By Humayun Gauhar
I heard giggling and knew that my friend Maverick the monkey was back. He looked healthier and smarter than ever. Now I would get another much-needed dose of wisdom and some insider information too. I think Maverick flits between being an ISI and CIA agent, though he wouldn’t be averse to RAW and MOSSAD either. Certainly sounds like one from the amount he knows and from his know-all smile and cockiness.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Funny? Funny? It’s positively hysterical. I didn’t know your prime minister is a man in on-again, off-again purdah.”
“Are you a nut, or what? Men don’t wear veils. How can our prime minister be in purdah?”
“Well,” said Maverick, his momentum unbroken. “Atiqa Odho didn’t get exemption from court appearances despite the fact that she has to come all the way from Karachi to Islamabad every time because, argued the learned magistrate, she doesn’t observe purdah! Many of her appearances come to naught anyway because the lawyers are either on strike or voting in some bar election or some such. Moreover, observed the learned magistrate, she is neither ill nor the only accused in the case. Yet the Supreme Court exempted your prime minister from further court appearances, unless it especially summons him, like on the February 13, even though he lives down the road. Nor is he ill or has any co-accused. Shouldn’t it logically follow then that Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gillani is in occasional purdah? While they’re at it, they should also exempt Mullah Aziz of Lal Masjid – he actually wore a burqa once, remember? Where’s balance and equity? You have often spoken about the three branches of government and said many times, har shaakh peh ullu baitha hai, anjaam-e-gulistan kya ho ga?” Shaakh is branch, isn’t it?
“Watch it,” I said sternly, “you could be charged with contempt for mocking the great and the good.”
“What better?” said Maverick. “I’ll become famous. What does the verse mean, anyway?” asked Maverick.
“It means: With an owl perched on every branch, what will the fate of our garden be?”
“A bit flowery, what? If you had monkeys instead of owls sitting on your branches you would have done very well.” His tone was arrogant. He probably thought he was superior since his icon Darwin said that monkeys came before Man. Quite a cult following he has amongst monkeys, does old Darwin.
I decided to throw rank at him. “Look, he’s the prime minister. You cannot drag him to court all the time. He’s running the country, for God’s sake.”
“What do you mean, ‘running the country’? Is this running the country? Do you mean running backward? Or do you mean ruining the country? Perhaps you mean running it to the ground? Do you know that the hijab was first enjoined upon men? Real hijab is the hijab of the mind, the eyes. The real intent of hijab is privacy – give people space. The veil covering the face was enjoined only on ladies of the Prophet’s (pbuh) household so that people don’t taunt them when they go outdoors. But since they were ladies of the highest status, the veil became a status symbol and other women started wearing it too. Then some clerics made it mandatory. But it isn’t.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” continued Maverick. “You’re thinking that this monkey knows more than I do. Am I giving you an inferiority complex?” I wanted to wring his neck, but I was afraid he would wring mine. In any case, he was right. Many of my co-religionists mistakenly think that many customs and rituals, many pre-Islamic, are part of their religion, while actually they have been superimposed on it by clerics, but people unversed in the Quran think that they are part of the faith.
“What’s worse,” continued Maverick rubbing it in, “you have double standards. The other day a brigadier was arrested in a drunken state for teasing an airhostess. Do you know what? He was let off. Where’s your suo moto now? A girl can attract a suo moto for allegedly carrying two bottles of the elixir, while a brigadier is let off after consuming booze and harassing a working girl? Is the lion’s skin he wears more attractive then the girl, or more frightening? Where’s balance and equity? Where egalitarianism – the law shall apply equally to all regardless of station in life or gender? But all’s well that ends well – for the ruling class, that is.
“Do you know that you are strongly advised by God not to consume alcohol because its harm outweighs its good? But it is not haram, forbidden, like pork. Your Federal Shariat Court said so. Why do you people give so much importance to alcohol anyway while ignoring heinous crimes against humanity? You think it is that easy to be a Muslim – rail against alcohol and grow a beard. You become a true Muslim by the intentions behind your actions. That is what you will be judged on.”
“I don’t want lectures from a monkey about being a good Muslim,” I said in self-righteous indignation. “I’m more concerned about the memo. I can’t understand why they couldn’t give Mansur Ijaz ironclad guarantees for his security so that he could come here and testify. No Mansur Ijaz, no case. Is there a coincidence between Hussain Haqqani going and Ijaz’s ‘secret’ letter to the chief justice? Or is it that America gets what it wants?”
“They’re running your country anyway,” said Maverick. “It’s time you grew up and realized this reality. Your ruling class was created by the Brits to act as intermediaries between them and the natives – help them suppress the people in return for knighthoods and fiefs. It has continued in this role with the Americans. Some independence!”
“But you’re right. No Mansur Ijaz, no case. That’s why he’s not coming. No Haqqani, no case. That’s why he’s gone. The memo will be a film without actors. America must have assured Haqqani that they would get him out. He’s out. What I don’t understand is why your Memo Commission couldn’t go to Ijaz and get his testimony, or get it by satellite link? I must say: your president is something. He has given haircuts to everyone, even to those with transplants, wigs and hair dye.”
“Sometimes my head spins,” I said. “Sometimes I feel I don’t know what’s going on.”
“Don’t you see: there could well have been a deal to let the memo issue die. Everyone got what they wanted: the army got Haqqani; the US taught your government another lesson; Zardari is off the hook and needn’t fall ill anymore. Only Nawaz Sharif has been left sporting another haircut and the Supreme Court isn’t looking so supreme after all, is it? How will you go before God, O’ Ghalib? Don’t you even feel embarrassed? The Americans don’t want more instability. Granted the plans of mice are no better than their earlier failed plans, but there is nothing you can do about it with your sovereignty lost to them. But no matter: all’s well that ends well for the ruling class and the iniquitous status quo remains.”
“And what could their plans be?”
“Can’t you see? You’ve written about it in ‘Green Flag, Islamic Crescent’. America’s doctrine now is: if you can’t beat them, co-opt them – ‘I know he’s a mullah, but he’s our mullah’. If there must be religious governments in the Muslim world, they must be America’s religious governments. If we can’t beat religious forces, help install religious governments that America could work with. Didn’t you see the huge rallies of your mullahs? Can’t you see which way you are going?”
Maverick had a point. It’s happening elsewhere in the Muslim world. Why not Pakistan?
“Where have you been all this time?” I asked, hoping to change the subject.
“Davos,” said Maverick plaintively and scampered off, leaving me open mouthed. No wonder he looked stronger and healthier.