Even though I'm only partially retired (I spend three hours daily at work), most of my time now is spent at home. Fortunately I've always been physically and mentally active, so for me retirement is not the hell it is for most men of my age.

I grew up in a house where everyone spent a lot of time reading. My father was an avid reader who spent a fortune on books, magazines and newspapers. Even after TV came to Pakistan, he never gave up reading. We used to have four morning English newspapers, two Gujarati morning papers, three English and one Gujarati evening papers. Besides all this, he used to subscribe to Readers Digest, Saturday Evening Post, Time and Newsweek, plus two weekly Indian English newspapers. He would also buy novels (Edgar Wallace, Erle Stanley Gardner, Leslie Charteris, Rex Stout and others). Reading all that stuff resulted in my being the most knowledgeable boy in school. 

Now that I am almost retired, my reading habit has proved very useful. I read at least one book every week (some are books written a hundred years ago, others are recent), and I watch movies and dramas on Netflix. I also spend a lot of time walking.

Yesterday at the annual family Eid dinner, I saw how incredibly ignorant my nephews and nieces are. I wanted to tell them to read as much as possible, but they are addicted to video clips sent by their friends through Whattsapp, so their general knowledge is virtually nil. I don't see how they can survive into their old age without succumbing to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.


In Zia-ul-Haq's days, it was common for criminals to be sentenced to many lashes, even though it was repugnant. I remember a Memon being sentenced to many lashes (he was a diamond and narcotics smuggler). A relative told me a man is rendered impotent after receiving so many lashes. Another Memon told me that the convict paid a huge amount to be lashed lightly. I saw him many times after he was released, and he seemed in normal health.

After a long time, a man has been sentenced by a woman judge in Karachi to eighty lashes for falsely accusing his wife of committing adultery. This is welcome news, although I doubt if the sentence will be carried out. The man had refused to provide for his wife and baby daughter, claiming that the child was not his, as his wife had bad character and was having extra-marital relations. His wife had got him prosecuted, and he was given the sentence. I think it would have been better if he'd been sentenced to at least five years in jail.  

In another piece of news, a woman was shot dead for marrying against the wishes of her family. This is very common in the country. Even in the twenty first century, Pakistani women are regarded as the properties of their fathers and brothers, who simply can't tolerate their sisters refusing to marry their cousins. 


Beyond the tradition

IT is an established Pakistani tradition by now for all losers to cry foul right after general elections. The refusal to accept the election results, of course, is part of the tradition. The tradition stops right here, or at least it used to stop right here. Never before had a losing party appealed to foreigners to interfere in our internal affairs. Even in the massively rigged elections of 2018, the losing parties had not damaged Pakistan’s image by seeking intervention from countries and entities abroad for their own vested interests.

But today, the party that got the largest number of seats in the recent elections is doing its best to hurt the country by seeking help from anyone who in its wisdom can help its cause. First, the party officially wrote to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to demand a forensic investigation into the election results before finalising its programme with the government. Then some of its supporters staged a demonstration outside the IMF headquarters in the United States, demanding that Pakistan should not get a loan.

So, then, what next? Why not ask the IMF or the World Bank to come here, and conduct fresh elections in the country?

Shakir Lakhani


April 7, 2024


After the letter to the Supreme Court by the six Islamabad High Court judges alleging threats by the intelligence agencies, the plot has thickened. Now judges of the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court have received threatening letters in envelopes purportedly containing toxic anthrax powder (I won't be surprised if it turns out to be baby powder).

There are many ways to look at this. I think it's obvious that the anthrax-laced letters were sent by Imran Khan's activists to goad the Supreme Court to take suo moto action. The retired judge named to head the Commission to investigate (Tasaddaq Hussain Jilani) was also threatened, so he chose to recuse himself and the Supreme Court was forced to take suo moto action. These are typical antics by supporters of Imran Khan, and I won't be surprised if fingerprints of PTI activists are found on the envelopes (assuming they didn't wipe off the fingerprints before sending the letters).

I may be wrong, and it is possible that someone in the Establishment chose this method to distract public attention and to prolong the case. But I doubt if anyone in the government would do it, particularly when it is on the defensive.

It should be interesting to wait and see how the apex court deals with this sensitive issue. 

When I was not so old (around 65), I thought I would never be pre-occupied by thoughts of death (as some of my older contemporaries were). I would regard them as crackpots, especially those who were worried that they hadn't been as religious as they should have been. They were the ones who suddenly grew long beards and spent most of their time in mosques with other men who also thought they hadn't been religious and should make up for it in their old age.

Now that I'm nearing 80, I too find myself thinking about when I will die and whether it'll be painful. I'm not worried that I didn't pray as much as I should have, but about why I haven't accomplished as much as others who've led useful lives. I regret not having helped people so much and not having made many friends. I'm glad that I didn't start smoking or drinking and led a morally good life (I know some billionaire Memons regard me as very stupid for not collecting more wealth whenever I had the opportunity to steal).

And whenever I hear about some relative or acquaintance dying, I wonder when my turn will come. This month a distant female relative of mine has been found to have cancer, and not a week goes by without the club informing me of the death of another senior member. Every time this happens, I think about when I'll kick the bucket.

So what should I do? If I had enough wealth, I'd help those in need. But I can't do more than donate the obligatory two and a half percent zakat every year. I had plenty of opportunity to take bribes and commissions when I was in charge of construction projects, but I refrained. One of my students (himself a very corrupt man) was amazed that I didn't want to accumulate illicit wealth even though it was within my grasp. My priorities were different, and I was right, as an uncle of mine told me a few months before his death. He had lost most of his illicitly earned money and regretted that he didn't have the wisdom to be content with what he had. He was one of those who had thought I was a fool for being honest.



Conscience lost and found

March 29, 2024

This letter refers to the news report ‘Six IHC judges write to SJC over spy agencies’ interference’ (March 27, 2024).

I remember former prime minister Imran Khan supporting the agencies for taping conversations when he was in power and there were no protests by anyone at the time.

Shakir Lakhani



Islamabad High Court judges have always favored Imran Khan's party (PTI) so much that some people strongly suspected they were being paid to do so. Now they've openly rebelled against the establishment, claiming that they are being pressurized in cases against PTI. In the case against Imran Khan for marrying a divorcee without observing the mandatory waiting period prescribed by Islam, they were told to proceed with the case and not declare that it is not maintainable. They've also claimed that their bedrooms were bugged by the agencies. 

It's good that they've come out in the open, but the question arises, why didn't they protest earlier, when the establishment was pressurizing them to convict Nawaz Sharif, and deny bail to his party workers? More specifically, when their favorite Imran Khan himself said that the agencies helped him in running his government, and he supported them for tapping phones of his opponents? Why did they not support Justice Shaukat Siddiqui who was not heard when he claimed that the ISI threatened him to convict Nawaz Sharif? Why this double standard?

 I've never understood why Imran Khan's supporters get so emotional whenever he is criticized. I mean, I'm never aroused when someone calls me names or says that I'm incompetent. During the recent Congressional hearings, the Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu revealed how he was threatened by Imran Khan's supporters when he refused to admit that their leader had been removed as a result of a conspiracy hatched by the US.

The latest victim is Shahid Afridi, another popular cricketer who made the mistake of saying that the country needs to be united and both the government as well as the opposition have good and bad persons. He also made the mistake of imitating Imran Khan's habit of saying "I, I" all the time, as if he alone was running the country. This has incensed Imran Khan and his supporters, who have boycotted Afridi's restaurant and other businesses in Lahore. The poor guy had to apologize and say that he considers Imran Khan as his hero and mentor. But the damage has been done. 

Of course, it was only to be expected. People in Karachi would never have reacted so violently, but this happened in Lahore, where Imran Khan is regarded as a kind of prophet.

Suddenly Punjabi is being promoted by Maryam Nawaz, apparently to gain support from those who voted for Imran Khan recently. Imran Khan himself speaks Punjabi fluently, even though he is of Pashtun descent. He can't speak Pushto at all, but despite that he's very popular in KP (where "Punjabi" is often used as a word of abuse). In fact, those who speak Hindko (spoken in many parts of KP) are referred to as Punjabis by the Pahtuns

I've never been able to understand Punjabi. In Lahore, it's very difficult to converse with people who think they're speaking Urdu when in fact they are talking Punjabi. Lahoris are often amazed that there are people in the country who can't speak or understand Punjabi. 

To return to the teaching of Punjabi in schools, as proposed by Maryam Nawaz, I can't understand how that will help her party. It's well-known that Nawaz Sharif prefers to have Punjabi speakers only in his cabinet. But he did select a non-Punjabi (Musharraf) as Chief of Army, and we know how that turned out. The only Memon who served as Finance Minister was Miftah Ismail (my distant relative), but he didn't last long and was replaced by the Sharif's favorite (Ishaq Dar). In fact, Maryam Nawaz herself was instrumental in getting him ousted from the party. So, Punjabi is already the dominating language in the province (where Seraiki is spoken in the south). Giving too much importance to Punjabi might backfire. 

Most Pakistanis, even the ones with university degrees, are not really educated. They've never read a book after graduation, all their information is from what they hear in mosques and in religious matters, they are highly emotional. They're ready to kill anyone who tells them that something they've believed throughout their lives is not true.

Many years ago, a Memon woman (related to a niece of mine) was killed by her husband in the U.S. The couple had been operating an Islamic radio station and educating Muslims about things they didn't know. One day, they had an argument, so the man attacked her with an axe, chopping off her head. He was sentenced to a long prison term.

The other day, two girls studying in a madressah in KP were sentenced to death for killing their teacher. One of the two girls had dreamed that she would be granted a good place in heaven if she killed the teacher (who was supposed to have committed blasphemy in the dream). KP of course is the province where superstition reigns supreme. It's also the home province of Imran Khan, the man responsible for the mess the country is in today. 

Of course, in the rest of the country also the people are deeply superstitious, which is why such cases are common in Pakistan. It will be take many many years of real education before our people become liberal.