Saturday, 19 June 2010

MQM Renames Places And Animals

Whenever a new Pharaoh ascended the Egyptian throne, one of the first things he did as the Sun god was erase the names of previous Pharaohs off important stone structures and have his own engraved instead. Many Pharaohs fooled the Egyptians but none hoodwinked the gods.

That was Egypt; welcome to Karachi’s MQM era. Karachi Saddar’s TMA (Town Municipal Administration) recently decided to replace the names of the colonial era names of roads and streets located in the city with those of MQM workers killed in bomb blasts, target killings and shooting matches with rival political parties. Let there be no doubt that the MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) is well-supplied with martyrs to the cause of speaking Urdu with great clarity.

Considering that Pakistani authorities always resort to naming everything in sight using just three names (Jinnah, Fatima and Liaqat), the MQM has shown that as a party it has more than three brain cells in its political head. Up north in the Punjab, Nawaz Sharif or his chief minister brother have not copied the MQM’s idea since none of their workers died for them or for their novel Muslim League (N). There exists the real danger of other political parties competing with the MQM to relocate their party headquarters to war-torn Karachiland, a move that could bring in scores of heaven-bound martyrs to their earthly causes.

Karachi’s Town Naib Nazim, Muhammad Nisar Khan Temuri, disclosed that the Saddar TMA has changed 400 names during the last four years. That is one change every three days, and at this speed, I am afraid the MQM’s bespectacled founder might inspire them through the telephone to change Karachi’s name to Altafabad. If they are not careful in the city, the name-change plague could also spread to other provinces of the Land of the almost-Pure.

The administration announced changing the names of eleven locations in Saddar alone, and very kindly, it issued a public notice asking the people to submit objections or suggestions within a fortnight, against or in favour of the new names.

The names of two parks, a cricket stadium, a roundabout and a road will now be named after Muhammad Khaleel Shaheed, a former MQM Nazim, who died in a blast outside the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre emergency ward.

Although the notice refers to ‘the powers vested under Subsection 7 of Section 52 of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979’, former Karachi Nazim Niamatullah Khan opposed the name-change move and said ‘the MQM is making a fake claim since nobody can change the historical names of places, streets and roads.’

Temuri countered, “It is not a matter of powers vested under the ordinance; we issued the public notice as a formality, otherwise we can simply change the name without asking anyone. Whoever came into power in the past did the same thing, and if our administration has done it, it’s not a major problem. Nobody questioned the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) when they changed the name of Kharkar Chowrangi to Bilawal Chorangi. What has Bilawal done, except that he is the son of President Asif Ali Zardari? So what is the problem if we change the names of places and roads too?”

Leave the MQM’s cause alone for a while and focus on the clever Bilawal factor. May I too ask Bilawal’s father and Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, what has his son done for Pakistan? Or more appropriately, what will he be capable of doing once he grows up—considering he has inherited from his father the tradition of serving the Fatherland in ways unknown to the entire nation?

Sadly, Temuri also justified MQM’s name-change plan by claiming that ‘most of the sites are from the pre-Partition era and were named after Hindu leaders of that time.’

Who is this Chatumal? Does anybody know him now and is it better to replace such names with the names of dead political party workers? As it turns out, the Chatumal Road in Garden was named after the famous philanthropist and politician of the city, Sobhraj Chatumal, who built a maternity hospital and several other welfare organisations in the late 1920s.

Elder residents of the area in question defended by insisting that ‘the compound, comprising of twelve houses, is over a century old and it was built by two brothers Chela Ram and Chhela Ram. One built the residential compound, while the other built the Usmanabad compound. The name shouldn’t be changed.’

Let us see now. Muhammad Khaleel Shaheed’s name will replace the names of Street 6 Park, UC-11, Block 2, Clifton; Cricket Stadium UC10, Block 5, Clifton; Gulshan-e-Faisal Roundabout, Block 7, UC-10, Bath Island; Albert Road, UC-9, Clifton and Bukhari Park, Block 7, UC-10, Clifton. In addition, Preet Road in Garden will be rename Arif Shabeer Road; Chatumal Road in Garden to Imran Hussain Shaheed Road; Hard Davis Road in Garden to Yaseen Chipa Shaheed Road, Chela Ram Compound in Garden to Musheeruddin Shaheed Street, Sotara Street in UC-5 in Nanak Wara to Haji Zafar Shaheed Street and a service road in Clifton Block 8 to AW Adamjee Road.

In the past, many sites were given new names but the citizens did not adapt to the changes and continued using the old names such as Geedar Colony in Landhi Town (now renamed Muzzafarabad Colony) and I.I. Chundrigar Road (previously McLeod Road).

What the MQM leadership does not realize is that the pre-partition non-Muslims did things for humanity, and not just for those who belonged to their caste or a clan that spoke a certain language. MQM is a personality cult meant for Urdu speakers and as such, their attempt at using their dead for the renaming campaign insults those who did greater things for the good of the common man. Justifiably, the residents of Chela Ram Compound located in Garden area said they ‘would not accept this move’.

In order to jump into a new bottle, the MQM itself changed its wine’s name from the original Muhajir Qaumi Movement to the politically appealing Mutahidda Qaumi Movement. They have at last realized that not everyone here is an Urdu-speaking immigrant who crossed over from India in 1947 when the colonialists divided the land and its people.

If we must change names, efforts must be made to reveal the pre-British Raj names so that we may step back in time without the aid of a fictional time-tunnel. We are a resilient nation and are now ready to withstand the shock of seeing everything in sight named after one Arab conqueror: Muhammad bin Qasim.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Five-Star Prison

Norway is a nice place where nothing worth remembering ever happens. I have been to Oslo many times; the taxis there are very expensive and men from my own country run the entire system of public transportation. One a recent trip, one such man occupying the driver’s seat spoke with me.

“I’ve been here for thirty years now. With God’s grace, it’s been a peaceful stay and I can’t remember anything nasty ever happening here. Anyway, so what’s happening in Pakistan these days?”

“Oh, the usual protests over blasphemous cartoons, burning of American and Israeli flags in major cities and a few suicidal attacks by foreign guests who appeared wearing explosive dinner jackets”, I updated him.

He slowed down a bit as if suffering from sensory overload, analyzing while twisting his moustaches nervously, not in a mood to hear any more breaking news that broke his tender heart at age sixty.

“So, what’s with this Norwegian luxury prison?” I broke the silence.

“Norwegian prison bosses are ready to inaugurate the world’s most luxurious jail. It will have a host of facilities such as flat screen TVs, a recording studio for bathroom singers, and Banksy style murals. The £160 million prison, near Oslo, Norway, will allow 252 inmates a single en suite cell with its own bathroom and windows without bars inside the ‘maximum security’ compound. The authorities here have spent more than £1 million on modern art, and even provided prisoners with climbing walls,” he elaborated.

That was a buffet for thought. By contrast, our rulers, who have successfully turned the entire Islamic republic into an American prison, complete with barbed wires, dangerous road obstructions, security checks and what have you, will never understand this luxury prison concept.

The security agencies here claim repeatedly, “This is for your own safety”.

But how much is safe enough? When will that day dawn when the world will be free of those giant green bugs from planet Mars whose sole mission in life is to destroy the America way of life?

I thought of the forever-smiling man in-charge of my country who, while languishing in Karachi’s jail, never enjoyed what Norwegian criminals will soon be able to. But that is Europe; this is Pakistan. There men of honour resign at the slightest hint of misdemeanour or misappropriation; here they do not know what the word resign means.

Now, if the Europeans treat their criminals so humanely, imagine what they will do next to law-abiding citizens.