Always busy sermonising, the pair of homing pigeons, messers AAZ & SYRG, have yet again urged the ‘country to unite and reclaim the values, which Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah bequeathed to the nation as his heritage.’
Do they mean a coming together of East and West Pakistan? They did not elaborate upon the exact values, but then who cares about the values when every unjust tax will soon be renamed VALUE-added tax? What I would love most for my compatriots to do is to unite and reclaim all the taxes from the income tax department.
First, we pay income tax on earnings through jobs that the government neither created nor gave us. Second, we pay yet more taxes on the utility bills. Now, If I light up a bulb in my hut, why must I be taxed? Since we are being kept in the dark, must I live in the dark as well? If I make a phone call, why must I pay advance income tax when my employer deducts income tax, on a monthly basis, ‘at source? Finally, why must I pay tax upon tax upon tax when a tax relief upon a tax relief upon a tax relief should be the order of the day?
On the Qaid’s 133rd birth anniversary, AAZ said, “I wish to felicitate the nation on the Qaid’s birth anniversary and urge the people to forge unity in their ranks to preserve and protect their democratic and political rights and thereby make Pakistan a shining example of prosperity and progress.”
Hollow words indeed, celebrating the great leader’s birthday without a birthday cake is ridiculous. If they can eat Zulfiqar Ali or Benazir’s birthday cakes, where is the Qaid’s cake? They ought to thank the Qaid for resting where he does in Karachi. I am sure that each stately visit and routine signature in the visitors’ book placed at Mr Jinnah’s mausoleum tortures his soul a great deal. The regular descent of our living legends, just to check if the founding father is still unthreateningly inside his marble grave, is an insult to the man’s remains, not to mention the stress the tons of marble used in the structure must feel when the likes of AAZ or SYRG walk up the stairs.
The only institution that is famous for forging unity is the one that wears khaki uniforms, and it can defend itself well against the evil of ‘bloody civilian’ interference. To add injury to the insult, the same undemocratic force forcibly attempts—after generously allowing us self-rule for a few years—to teach us what kind of a kicking donkey democracy really is. Pause to think: through exactly what rights might an ordinary citizen turn the state into a ‘shining example’, when the sold-out leaders busy themselves performing shoeshine jobs for America and its silly allies?
AAZ also said, “Jinnah’s birthday was a day of rededication to the ideals and principles of the Father of the Nation. It is a day of introspection and reflection, to pause and ponder as to what steps we can take to protect the ideals and principles for which the Qaid created this homeland.”
Agreed, it is a day of reflection, a reflection upon the sorry mess in which the men in the corridors of power have landed us. If we did not pause to ponder over the Great Banana Split of 1971, how can we do it with ease at this moment? When Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf did not pause to ponder, whose shining example must dictators—civil and military—follow now?
SYRG added said, “The best tribute the country could pay to Jinnah was allegiance to the principles that he had espoused in his life and the values, which he had promoted throughout his career. The country’s architect had achieved a miracle through his own determination and the spirit of self-sacrifice shown by the Muslims of the subcontinent. He led Muslims out of their perplexities and frustration to freedom and gave shape, significance and direction to their quest for liberty. Jinnah’s birth anniversary calls for reappraisal of the situation and rededication to the national cause. He stood for the rule of law, for freedom and democracy, for social justice and or discipline and ordered progress.”
We read all that in class eight, thank you. The founding father worked so hard, he died of tuberculosis; the ones that suck our blood these days produce so little of use to the people, they are not bound to leave for the eternal abode until at least one thousand years. Mr Jinnah was surely the ‘country’s architect’ who left it at the mercy of destructive contractors.
Just last night, I saw on the tunnel vision (let us call it ‘television’), an old clip of Zulfiqar Ali exhorting the nation to eat grass for a thousand years and then die fighting; it was followed by his daughter shouting more or less the same thing to the mesmerised masses. Finally, we were shown Bilawal who sounded worst than his grandfather and his mother, and repeating the same thing with none of that Oxford finesse. In short, all the leaders want from the toiling masses wearing grass skirts is to fight an unknown enemy until death.
With everybody and his dog nicely settled in America, Canada or Australia, where is our educated class? Living in near-perfect systems, what difference are they all making in a foreign land? While I ask our leaders to tell me what they mean by the silly words they utter on certain dates of national importance, those living comfortably abroad need to ask the same men more disturbing questions.
I once sharply rebuked an older cousin for stating for the consumption of the American media that he ‘wanted to see an alignment of America’s aims with that of Pakistan’s.’
Our leaders here do not have much of an aim, but what I—or even Mr Jinnah, for that matter—would not want for this one-legged country is to walk on the yellow-brick road of evil. To throw away the crutches requires, in our case, the moral courage of a proud Muslim.
In Yuhanabad, there is no joy today for Christians like Faqir Masih who was forced by poverty to sell a kidney to unscrupulous organ traders.
“Religious minorities are an easy prey’, says the 32-year-old balloon-seller responsible for his mother, two brothers and a sister.
A year ago, he succumbed to the pressure of having to sell a kidney to raise money for his poor family; he still experiences excruciating pain.
“Christmas, as usual, won’t bring any joy this year as we can’t celebrate,” he said wearing dirty clothes, seated on a broken bed next to his old mother.
“These people came and asked me to sell my kidney for Rs 150,000. They said that I would be able to buy a new house and send my brothers and sister to a good school. After the surgery, they gave me Rs 40,000 and warned me of serious consequences when I asked for the remaining amount. These people didn’t even give me proper medical treatment after the surgery”, he said showing a cut on his abdomen.
Most Christians in Yuhanabad, 20 kilometres east of Lahore, are labourers and workers who live hand to mouth in dilapidated houses. However, the showy celebrations of the elite of richer Christians of Lahore mean Christmas trees, new clothes, and wining and dining with friends and family.
Adeeb-ul-Hasan Rizvi, head of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, is considered the ‘father of a bill in the parliament that outlaws Pakistan’s big kidney bazaar’.
“We calculated roughly at least 2,000 kidneys are transplanted in the country every year—500 legally and the rest illegally,” Dr Rizvi said, putting last year’s trade at $12 million.
The rich from the West benefit from all this. Christians are not the only victims with millions of Pakistanis living in bonded labour. Some sell kidneys in the hope of paying back cash advances from landlords and freeing themselves from modern-day slavery.
Bones protruding from his skin, Muhammad Ilyas became the fourth person in a family of eleven to sell a kidney in an effort to pay off a loan.
“I saw a big bucket full of knives, cutters and scissors, I got scared. I thought about running away but all the doors were locked and I was surrounded by half a dozen men who were eager to cut my body,” he lamented.