Highway to hell


Once upon a time, in a land that was pak saaf, zaheen and shaad baad, there was, as there generally is, a king. Said king had come to power rightfully enough: he was nominated by the house of lords after the next-in-line to the throne, his wife, had died. The king was well-liked by the people, but all was not well in the estate.
The soldiers were mutinous, as they had been for decades. They demanded the king’s throne, and were constantly planning and plotting ways and means to get their demands met. The king knew this, and to ward them off, maintained around himself a close group of trusted ministers. The problem, however, was that regardless of how well-meaning these ministers appeared to be, they were, wittingly or unwittingly, buffoons. As such, it was the well-liked king and his buffoons versus the cunning armoury; but the king had faith in his people and he had hope. So he appointed his most trusted advisor as Minister of the Defence of the Interior.
Now Mr Minister took his job and himself very, very seriously. He charged around the estate on his trusted steed, challenging naysayers to a duel. “Terrorists!” he’d yell. “I have but one thing to say to you: we are watching you and we will come after you!” The terrorists would laugh and yell back, “If you can see us, why don’t you come after us now?” And Mr Minister would stomp angrily and yell some more. Then he’d sit down and think: “I can’t really see them. Why did I say they could? Now everyone will make fun of me…” and so on and so forth. This usually resulted in him falling asleep, but one night, suddenly, out of nowhere, inspiration struck! “A-ha,” he exclaimed. “So what if I can’t really see them? Terrorists live in jungles, right? I will order all trees in the country to be chopped down! The terrorists will have nowhere to go!”
He jumped out of bed, gathered all the woodcutters of the land around him, and ordered them to chop every single tree in the estate. The woodcutters set to their task, while the citizens wondered what was going on. Some protested the ecological harms that the move would cause. Some said that it was a crime against nature. Others swore that it would change the ecological balance in the country, and weren’t trees supposed to prevent floods? The king heard what the people had to say, and he haltingly asked his minister if he knew what he was doing. But the minister was having none of it. “You have to trust me, sir,” he exclaimed. “In fact, I will conduct a town meeting this very morning to answer everyone’s questions and put their doubts to rest!” Reassured, the king went to bed.
The next morning, just as he had promised, the minister called a town meeting. “Why are you people saying that we’re destroying greenery,” he said. “We’re only cutting down trees; shrubs, bushes, small plants will not be touched. You have my word on it. And fruits don’t only grow in trees. They grow on shrubs too. Except, that the ones that grow on trees are a different kind from the ones hat grow on shrubs. But what difference does it make? Apples and bananas are both fruit! Thank you for your attention. Please eat cake!”
When the king heard about this, he was furious. His anger wasn’t helped by the fact that it later turned out that terrorists didn’t live in jungles, after all. But there was little he could do, so he grinned and bore it.
A few months later, the estate was under attack. The invaders were at the gates, and the soldiers were refusing to fight them. In fact, there were rumours that some were even secretly helping the invaders. “They’re going to break down the gates, and then we’ll truly be lost,” the king murmured in grief, his hands covering his eyes. “No, sir, wait. I have an idea,” the minister of the defence of the interior explained. The king groaned, but at least the minister had one idea; which was more than he could say about himself at the time. So he let the man continue. “All will be lost if they break down the gates, is that correct,” the minister asked. “Yes,” the king replied haltingly. “But why are you saying it like that, with an inflection at ‘they’?”
But the minister was off before the king could finish. Within five minutes, he realised what the man was up to. “Since all will be lost only if the invaders break down the gates, lets break them down ourselves,” the minister shouted to his workers. “Break down the gates! Forward-ho!”
The gates were broken down. All was lost. But that is not so yet in Pakistan. While Interior Minister Rehman Malik goes around making wild proclamations, he is often stopped by saner minds from converting his words into action. On Saturday night, he threatened to ban Google and YouTube and file a criminal case against Google’s Pakistan administrator, presumably because terrorists benefit from a search engine and video hosting website. These threats were alarming, but they haven’t been converted into orders yet. One fervently hopes that the minister realises the folly of these ideas before the gates of the fortress are torn down in error.

The writer is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Karachi. She can be reached through Twitter (@UroojZia) or via email (contact AT uroojzia.com).