Mind this mindset
It is a truth universally acknowledged that comedians and politicians are always in want of situations that ‘play’ with them. Both assume an antic disposition with a view to gather attraction and acceptability. Both exaggerate either by claiming larger than their stature or by doing more unusual than they are expected of.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa such a situation is rife. Earlier Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the Minister for Pakistan Railways and the member of predominantly a liberal (if not secular) political party, announced head money of one hundred thousand dollars for the head of Kopula Bassel Kopula, the director of innocence of Muslims, a film that is being condemned for its blasphemous content all over the world. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour has been criticised for the worst corruption in Pakistan Railways during his recent tenure. Recently talking to the anchor of a private TV channel, he said his announcement would help mitigate the menace of terrorism in the country. It is not the first time that Haji Ghulam Bilour has been found in the political theater where a comedy of errors is being played. He once shed crocodile tears for the acquisition of more railway engines; he claimed that he would become a suicide bomber if the plan for Kalabagh Dam was revived. And he put his party through sheer embarrassment by proposing a confederation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh a few months back. He, even, put me in an awkward position when he fell upon with one of my guests, a professor from LUMS, in Alif, a TV show based on ideological debates that I produced back in 2005. He actually rolled up his sleeves and started shouting in his hoarse and hushed up voice, “Should I teach you a lesson right here?”. By the way, the professor was no less than a street fighter himself and he too had venom against the ideological contradiction of ANP.
I have talked to different journalists and all are of the view that Haji sahib has secured his position in NA 1. It is the position that was threatened in the wake of alleged kickbacks, crying vociferously in his account. Secondly, people in KP are wary of the progress limited to the area largely comprising the constituency of CM (KP).
The film maker is in the custody of police and in the US, the likes of Ghazi Ilam Din are not normally accessible, otherwise Haji sahib might have sold the scrap of Pakistan Railways to give this head money, the amount that is much more than his capacity to pay. So, Haji sahib has nothing to lose but the stigma of alleged corruption and to gain, he has a fully charged NA 1.
In Pakistan, political statements, gimmicks, policies and ideologies are not promulgated on the basis of objective realities in perspective. They are rather expressed for point scoring or manipulating the emotions of the public into one’s own favour. Hence, Ikram Ullah Shahid, General Secretary of JUI (F) increased the head money for the same film maker up to twenty thousand dollars during a protest staged by Difa-e-Pakistan Council.
A couple of months back when Pakistan decided to reopen the Nato supply routes, I happened to meet a well positioned member of the DPC (he is actually the media advisor of a well organised religious party that is trained in politics even on student level) in my office. I expressed my concern on the havoc that was likely to be played. He said the party was bound to protest out of courtesy, though decisions had been made by the people also known as the hidden hands. Here lies the point I am trying to take my readers to.
It has become easier for politicians to cash in on religious sentiment than on performance, statesmanship ideas, wisdom or even logic. We, as a nation, are living with a mindset that has been promoted by the establishment to guard the interests of the state not the society. This mindset has fixed approaches towards relations amongst the nation, culture, civilization, norms, language, institutions and objective of life in general. For example, this mindset thinks India is an enemy, democracy is a sham, the Jewish lobby is conspiring against us, anything other than Islamic injunctions are conflicting with our cultural values, the genesis of our history can only be traced back to the advent of Muhammad Bin Qasim, the army is the only institution that protects the integrity of the country and the judiciary (newly included) is the only institution that is fair with the nation, all politicians are corrupt and some are more corrupt.
The mad pursuit of strategic depth, paranoia of security, fear of ideological fall out and reactions against regional voices steeped into an indigenous culture have all paved a path on which this mindset can further flourish. In fact, martial laws nourished it so much so that a mullah force was created parallel to the democratic forces. Hence, we find religio-political alliances against progressive forces since the advent of first martial law. Difa-e-Pakistan Council, Mutteha Majlis-e-Amal, Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi, Tehreek-e-Nizam-e-Mustafa and the likes have always been there to counter liberal forces thus, serving the establishment that cultivated the said mindset.
Philosophically speaking, this mindset is single-track oriented, conducive to regression, restrictive to change and abhorrent of cultural autonomy (not only provincial but more realistically cultural because we have diverse ethnic and cultural entities in all provinces). Unwisely, this mindset has made terrorism an industry and when Musharraf says in his book, ‘In the line of fire’ that he handed a lot of people to the US and got dollars as a reward; when ex service men say Taliban are our strategic asset, when Abu Jandal, Mullah Bradar, Abu Zubeda and Osama Bin Laden are found in Pakistan, when terrorist organisations are sent underground after a ban was imposed in 2003 and the leaders of the same terrorist organisations are seen leading political rallies; when anti Taliban lashkars are discouraged (as a lot of writers like Farhat Taj and Ahmed Rasheed say) in Fata; when the army kept quiet during the ruthless murder of Waqqar Khan and his family in Swat; when the jihadist mind is promoted in madarassahs by welcoming foreign aid; when different sects are directly linked with security agencies for waging wars “against the pro west governments” and when Salarzai and Ali Khel tribes lose their lives before the oppression of tacitly supported Taliban, it is substantiated that we have invested a lot in this industry.
It is this scenario in which Haji Ghulam Bilour says he will give head money against the life of the film maker. Not that he was carried away with emotions but he thought it the easiest way to please Ehsan Ullah Ehsan who like Delphi Oracles, keeps an eye on all political movements of the underlings from an unknown place. I am amazed we couldn’t discover the unknown places of key leaders of the TTP, Taliban, al Qaeda and different local terrorist groups.
I used to go to Swat when the Taliban dominated it and Mullah Fazal Ullah used to address people on the radio. I was astounded that we couldn’t stop his radio addresses in which he threatened people. I have had strong reservations against the staged operation in Swat in which thousands of innocent people were displaced. I saw pregnant women walking from Swat to Mardan and then I carefully documented the operation launched against mills, houses, shops, calling cards, fax machines and any and everything worthwhile in that desolate area.
Then, one day I, together with my team, while making a documentary on the proliferation of madrassahs in South Punjab, was captured by the bearded militia of Maulana Masood Azhar. My camera was snatched and I was asked to flee. We asked our correspondent to let us apologise to the Allama sahib, the chief organiser of the madrassah. However, we ended up waiting (from 11am to 5pm) for our correspondent, who had been to different people for an apology, to return. Eventually, we were led to a place where a bearded officer offered us tea and delivered a four hour long lecture to make us realise that the madarassah people (Maula Masood Azhar’s guys) were the real strategic asset. Would you like to guess where we were? It was the office of the ISI in Bahawalpur.
The mini DV inserted in my camera lense was never returned. But thank God, they didn’t shave my head.
The author is a TV producer, with a special interest in politics, literature and philosophy.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.