‘Come on ladies, one pound fish’
Socialising in the “Af-Pak” circuit in Islamabad, one is bound to bump into all kinds of people. Recently at an Af-Pak reception hosted by a German organisation, one met parliamentarians from Pakistan and Afghanistan and delegates from Europe.
Compared to Afghans and Pakistanis, the Germans, reputed for clarity, are clear about their role in Afghanistan. A former German Ambassador, who flew in from Berlin to attend a special Af-Pak seminar in Islamabad, says: “We want to differentiate ourselves from the Americans and Brits. No military. Just soft-power: civil society, education and health projects.”
Besides Germany’s soft-power, the whispers of a “soft conspiracy” are growing stronger in the dark and damp corners of Pakistan’s power structures.
According to one guest, “Certain quarters are not happy with the findings of the Abbottabad Commission report. They are against making the report public.”
The guest even claims that “a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against making the commission findings public.”
Although nobody else at the reception knows anything about this petition, the rest are intrigued nonetheless by the assertions.
The guest is asked, who are the people “not happy” with the Abbottabad Commission findings. He answers: “The same people who were not happy with Hussain Haqqani, not so long ago.”
As luck would have it, a member of the Abbottabad Commission is seen roaming around the reception. But better sense prevails and no one disturbs the gentleman’s “pleasant evening pursuits” with burdensome questions better left for the morning hours.
One diplomat, of European descent, has an interesting story to tell of his daytime adventure around Islamabad – for most diplomats stepping out of the diplomatic enclave is like an adventure.
The diplomat, while driving around Islamabad had noticed posters of a religious cleric – Tahirul Qadri – pasted around Islamabad. As a result, the diplomat had asked his driver what was written on the posters. The diplomat verbatim repeats his driver’s tightly translated statement: “Save country, not politics.” The diplomat is anxious to know what the statement means.
But Pakistanis cannot help but exchange smiles amongst themselves, as plenty of stories have appeared about the cleric in the local press.
Instead of answering the question, a Pakistani guest says almost evasively: “It means nothing. It’s just easy on the tongue.
Especially the way it is pronounced in Urdu.”
The diplomat looks confounded. And he is justified: how could a complicated subject like politics be relegated to the pure and simple world of phonetics?
Seeing the confusion, another Pakistani guest quotes the example of Shahid Nazir, a Pakistani fishmonger, who went to England as an immigrant to earn bread and butter but became an overnight hit with his jingle ‘come on ladies, one pound fish’. The jingle ‘come on ladies, one pound fish’ sung to attract customers in the fish market, now has an audio and video version and is being played at all the nightclubs in London.
The guest tries explaining it to the diplomat: “The jingle – come on ladies, one pound fish – is a hit because it’s easy on the tongue, one starts repeating it, humming it, right after one has heard it.”
“So you think ‘save country, not politics’ would be a hit like the jingle ‘come on ladies, one pound fish’?” asks the diplomat.
This time around the question stumps the Pakistani side. And no answer is forthcoming for a few minutes. But then one guest, to cut a long conversation short, recommends: “As the rally of the cleric is around Christmas Eve, I guess one will have to wait till Christmas, to find out whether ‘save country, not politics’ is as marketable as Shahid Nazir’s jingle.”