Return of Maverick
Maverick in Pakistan
One day our dear maid Zarri (without whom our house wouldn’t function) came running down the stairs screaming, “There’s a monkey sitting on Atiqa Bibi’s sofa on the terrace.” Our dear friend, the beautiful and talented Atiqa Odho in whose bosom the milk of human kindness sloshes perpetually, had presented us the said sofa, a lovely wicker and cushion job.
Zarri is wont to see Djinns so I didn’t take her seriously, but went up to take a look nevertheless. And there was my friend Maverick sitting on the sofa with his chin on his hand looking far into the distance deep in thought, not giving a fig for Zarri’s screams or my barking German Shepherds below. “You’ve returned after a long time,” I said. “Welcome back to civilization and humanity.”
“Civilization and humanity my foot,” scoffed Maverick. “You have lost civilization and humanity entirely. Humayun Gauhar, I had decided not to meet you any longer because I had given up on your kind, but felt that I ought to give you some advice. First, please stop saying that the monkey population of Islamabad has decreased because many have gone into parliament. I know some French sod decided to call our tribes ‘parliament of monkeys’ and ‘senate of baboons’, but our monkey parliaments are much better than your human parliaments. Ours comprise the best monkeys and baboons amongst us, not the worst humans as you choose from amongst yourselves. It is we who are civilized; you have lost civilization. It is we who are kind; you are the most knowingly inhumane species known to history. You have misused your knowledge for mass destruction and less for humanity. Stop perjuring us if you please.
“Second: the brain-eating amoeba Nagleria Fowleri has returned, primarily to Karachi but is spreading all over through water. Its second name ‘Fowleri’ suggests that it could have come from birds, but I don’t know. Ask a doctor. But what you do in your poultry farms and the muck you throw in the rivers, dams and lakes is disgusting. The best way to deal with it is to put chlorine in your underground or above ground water tanks, just like is done in swimming pools. You have been warned. Your governments won’t do anything since they are in no danger because they are brainless. It is up to you to protect yourselves like governments only protect themselves, their salaries, perks and privileges, nepotism, power and pelf.
“Third: you know that some people are saying that Humayun is a prophet of doom a gloom. Lighten up, will you. Give us some good news for a change.”
“You want me to speak lies just to make people feel good Maverick?” I said, equally contemptuously, and repeated a line from Allama Iqbal, “I have been Commanded to Speak the Truth: there are no gods but God” – mujhay hai hukm-e-azan, La Illaha Il Allah. So here go some truths that will make you feel good.”
“First, the German Shepherd Dog Club of Pakistan is streets ahead of the German Shepherd Dog Club of India. Happy?
“Second: international cricket has come back to Pakistan after a hiatus of six years with Zimbabwe’s cricket team touring Lahore,” I continued warming up.
“Oh big deal,” said Maverick. “You are feeding them chicken achaari biryani, halwa puri and cholay, paya (goat’s trotters), qeema parathas and what have you. They are more in danger of digestive overload than terrorism. Another possible danger is that they might defect and seek asylum here because methinks Zimbabwe is in much worse condition than Pakistan, which might surprise you because we have hit rock bottom. One hopes the series goes well – keep your fingers crossed – but all it will prove is that we provided watertight security, not that terrorism has gone away. It’s a big risk. As to the total money expended, wouldn’t it have been better spent on, say, the dying children of Thar than on cricket? It’s a question of priorities. Yours are all wonky: the money you waste on the upkeep of stupid and useless presidents, prime ministers, federal and provincial ministers, governors, chief ministers and parliamentarians many with fake degrees and who have recently increased their salaries manifold without a blush could be better spent on the welfare of a wretched people. But do you humans care? The people are nowhere on your radar. Charles Darwin was wrong. If you were evolved from us you would have been better.” Maverick had me there.
“In any case, Maverick, we have new uniforms for our PIA airhostesses. That’s something, with fashion show and all.”
“Provided the planes fly, and on time,” said Maverick unhelpfully. “Passengers won’t give two hoots about pretty airhostesses in beautiful uniforms if they have to wait for hours. You people just believe in cosmetics, not solving structural problems.”
“What about the upgrading of Islamabad Airport that the prime minister just inaugurated?”
“Oh great,” said Maverick. “Want happened to the new Islamabad airport? It’s taken longer than the metro bus in the twin cities? That’s a criminal waste of money too when it could have been done much simpler and cheaper. The amount spent could have given clean drinking water to the Punjab. But someone has told the Sharif gang that development is like justice: it should not only be done but also seen to be done.”
“Oh shoot, Maverick. You will never be satisfied. Ishaq Dar says the economy is going up and the IMF sings in chorus. Don’t be surprised if Dar is given a Nobel Prize in Economics next year. You know the IMF calls it ‘Darnomics’. It will become a new subject in Cambridge and Harvard. Just you see.”
“You’re pathetic, Humayun. Anyone who believes Ishaq Dar and the IMF needs his head examined. You cannot have economic growth without direct investment and there is none, none. You know that.”
“Well what about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor?” I retorted. “That’s something.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it. I’d be surprised if you guys can implement your part of it, certainly not if you go on being ruled by the sort of people you are. Give it a rest. You are already quarreling over the route. You should give it to us monkeys. We will do a better job,” said Maverick pompously.
“Ok, what about the Commander of V Corps in Karachi reading the riot act to the provincial government? That’s a shot across their bow: put up or ship out. That put the cat amongst the pigeons, didn’t it?”
“Ha!” said Maverick. “And what did Asif Zardari say the next day? That the Sindh chief minister whom you call the lost mummy from Egypt is going nowhere, so can it. You know what Zardari was doing? Flashing the Sindh Card as it is called, threatening to play it if his bluff is called. Things are heating up and we could have civil war in Karachi with such bloodletting that it will remind people of 1947. God help us. So be careful and get on with saving Pakistan.
“And while we are at it,” continued Maverick, “let’s not talk about the alleged Axact fake degree scam just yet, not till we know. All I can say is that you have chosen to believe the same Declan Walsh whom you threw out of the country for writing lies in the same New York Times about there being nuclear weapons in the Kamra Air Base after it was attacked by terrorists. What does it say about you people, your media and your authorities? You believe what suits you and you don’t that doesn’t. What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’, even in media trials? Here the onus of proof seems to lie on the accused. Shame. If Axact is indeed guilty of what Walsh says, prove it in a proper court of law under due process, punish the company and get on with life.”
“The trouble is, Maverick,” I said somberly, “Pakistan is moving towards the precipice faster than the two institutions that can stop it. The army and judiciary both think that they can stop our progress towards the precipice by maintaining the facade of sham democracy at the fore and the army doing the imperative in the background supported by the judiciary. They cannot; in fact they will only make it more difficult for themselves. Problem is they don’t have a new Standard Operating Procedure and are confused. They are only using the old SOP in reverse as I said last week: pre-legitimization by the Supreme Court, an elected-after-a-fashion government in the show window and the army running an empty department store. The ‘elected’ facade having failed, some say they are now making a King’s Party again before the new king arrives, instead of afterwards. That could be why Musharraf is trying to unify the shattered Muslim League.”
“Look,” said Maverick, “they are firing used cartridges and blanks again. All the people that Musharraf is talking to have been fired again and again and what?”
“Sure,” I replied, “but aren’t the Bhutto-Zardari Combine and Sharif Inc. used cartridges too who have never hit target for Pakistan but only for themselves? There is an acute political vacuum, Imran Khan not having risen far enough to become a viable alternative just yet, interior Sindh is leaderless and it’s much the same for Balochistan, KPK and much of the Punjab. Trying and going down is better than just sitting there and lamenting.”
Maverick had more advice. “Sindh, at the very least, requires governor’s rule under a tough son-of-a-bitch governor who eats nails for breakfast,” offered Maverick. “The corps commander should be the de facto chief minister and the director general Rangers the de facto home minister. After they have cleaned up the mess and put away the people who created the mess, they can bring real democracy for the first time ever, a democracy that throws up good governments that deliver to the people and improves their condition.”
“How?” Maverick asked. “SOP in reverse is not enough. You need to revive your social contract of becoming an Islamic Welfare State, amend the Constitution accordingly, make new economically viable provinces, change to a presidential system in which the legislature is independent from the executive and act as a viable watchdog, shed the first-past-the-post nonsense and so forth. And yes, put away the corrupt, reprioritize and place education at the top. It’s not easy, perhaps beyond the army and judiciary’s intellect, intent and capacity. So relax and accept what is coming to you because it might bring common sense along with it.”
“I have been saying this for years Maverick but it has made little difference,” I said.
“Then stop dreaming, my friend,” said Maverick making to leave. “Learn the subtle art of not giving a damn and look after yourself and yours.”
“How can I look after myself and mine when my firmament has become a hellhole? Who will improve it for us? None other than we the people who should learn that our most important God-given right is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and our duty is to grab them if we must.”