2016 in retrospect


Some highlights (and lowlights) of the year

Time marches on relentlessly, and another year is about to bite the dust. Here’s a cursory look at some events and personalities that defined 2016:

            Political speech. The last days of the year saw the advent of a handy new euphemism. Thanks to the legal team of PM Sharif, lying through one’s teeth has a new name now: political speech. Such situations will henceforth be referred to in polite circles (the highest courts of justice included) as merely political speeches.

            Faith. A novel approach to air safety was taken by sacrificing a black goat at the runway before the ATR aircraft operation was resumed after the tragic Havelian crash. One is reminded of the legend of two nuns whose car ran out of gas. When a man saw them filling the tank from a whisky bottle – the only vessel available at the nearest gas station – he remarked: ‘Gee sisters, I am not religious myself, but I admire your faith.’

            Punjab speed. It appears that China has finally discarded ‘Shenzhen speed’ for ‘Punjab speed’ as a symbol of development and progress (it was only a matter of time). As international endorsement of the year for Shehbaz Sharif, this narrowly beats Trump’s ‘fantastic guy’ compliment for elder brother Nawaz.

            Insha-Allah.: ‘This is a battle between truth and falsehood. Liars will Insh-Allah go to Hell.’ Out of the millions of Insha-Allah statements made in political, sports, and social arenas during the year, this one, by Abid Sher Ali, easily stood out.

            War options: A Twitter poll about the best way to teach Pakistan a lesson had these voting options:  ‘Brahmos’, ‘Hydrogen bomb’, ‘Normal nuclear bomb’, and ‘Conventional attack’. Reassuring to know that in the contest of patriotic zeal, we are not always guaranteed pole position. The poll, by Sanjay Dixit of IAS, appears to have since been removed, doubtless to keep the Indian military war plans secret.

            Ultimate sacrifice. ‘If PM is proved corrupt, I will leave politics,’ declared CM Punjab. One would be hard-put to imagine a higher moral ground. Unless it’s merely another political speech, that is.

            Jaagte rehna, saade te na rehna. IG Sindh took a giant step forward in the journey to the realization of self-sufficiency and small government when he encouraged the public to carry weapons to be better able to combat armed robbers. Ever the responsible government dignitary, he was careful however to mention that the weapons must be licenced.

            Four hens, one cock. While it’s usually good to think outside the box, this ill-fated initiative to teaching poultry-farming to school-girls by providing schools with chicken was not the greatest of ideas. While the feminists were predictably up in arms, the 4-1 combination raised many an eyebrow among even the most non-feminist crowd.

            Chaudhry Nisar. For the second year running his ministry refused to observe the Iqbal Day holiday. The reasons may be shrouded in mystery but there’s no denying the bottom-line: Ch Nisar 2 – Allama Iqbal 0. Furthermore, Nisar gave new meaning to the compound ‘logical-end’, which is now a dignified version of Chaudhry Shujaat’s mitti pao. For his excruciatingly long press-conferences, Nisar was also the undisputed bore of the year.

            Innocent until proven dead. The Panama case and its attendant mysteries were enough to flummox the best minds this country has to offer. Apart from the more technical matters, the seemingly simple question of who was dependent on whom defied all attempts at solution. Since we are still none the wiser regarding this, and other riddles, the quest to get to the bottom of the mystery will continue in 2017 as soon as extreme weather lets up.

            Reporting. Saleh Zaafir, with his illuminating updates on everything PM (his health, change of weather conditions of foreign countries as his plane lands, etc), was without doubt the reporter of the year.

            Glad tidings. Orya Maqbool Jan opined that it was not only allowed to listen to your laundi (slave woman) sing, but it was also permissible to have sexual relations with her. Which is a relief: one can only listen to so much live music. Furthermore, this may motivate the Muslim youth enough to bring about another Muslim resurgence leading to world domination.

            Islamic Republic State. Hafiz Hamdullah of the JUI-F is often eclipsed by the leading light and the head of his party, represented by the F in the party-title. Occasionally, however, he manages to shine through magnificently. One such occasion was when he failed to see eye-to-eye with Marvi Sirmed on a talk-show set. He had to be restrained from manhandling Sirmed, and allegedly he uttered some extremely obscene and sexist things. When columnist Rabia Ahmed messaged him to register her protest at this behavior, she received this response: ‘We want to rule of Islamic law bcoz Pakistan is Islamic republic state’. Sort of leaves one speechless, doesn’t it? Why didn’t you say so earlier, Hafiz sahab?

            Spoilsport. For calling CPEC the China Punjab Economic Corridor, Asfandyar Wali was the undisputed spoilsport of the year, not that it’s going to do any harm to the game-changer. Asfandyar’s bitterness will be markedly reduced if he can bring himself to study the trickle-down theory.

            No country for poor men. When push comes to a shove it’s every man for himself, as Pervez Rasheed found out in the aftermath of the leak-gate. A corollary of this sad law of the universe is: One doesn’t become mighty just by serving the great and mighty ones.

            Mistake. Imran Khan learnt the hard way that if you announce beforehand your intention to shut the capital down, the authorities will probably shut it down before you; and that will make things more complicated than they need to be for then you will first have to open the capital before being able to shut it down again. One lives and learns.

            Political philosophy. After giving a lesson in practical politics to all and sundry for many years, Hamza Shehbaz finally decided to share his political philosophy – the foundation, so to speak, on which all his practical success stands. He told Imran Khan to first go to jail before harbouring any dreams of becoming the prime minister. In the same vein, while talking to school children, he had earlier famously informed his audience that corruption was an inevitable fact of life, and the only real accountability was by the votes of the public.

            Who’s who? Maryam Safdar rubbished stories about a rift in the Sharif family and rivalry with cousin Hamza as rumours spread by PML-N’s enemies. She made it clear that her relation with Hamza was the same as that prevailing between Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif. This could be very significant for the next 35 years because Pakistan, since the early 80s, is in many ways a story of the exemplary Nawaz-Shahbaz teamwork. For some reason however, Maryam refrained from being explicit regarding exactly who out of the two was Nawaz in the analogy. A friend tweeted her, but is yet to receive a clarification. In the meanwhile, we can only speculate.


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