Karachi (Memon Masjid, Binnoria Town Masjid and Sabeel Wali Masjid), there were huge gatherings, despite the cops pleading with them to refrain. Friday prayers were prohibited in all other Muslim countries, but most Pakistanis apparently think Saudis and others don't know anything about Islam,  

It seems hopeless, as that nincompoop Imran Khan has allowed trucks to freely run in the country from tomorrow. We should see a rapid surge in infections during the next fortnight. Already it is obvious that the number of cases in Pakistan are much more than the declared 1,300 (as only ten thousand people have so far been test). Compare this with New York, which has tested 138,000 people despite having a population of only 20 million (compared to Pakistan's 220 million).

I saw a video of a little girl (maybe 8 years old) screaming and desperately trying to breathe, and it made me go cold with horror. I can't imagine the pain the child was going through. I would sooner kill myself rather than endure such torture. 

In Islamabad, a man got up after Friday prayers and asked the mullah to pray for his wife, who had contracted the virus. Immediately the entire congregation left the mosque. At least they know it is very contagious.

I remember that in both wars in India we were brought down to our knees in less than three days (despite Bhutto saying we would fight for a thousand years). We simply don't have the discipline to endure hardships. Only a completely totalitarian government like the one in China is needed to succeed against the Corona virus.

Despite many countries having imposed lockdowns and even curfews to fight the corona virus, our "selected" prime minister is vehemently opposed to do so. India, with about 600 cases (compared to 1100 in Pakistan) is under a three week lockdown, while California is under a curfew. Yet Imran Khan Niazi wants buses and trucks to continue operating. If you want to know why he's so keen for bus and truck drivers to prosper during this crisis, look again at his surname "Niazi", the tribe which is in control of trucks throughout the country.

The transport mafia is responsible for smuggling of arms and narcotics into the country, besides being major supporters of the ruling party. Another reason could be the fact that IK's wife wants people to go to shrines all over the country to pray, particularly the shrine in Pakpattan. Unless buses are allowed to operate, Pakistanis will be deprived of this activity.

But again, maybe he knows that the war against the virus cannot be won without massive foreign aid. Perhaps he knows that thousands will die in the country, and other countries and aid-giving agencies will jump in with billions of dollars, thus helping him to remain in power for another five years. 

Of course I may be wrong, perhaps he really wants to help the poor, but that is highly unlikely, considering the huge palatial mansion he lives in and the petty amount he pays in income tax.

I knew it would happen. Everyday more and more cases of those stricken by the corona virus surface, with Karachi having the most victims. The authorities told everyone to stay at home for the three day holiday (March 21 to 23), but no one did. The streets were full of vehicles, it seems the people don't seem to realize that this virus has the potential to kill thousands of people. In Sukkur, some of those who were under quarantine barged out (they were egged on by a mullah). So I'm not surprised that the provincial government decided to impose a lockdown, which will compel most people to remain in their houses.

But that nincompoop (Imran Khan) is still adamant. He refuses to order a lockdown, despite the fact that the Chinese and other countries had to do it. Apparently he thinks if people are not allowed to go to work and some of them die of hunger, his party will lose in the next elections. Or maybe it's his wife who has told him not to give in. She wants all people to go to shrines where they can ask dead people to kill the lethal virus.

Those who live in Karachi are used to stay at home, as there have been so many curfews and strikes in the past. In 1977, during the riots that resulted in Bhutto being overthrown, we were confined to our houses for days at a time. The frequent strikes called by that mad man (Altaf Hussain) for many years in the last two decades of the twentieth century are still fresh in our minds.

Despite being told not to go to mosques this Friday, no one obeyed. I also went to see if the mullah would tell his listeners not to come to his mosque, but no, he instead encouraged them to come as much as possible. In the illegal mosque in my apartment complex, a born-again Muslim insisted that the air-conditioned mosque should remain open for faithful like him to enjoy the cool temperature inside. 

The daughter of a distant relative arrived from New York and sailed through the airport as her temperature was normal at the time. Two days later, she had developed a cough and fever so she went to the premier hospital in the country to find out if she'd been afflicted by the lethal virus. It turned out that she was, and she had infected ten others, including her aged grandmother. 

I spent most of today calling old friends and relatives and talking to them about old times. Let's hope my family stays safe.

Black magic, astrology and all that mumbo jumbo

The one thing you find in most countries (particularly India and Pakistan) is a strong belief in black magic and the supernatural. You see huge bill boards in every locality, with names of experts like “Amir Bangali Baba” who can tell you what will happen to you in future, and how to get rid of any ailment or sickness you’re suffering from, or even cause your enemies to die (by muttering certain magic words thousands of times). Even educated people believe in that fakery called “astrology”, according to which the positions of the sun and moon and stars determine what will happen to you. 

Before the last elections, I once saw a female astrologer on TV saying emphatically that Imran Khan would never be the prime minister, as the stars indicated otherwise. I haven’t seen her after the Dear Leader got “selected”, which is natural. She can’t go around claiming to be an expert on the supernatural, after such a devastating failure to predict the future. Come to think of it, I’ve heard that the Great Khan himself believes in such things, he’s talked about “spiritual” science many times. Even our past prime minister and the ex-president used to be advised by their spiritual advisors not to travel on certain dates. The ex-president was sometimes told to go and live in Karachi in his house near the sea, while our Mr. Clean often retreats to the mountains, apparently to ward off evil spirits.

I once bought a book to study palmistry and got a big shock. This was when I was in college, in 1961. According to the book, I could be dead anytime soon, perhaps within a year or two, as the life line was cut much earlier by another line. For a few days I was quite depressed, but one day I told a friend studying in medical college about it. He laughed and said, “I see bodies of youngsters everyday with very long life lines, this palmistry thing is a hoax”. 

Then there is numerology, which predicts the future according to your lucky number. An expert in this “science” told me that I would be a great leader one day (based on the date and year of my birth). Obviously, since this did not happen, I don’t believe in numerology either.

As for astrology, only a moron can believe there is anything in it. Recently there was a super moon (it was a Monday). I looked up on a few websites what was in store for me on that day. According to one, “When you help out other people today, you'll actually be helping yourself”. Now this is something which is applicable to everyone under the sun. Moreover, “Surrender that excellent parking space to someone else, and you'll probably end up finding an even better one later in the day”. Only a fool would believe that, the “even better” parking place would only be found in the dead of night.
Then there was this gem: “Lend someone some money for lunch, and someone else could appear with a very special treat for you”. No one asked me to lend him money for lunch. If someone had, and if I had lent him the money, “that very special treat” would have been my wife shouting her head off for doing so.

Another one said, “You can capitalize on real estate and other fixed assets during this cycle”. The only real estate I have is my own apartment, so how can I capitalize on it? Another one says, “There is no concern for your health and you are welcome to enjoy the outdoors”. I wonder how he can say there’s no concern for my health, as I have to take eleven pills a day just to remain alive. As for “enjoying the outdoors”, this chap apparently hasn’t heard about the lethal corona virus.

Those who believe in all this fakery are welcome to do so. I shall always remain a skeptic. 

The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, an industrialist, and has been associated with the petroleum, chemical industries for many years. He tweets @shakirlakhani


I don't know whether to laugh or cry. After seven and a half decades of living, it's scary to think I may not be alive next week. To think that after surviving malaria, flu, dengue, pneumonia and typhoid, I might succumb to this lethal virus which has the capacity to kill everyone on earth. It has resurfaced in those who recovered, which means it won't go away soon. A scientist has said it will reduce in intensity in June but could come back with greater force in November.

Now I know how a condemned man feels, waiting for the day on which he'll be hanged. I thought of buying more of my medication to keep in stock, but what's the use? Men and women over sixty are at great risk, particularly if they have defective respiratory systems (like me)

The other day a man (actually not more than a boy, he was only 22) was killed in an accident. The first thought that came to my mind was, "Lucky chap, he was spared being killed by this dreadful virus". In recent days I have been thinking of all those whom I knew and who have died. Most of them were in their sixties, I wonder whether they would have survived the corona virus. It's like living after a nuclear explosion, dying a horrible, slow death. 

The world has ground to a halt. In many countries, work has stopped. The most poignant thing I read was a tweet by a woman. Her husband is a doctor who said to her, "Darling, I'll surely die soon, but I'm sorry you'll also be affected by this virus". 

I have been writing here to leave a record for my descendants, so they'll know how people lived in these times. Now I'm not sure if there will be any one who will read what I have written.

In years to come, the corona virus will be thought to have originated in a town of that name by those Pakistanis who are virtually illiterate (those, for instance, who think that writers like me are enemy agents). Such people already believe that "tsunami" is a city in Japan which first experienced the quakes and high tidal waves. They are also convinced that the first man on the moon converted to Islam after he visited Egypt and heard the Muslim call to prayer (azaan).

The azaan itself has been modified in Kuwait, asking people to pray at home instead of going to mosques (where they're likely to catch the corona virus). Apparently this was the practice in the early days of Islam when people were asked to pray at home on rainy days.

Something happened the other day which should convince most fundamentalists that there is something wrong with their beliefs. The die-hard Tableeghi Jamaat chief first criticized Saudi Arabia and other countries for not allowing Friday prayers. Then he refused to call off the mass gathering of his misguided followers at Raiwind, saying that the time of death is fixed, etc etc. But apparently God didn't want the gathering to continue and cause people to fall sick. So He sent down heavy rains which made it impossible for the "faithful" to spend another night in the open. I doubt if the chief will ever realize that holding such gatherings many times a year is not liked by the Almighty. 

I don't think this virus will run out soon. The way it multiplies it has the potential to kill millions. Even if a vaccine is developed, most Pakistanis will refuse to take it, thinking that they will become sterile (polio is still rampant in parts o the country for this very reason). 

In the euphoria following the BJP’s defeat in the Delhi elections, one stark fact has been overlooked: the extremist Hindutva party actually gained five more seats than it had before the polls. Rather than celebrate the anti-Modi camp’s so-called “stunning” victory, Indian liberals (including Muslims) should reflect upon the awkward fact that despite its poor governance, Modi’s party managed to get six percent more votes than it did in the last election. Put another way, the extremist BJP was able to convince forty percent of Delhi’s voters that Hinduism is in danger of being reduced to a minority religion in India, and that anti-CAA Shaheen Bagh protesters were coming to “rape your sisters”. That is no mean achievement. The recent attacks on Muslims in Delhi and destruction of their properties was well-planned by BJP to coerce Muslims into submission. This is sure to be followed by attacks on Muslims in other cities, as a result of which their properties will be demolished, they will lose all their identification documents and will be unable to prove they’re Indians when Modi embarks upon his unpopular National Citizens Registration program. 

Indian liberal Hindus and minorities must not rest on their laurels. They should remember that these were state elections, where voters are not likely to be influenced by rhetoric. They vote for parties on the basis of performance. Just last year, in the national elections the extremist BJP won Delhi’s entire seven Lok Sabha seat, principally due to its vitriolic campaign against Muslims and against Pakistan. Unless Modi suddenly turns into a liberal, we can be sure he’ll do his best to brainwash Hindu voters into believing that a defeat for the BJP will mean a “victory for Pakistan and the end of Hinduism”. So Indian liberals should do their best to ensure that he doesn’t succeed, if for nothing else than to save themselves from extinction.
After losing in Delhi, the megalomaniac Indian prime minister has refused to back down on his Kashmir policy and Citizen Amendment Act (which is meant to expel or disenfranchise Indian Muslims). Based on what he did in Gujarat, he will be inclined to repeat it again, even if it means genocide of Muslims and other minorities. He will stage Palwama type incidents so he can blame Pakistan for fomenting terrorism in India. Indian Muslims should get united and vote for opposition parties in all state polls and national bye-elections during the next four years.

Hindutva activists and supporters are said to admire Hitler for killing six million Jews. No wonder Modi is alleged to have looked the other way when the mass murder of Muslims took place in his home state (if he did not actually encourage it). The U.S. and the U.K. refused to allow him to visit their countries after the slaughter of more than two thousand Muslims (the actual figure is five times higher). Indian minorities should bear this in mind when they cast their votes. Knowing that it’s only the minorities who can prevent him being elected again, he will do his best to reduce their numbers. In the next couple of years we should expect more mosques and churches to be demolished. Hindutva activists have been brainwashed into believing that many Hindu temples were demolished and replaced by mosques and churches by Mughal and British rulers. Modi will again rouse them into a frenzy to distract their attention away from his party’s poor governance and economic failure. 

The battle ahead for two hundred and twenty million Indian Muslims and minorities is going to be tough. But if they want to survive with dignity, they will have to plan ahead and together with liberal Indian Hindus, chalk out a strategy to defeat the BJP in future elections. If it can be done in Delhi, it can be done in the whole of India.

The great Bushra Bibi (who was known as "Pinky" before she married the "selected" prime minister) has dreams that help her forecast the future. It was in her dreams that she was told to marry Imran Khan to turn Pakistan into a perfect Islamic state. In her dreams she saw oil gushing out of wells in the Arabian Sea near Karachi, which made her idiot husband announce prematurely that Pakistan would soon become a major economic power. And I have no doubt that the nincompoop regularly consults her in matters of state.

Yesterday, he announced he would visit Karachi and his party members were delighted. All preparations were made to give him a right royal welcome. But today the moron said he wouldn't come due to "bad weather". The weather is perfectly fine in Karachi and almost the whole country, planes are flying between cities and there was no danger of him dying in an aircrash. It seems the lady was told in last night's dream to prevent him going to Karachi. And as I said before, everything he does is dictated to him by his wife. 

All his ministers and advisors are appointed after getting her approval. And God help him or her who says anything against the lady. Recently, she was reported to have lost her temper and removed a hundred and seventy five officials who did not provide her the protocol she is entitled to (in the Pakpattan shrine). In the Customs Department, it is said that officials are appointed or transferred according to the dictates of her ex-husband (who apparently remains a good friend of hers). God help Pakistan.

The term "Mera jism, meri marzi" can mean anything, depending on who you are. There are men who believe that people saying "happy birthday" are non-Muslims who should be instantly killed. For such men, all women shouting the slogan "Mera jism, meri marzi" want to have sex with men who are not their husbands. And the way the extremists have come out against the "Aurat March" to be held on March 8, you'd think they regard it as their birth right to dominate and subjugate all women in their family.

Ahmed Ali Butt (whom I personally don't like ) has come out in favor of the extremists. This man is the grandson of the famous singer Noor Jehan (a modern, liberal lady who would certainly have shouted "Mera jism, meri marzi" had she been alive today). Yet this man who mixes freely with scantily clad women thinks the slogan is against Islam. Why doesn't he admit that he is a misogynist who wants all Muslim women married the day they attain puberty, who thinks nothing of men raping their daughters and brothers killing their sisters every day to protect "family honour"? Not to forget those who think throwing acid on women's faces is sanctioned by religion?

But it does look like most Pakistani Muslim women are doomed to be slaves all their lives. On the very day the Women's March is to be held, extremist women belonging to religious parties will hold their own marches to support the right of women to be raped or killed. And they are in the majority.

Way back in 2005 (when I was 61), I gave a bottle of Dettol to the barber in Makkah who was shaving my head, as I didn't like to be infected. He threw the bottle away, saying "Nothing will happen to you unless it is willed by God". That is the belief of all Pakistanis, so they will not take as much care as people of other countries to protect themselves from the Corona virus.

I'm not at all surprised at the emergence of this lethal virus. We have screwed up the planet so much that nature was bound to take revenge. The good thing this virus will do is to reduce environmental pollution (as most people will remain indoors, thereby reducing petrol consumption). The bad thing, of course, is that there will be a massive economic recession, throwing millions out of jobs and causing many people to die. Since the elderly and those suffering from asthma are most at risk, it'll be a miracle if I survive. As someone said, "An old man is a great lover of life", and now that I'm 75, I want to live up to 90, even though there have been times when I have fervently wanted to die (especially when I've been sick).

They say the virus won't be able to survive when the weather gets hot (maybe April, which is a month away). Until that time, there is great danger of many people falling victim to it. Let's hope for the best.