You might think it’s a little early to be worrying about dengue, but if proper measures are not taken now, the illness will reach epidemic proportions again, like last year, when hundreds died, and thousands were diagnosed. I don’t suppose the Punjab government plans there to be no deaths this year, but I do think they intend to be better prepared. After all, health has been devolved, and last year’s dengue was the responsibility of the provincial government. Somehow I get the feeling that Mohsin Leghari owed his election as a Senator to dengue, because the Chief Minister had his eye off the ball, and for some odd reason was more concerned about ordinary citizens dying than about the Great and the Good.

But last year, even the Great and the Good were not immune from dengue. Not only did the bureaucracy lose a Mineral Development Corporation Secretary, but the Punjab Assembly lost a member. That might be why Mohsin Leghari wanted to go to the Senate. After all, no Senator has ever died of dengue. In fact, even though both Houses had passed the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments by then, nobody in either House was even infected. I wonder if dengue has anything to do with the MPAs going to the Senate, or has the penny dropped only now, with the realization that it’s not a bad House to be in, what with a six—year term, and as MPAs elect Senators, MPAs deserve their colleagues’ votes more than strangers. The provincial assembly has a five—year term, but there’s no guarantee, not even under the Constitution. There’s no guarantee about the Senate, because whenever a martial law comes, it not only overrides the Constitution, but also dissolves the Senate.

The Senate elections have allowed Mian Shehbaz to reward two former MPAs, but posed him a problem, even putting Mohsin Leghari to one side. The former MPAs rewarded were Sirdar Zulfikar Ali Khosa and Zafarullah Dhandla. Both helped Mian Shehbaz at a crucial time. Khosa’s son Dost Mohammad served as Chief Minister while Mian Shehbaz found a seat, that being Zafarullah Dhandla’s, from Bhakkar. The problem is that of Kamran Michael, elected to the minority Senate seat. Now Mian Shehbaz will have to find someone else to read out his next Budget.

And Mian Shehbaz needs to know that whoever presents the Budget is not suffering from dengue, and will be alive to present it. Though that is probably not his reason, but a greater motivation, which has shown itself in the Dengue Awareness campaign being run in the educational institutions. Maybe this year, the Punjab will not need Sri Lankan or Indonesian teams, but be able to handle the coming crisis with the doctors we already have, and who came through last year. There’s been an illness-related crisis after that, to make sure we didn’t have a peaceful winter, the PIC deaths, with the crisis ending as usual: with doctors telling everybody what fine fellows they all were. The Young Doctors Association went on strike, and patients were turned away from hospitals, instead of later, when they had dengue.

Dengue is caused by a mosquito, like malaria, and if you can kill off the mosquito, the aedes aegypti, like the malaria-carrying anopheles, was killed off, you can keep dengue under control. I remember being taught as a child about the anopheles mosquito. Though I certainly didn’t know it at the time, I was being made aware, just as the children of today are being made aware of the aedes aegypti.  While my father only had to be careful about the anopheles mosquito, and my son about the aedes aegypti, I belong to that age group who have had to be aware of both. Well, I suppose being aware of two mosquitoes beats being aware of Hitler, as my late father was. He was actually born two weeks before Hitler took power in Germany, which meant that World War II was his great childhood experience. It wasn’t really a shaping experience, for that was the Partition.

But back to dengue. It seems to be becoming something of a local disease, one of the risks run by the Raymond Davis types. Davis was being released before the dengue outbreak. He was the real announcement that the Pak-US relationship was in trouble, not the raid which killed Osama bin Laden, though that merely proved the point which Adm Mike Mullen drove home in his testimony about the ISI and which the massacre of our troops at Salalah carried out by NATO helicopters.

Why do we say NATO helicopters when we mean ‘American’? Because they certainly weren’t Dutch or Belgian helicopters. And we are not allied to NATO, but to the USA. Though the value of that alliance was shown in 1965 and 1971. Which was before the USA was such great pals with India. If there was an Indo-Pak War now, the Americans would intervene, but against Pakistan. They would love to hoot down our planes, sink our ships and kill more of our troops. In short, take off where they left off at Salalah. And why do all this? So that the desecrators of the Quran being protected in the name of ‘free speech’ can shift from Afghanistan to here.