‘Punjab Speed’ polish


And flattering parasites

Every second day a so-called news report or an opinion column appears in country’s leading Urdu daily and within no time goes viral on social media attracting harsh criticism and becomes an object of ridicule. Surely the pen is mighty but public opinion is mightier than puffery


They say some are born great, some achieve greatness and some hire public relations writers. But the content appearing nowadays in national dailies is definitely not a technique from public-relations rulebook rather a disgusting art of naked flattery and apple polishing. To be a cent-percent impartial and objective journalist in today’s world of information overload and biased opinions is virtually impossible but writing third grade puff in praise of rulers is simply a matter of utter shamelessness fit only for few media lickspittles.

Every second day a so-called news report or an opinion column appears in country’s leading Urdu daily and within no time goes viral on social media attracting harsh criticism and becomes an object of ridicule. Surely the pen is mighty but public opinion is mightier than puffery. Shameless are not the content creators but the ones who ask and encourage these journalists; who ensure getting it published with prominent placement and read it with cheap gratification. They are corrupting the very spirit of free and independent journalism. “Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver,” says Edmund Burke. Here an institution is being polluted thanks to narcissistic tendencies of mighty rulers.

The stories from prime minister’s love and reverence for his mother to Shahbaz Sharif’s ‘miraculous’ administrative capabilities speak volumes not only about our falling journalism standards but also about unquenchable thirst of the Sharifs for fawning. When media advertisements worth billions of rupees failed in quenching their thirst for publicity, they hired the services of dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of a giant. They created characters to beat historical stock characters like Wormtongue (The Lord of the Rings). “Flattery will take you somewhere”, is the hidden message in the fondness of the Sharifs for Saleh and Huzaifa to the rest of journalists.

After writing dozens of you-are-the-greatest pieces to extol Shahbaz Sharif, now Huzaifa Rehman has come up with ‘Punjab speed’ polish. The news report appeared this time was his duty as he enjoyed a free trip to China with the chief minister and his DGPR baboos for the very same job. He claims that now people in China have set a new gold standard for speedy development and have discarded Shenzhen speed for Punjab speed. The exact adulation appears in these words: “The Chinese people and government’s functionaries, referring to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for his performance, have started using the term ‘Punjab speed’ as a role model, not only for the morale boosting of workers but also the motivate them to accomplish their assigned tasks in the extraordinary way he is doing in Punjab.” Many months ago a press release was issued by DGPR claiming that the extra hard-workers in China were called as ‘pupil of Shahbaz Sharif’.

Punjab speed: the speed with which kids are disappearing in the province and now the apex court has taken a suo motu notice to arrest the problem; and the speed with which Punjab police eliminated Chotu gang; and the speed with which citizens were killed at model town; and the speed with which justice was dispensed to the victim families.

Yes Chinese people will be amazed over the speed with which decades-old sewerage systems in different cities of Punjab were replaced. The speed of completing local bodies’ structures is also marvelous. What a speed in filing one writ after another in courts of law to paralyse in-the-making local bodies by halting the election process. The speed of taking loans from Chinese banks and the speed with which hepatitis is being eradicated from the province is really commendable. Chinese authorities will also be flabbergasted over the speed of reforming Punjab police by PML-N government and over the speed of controlling street crime. The speed with which poor patients are thrown out of public sector hospitals due to lack of space is another feather in CM Punjab’s cap. And the speed with which heart patients undergo surgery at Punjab Institute of Cardiology has blown Chinese authorities minds.

The reporter forgot mentioning the speed of diverting development funds of the province to complete Orange Line Metro Train. Even health and education sectors came under the axe. Definitely no country on the globe can meet the speed with which rains inundate cities in Punjab. It is Punjab speed! After National Action Plan, Punjab won the race by eradicating banned outfits and terror networks from the province. What a speed! Chinese people are also astonished over the speed of privatising public sector schools of Punjab and taking lessons from Punjab government on how to address farmers’ problems speedily.

Every king loved sycophants more than crowns except King Canute. Today’s courtiers of the chief minister too are telling him that his command can hold back the tide. Dear chief minister, please learn from King Canute and get rid of both flatterers and crowns of arrogance and over-confidence. Your crowns and cronies are not curing headache of the people of Punjab.

An old curse: Renowned Muslim historian and scholar Ibn Khaldun writes inThe Muqaddimah that “a person who seeks and desires rank must be obsequious and use flattery as powerful men and rulers require. Otherwise it will be impossible for him to attain any rank.” Dick Morris in The New Prince says: “Drawing closer to those who fawn can change a person beyond recognition. Likely the single greatest danger and (ruler) faces is the prospect of a personality change as he looks in the adoration of those who eat his bread and sing his praises.” Machiavelli’s magnum opus ThePrince has a dedicated chapter “How Flatterers should Be Avoided”.

A few weeks ago, the same so-called journalist wrote a column comparing Shahbaz Sharif with Hazrat Umar (RA) citing Aitchison college merit policy incident in which he narrates how the CM sacrificed the admissions of his close relatives in the elite educational institute for the sake of merit and transparency. Extolling chief minister’s love for justice and merit, the writer forgot Ayesha Ahad’s case and how was it handled and also merciless killing of men and women in model town by Punjab police. Hazrat Umar (RA) used to express his fear of being accountable before Allah even if a dog died of starvation at the bank of the Euphrates. Sir William Muir in his classic book ‘The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline and Fall’ writes: Omar’s life requires but few lines to sketch. Simplicity and duty were his guiding principles, impartiality and devotion the leading features of his administration. Responsibility so weighed upon him that he was heard to exclaim, “O that my mother had not born me; would that I had been this stalk of grass instead!” Guilty is not Mr Huzaifa who dared comparing the junior Sharif with Hazrat Umar (RA). Shame should be felt by the ones who appreciated this comparison and in reward enhanced protocols of said journalist in Punjab.

Recently when Saleh Zafir’s well-greased machine was in full swing and he was producing masterpieces of puffery, my friend wrote a satirical story forKhabristan Today section of Pakistan Today, this way. “Sources at the Wembley Clinic in London have revealed that the hospital’s cardiologists had refused Pakistani journalist Saleh Zafir’s request to be planted in the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s body when they were stitching him back in. Because he is the greatest leader that the world has seen since Nelson Mandela and I want to examine, from up close, the very beating heart that has given this visionary such monumental compassion,” Zafir is quoted as having said.

In the end, I like to share a joke from the internet: Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to go fishing. He called the royal weather forecaster and inquired as to the weather forecast for the next few hours. The weatherman assured him that there was no chance of rain in the coming days. So the king went fishing with his wife, the queen.

On the way he met a farmer on his donkey. Upon seeing the king the farmer said, “Your Majesty, you should return to the palace at once because in just a short time I expect a huge amount of rain to fall in this area”. The king was polite and considerate, he replied: “I hold the palace meteorologist in high regard. He is an extensively educated and experienced professional, and I pay him very high wages. He gave me a very different forecast. I trust him and I will continue on my way.” So they did.

However, a short time later a torrential rain fell from the sky. The king and queen were totally soaked and their entourage chuckled upon seeing them in such a shameful condition. Furious, the king returned to the palace and gave the order to fire the weatherman at once! Then he summoned the farmer and offered him the prestigious and high paying role of royal forecaster. The farmer said, “Your Majesty, I do not know anything about forecasting. I obtain my information from my donkey. If I see my donkey’s ears drooping, it means with certainty that it will rain.” So instead, the king hired the donkey on the spot.

And thus began the ancient-old practice of hiring asses to work in the government and occupy its highest and most influential positions…


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