Spirits having flown

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Karachi has once again paid the price for the impulsiveness of one man’s loose tongue, which was matched in its ugly avatar only by another man’s egomania. At least 17 people were sacrificed and forty vehicles torched just to establish who was the bigger bully in town. As if residents of the ex-city of lights know not.
But did Dr Zulfiqar Mirza really have a no-holds-barred licence to shrill — the track record apparently, suggests so — or is there a method to the adventure with an eye on 2013?
Whatever the truth, it hasn’t served Brand Zardari well — at least in the short term — and, if not for Chaudhry Shujaat’s mission impossible, who knows what graver turn it might have taken. Mirza’s second caving in only a few months apart will not do any wonders to lift the PPP’s image.
All that the diatribe has achieved is to reinforce the power of the MQM to hold the city to ransom. It was so well scripted that the PPP was left with no choice but to ask its firebrand to eat his words — not just for peace per se but retaining power in the long term. Let’s hope Mirza will realise that there is no joy in being made an instrument of reverse psychology.
Conventional wisdom suggests one can comprehend a man’s character better when he is in a position of power. In Mirza’s place, you are supposed to be wedded to responsibility in all your actions.
There is now the small matter of coming to terms with the undeniable fact that his loose tongue eventually contributed to the killing of innocent people and loss/damage of property worth Rs2 billion.
Any thinking, caring citizen’s heart would bleed at the wanton loss of lives — it is not just individual lives lost here but families entwined to their existence in terms of succor and more. It makes you wonder if Mirza can live down the inherently flawed idea of brinkmanship. How could he not have envisaged the fallout of his macho-speak given MQM’s history?
The general perception is that he does it on cue from the Presidency as the favoured weapon of offence. Be that as it may, Mirza must now rethink the reprehensible idea of a hunting hound that literally kills, not just belong to a feudalist sport.
The belated zipping, at the president’s behest, fooled few, if at all. Agreed that the PPP co-chair showed fine acting skills in essaying the impish childhood of ‘Chocolate Hero’ Waheed Murad in the 1969 flick Saalgira, and has since even confounded the likes of Javed Hashmi with his craft, but the direction/production in Mirza’s “summoning” at the presidential darbar beggars belief.
The takers in this topi drama — a better analogy to describe the façade in local parlance is hard to find — are far and few between. To be sure, the one playing the admonishing principal to the errant pupil in this case has an own case to answer. Only last month, the president was calling his arch political rival names. “Maulvi” Nawaz Sharif was borne out of precisely such fevered pitch.
And while we are left wondering if it is so convenient to go to sleep in the profound knowledge that one man’s vitriol has snuffed out the lives of so many innocents and financially, ruined it for their families, one can’t but question the tactics of the exiled lord in London for his audacious timeout before issuing the calm order.
Altaf Hussain commands the kind of loyalty few in this country could justifiably claim as their calling, apart from Jinnah and Bhutto. All the more reason he should have pandered to those gray cells, not allowed the work of raw nerve to go on display in the city of Pakistan’s Quaid.
Any desire to reinforce the Sarkar Raj-like sway essayed by Amitabh Bachchan in the similarly-named Ram Gopal Verma flick should never have come at the cost of innocent people’s lives and destruction of property.
The Muttahida may have considered it necessary in the cut-throat arena to show their gladiatorial reach but an early word of restraint from Pir Sahib would have not only saved Karachi much strife but also won him greater respect across the aisle.
But perhaps, the instant fear — and resultant leverage — that a body count provides is not matched by Gandhian practice.
Also, amazing is the audacity of taking Mirza to the cleaners but conveniently, overlooking the similarly racist overtones within the Muttahida ranks.
Just as much as the PPP firebrand had no business looking down upon a people he labeled as bhookey nangay (naked and hungry), MQM’s Waseem Akhtar should have minded his when he trashed Punjabis with cutting suggestions about their penchant for mujras (dance by courtesans) ghar ghar mein (in every household) and prostitution.
Oh, how they stoop to conquer!

The writer is a newspaper editor based in Islamabad and can be reached at [email protected]