By Shafaat Bokhari:
Having gotten up early in the morning after a tiresome struggle with the hourly load shedding of electricity at night I planned the day during which I had to buy a Pakistan International Airlines’ ticket for my wife. I had earlier promised her visit to our relatives abroad to celebrate Eid with them; my mind was relentlessly getting back to the last night TV talk show on the PTV where some intellectuals were very seriously discussing Muslim carnage in Myanmar. The discussion seemed quite unreasonable and embarrassing as none of them was referring to even more bloodshed of Muslims at the hands of fellow Muslims in our own country almost on daily basis. I was surprised to note that none of them was referring to Shia genocide in Baluchistan or the killings of our soldiers and civilians in FATA and elsewhere while they were shamelessly questioning the apathy of the rest of world which was not taking notice of Myanmar incident and that too at least at the United Nations’ level . I do not know whether the UN has suo moto powers to take up such cases on its own. The modified lyrics of the Qawwali originally sung by the country’s most well-known Sabri brothers , “Bhar do jholi mere Ya Mohammad “ were also making me upset although I had no religious or ideological differences with what had been produced by one of the Sabri’s son last evening on a private TV channel. Was it an obvious message to majority of Muslims of our unfortunate country to start thinking in a particular mode or face the consequences?
My wife was however in very high spirits to avail this occasion to revive the treasure of memories of her early childhood which she had spent in the then East Pakistan. The same night she had shown me the beautiful black and white photographs of a colonial bungalow in which she was born as a first child of a young civil engineer in late 50s. She fondly narrated one of her childhood ferry cruises on a full moon night when she was insisting to have “that football “ , the full moon, in her lap which was travelling alongside her in the deep waters of river Karnafuli. She also told me in quite detail about a theatrical play, watched with her parents, in which live characters were playing as puppets. I was though lost in praising secretly the sagacity of the Bengalis who quite bravely and against all odds had declared their country as a People’s Republic and secular instead of insisting to be Islamic republic like us which is neither Islamic nor even being allowed to be a republic. By the way , has there ever been an Islamic state in modern history?
Just when I was about to leave the house, I was told that the driver was out the last night with my son and came back home at about 2 a.m. after his little master had played a day and night cricket match. I did not think it appropriate to disturb him from his sleep as he was fasting. I was told to go to the ATM and the Bank too, to deposit the utilities’ bills of my home before taking up the rest of the planned days’ assignments.
To my surprise, when I reached the Bank, there was a notice announcing the closure of not only the Bank but ATM as well on account of deduction of Zakat. I got back to the car thinking how our elders used to pay the ZAKAT before the rise and enforcement of this specific brand of Islam introduced by one of the most remembered martyrs of our country. I will not dilate upon the different ways in which his memories haunt the people of this land. While on my way to the Airline office, I took a cigarette out of the pack and lit it. Halfway down, I realized that it was Ramadan and I could be tried, if caught, under some obscure offences but I took the chance and successfully provided the nicotine my old and tired body was craving for. I trembled in my pants when I recalled how those bigots had just last week burnt alive an insane for some blasphemous act in Bahawalpur. I thanked God for his kindness for not getting me caught. There is no dearth of pious people who are in abundance in our streets inflicting punishments without any holds barred in the presence of our police for the sins, the punishment or exoneration of which rests with the God himself. I recalled those beautiful winter Ramazans of my childhood when there used to be very few changes in lifestyle. The month used to pass with equal reverence without much ado on the media or even in the mosques except very quiet taraveehs and loudspeakers announcing the Sehar and Iftar. I reached the Airline offices reminiscing those calm, peaceful and tolerant days. I had to tell the security people that I was unable to walk comfortably because of a recent illness so I may be allowed to take my vehicle inside. They did not agree even on being shown the stick I was carrying to help me walk. I, however, instantly referred to an acquaintance, a high official of the same office, when they obediently opened the gates without even counter–checking my identity from him or his staff. I found out after getting into the office that he was on a tour to Karachi for the last fortnight. So much for the security. I got the booking process completed very quickly because of lack of the usual rush our national airline used to have in the bygone days. One thing however which was constantly flashing into my mind was the changed version of the qawwali . This Qawwali actually had been a source of inspiration for me during my teens and later. I am in my mid fifties now. The lyrics were modified in such a way that the name of the prophet and the mention of his grandsons had been out rightly deleted. I was thinking how the poor chap must have been convinced to do this as I had read just last week comments of a columnist turned politician, the hesitation of the Punjab khadime aala to change the name of famous liberty chowk to Noor Jehan Chowk ostensibly in the wake of an NOC to be obtained from the powers that be. I was quite disheartened by now so I decided to visit a friend in an outdoor of a public hospital. By the way she happens to be a lady doctor but thank God, visiting lady doctors by men has not yet been declared un-Islamic and turned into a cognizable offence under some penal code. I knew I would be able to share the pain. On my entry to her outdoor clinic, I found out that she was accompanied by her 6 year old young son who was enjoying the cola drink and some potato crisps while playing games on the Laptop. In the meanwhile, a female member of her staff brought some eatables with a different brand of cold drink to the delight of the young chap. The doctor had been like minded for more than two decades but I kept waiting for the routine offer of a glass of water which I needed badly but it never came. Even then I kept sharing with her my thoughts whatever way they came into my mind, in between the intervals, when she did not have a patient. We discussed the latest comments of our independent righteous judges and the way the people and the Bars had stood behind them, the possibility of Pakistan’s ouster from the Olympics, the events of the first Ramadan in far flung areas of KPK , FATA and Baluchistan which did not affect our lives but of course added into the fears, usage of the phrase Ramazan circus about the media by a brave journalist in an English newspaper and of course the qawwali too.
Towards the end of her day and our meeting, a flabby young man, clad in a shalwar qamees and clean shaven, entered into the outdoor room. She introduced him as a local leader of the ruling party in Punjab. I was horrified to listen when he started with the comments that there was no ehtram-e-ramzan . She explained him sheepishly that it was just a 6 year old but he commented that there were two different brands of the cold drinks which meant one of you must be taking it. That was enough for me from the self created moral police constable of the holy land. As I wanted to get back home alive I excused myself. She followed me to the jdoor of her clinic and whispered that I had called him to explain why he had tried to bribe her staff last week. I reached home safely unlike the more fortunate ones.