One hopes that the protests against the Orange Line in Lahore do not meet the same fate as the anti-privatisation protests in Karachi by the PIA unions’ Joint Action Committee. Look, with three PIA protesters shot dead, it seems that there has been a heavy hand in Karachi, not yet visible in Lahore. I sincerely hope that it won’t be visible. The people protesting against the Orange Line are doing so because they don’t want their houses destroyed, or because they want Lahore’s heritage preserved, not because they want to end up dead.

Incidentally, the PIA employees don’t want to end up dead either, but they don’t want to lose their jobs. Problem is, PIA is loaded with employees who know only too well they didn’t exactly get their jobs on merit, and would probably be fired by any strategic investor who bought the airline. I don’t suppose it’s much of a secret, but a lot of people made it into PIA, usually on a ground staff job, not because they were bright (they weren’t), but because they or a relative was well-connected to the party then in power. For too long, PIA was regarded as a place where one parked relatives, and as providing jobs for the boys. One hears that PIA was now so badly off, that it was not going to be able to meet its salary bill. Of course, not deserving a job is not supposed to be a capital offence.

It thus seems a paradox that Imran Khan should be supporting the protesters, which means that he is supporting people’s jobs, which is laudable, even though a lot of those jobs were obtained through the support of either the PPP or the PML(N), which are his pet bugbears. And let us not forget the MQM, which is another. But then, the protesters provide him a readymade audience, something he has missed since last year’s sit-in in Islamabad.

Positions seem to be hardening, as the JAC is refusing to return to work, and the government has not only invoked the Essential Services Act, but is spreading rumours of starting a new airline. The timing is very unfortunate, because a new Haj Policy is around the corner, and it depends on the fares that will be charged. The FIR names the Information Minister, former PM’s Aviation Adviser Shujaat Azeem and former Climate Change Minister Mushahidullah Khan

However, by supporting the PIA protesters, Imran may be at cross-purposes with the military, whose political arm he sometimes seems. The protester was apparently killed by firing from Rangers, though there have been some allegations of some nameless ‘third party’. The Rangers have been caught shooting first and asking questions later before in Karachi. It is presumably somehow significant that the Rangers were finally asked for by the Sindh government from the federal without any change in policing powers. And then this happened.

But while a PIA protester was being killed, and not by the Rangers (anyone saying so has proved himself a RAW agent), Urdu fiction lost one of its few stars, Intizar Hussain. He ploughed something of a lonely furrow, being a novelist. True, it is not that the novel is not written in Urdu, but it is a fact that writers tend to prefer the short story, if at all they opt for prose rather than poetry. The Urdu novel, even now, in the 21st century, is thus not as highly developed as the English novel, even according to its own critics, even though its poetry probably stands comparison with English poetry. However, Intizar Hussain’s Basti is up there with the rest of them, and deserves the accolades it has got.

It is perhaps a comment on the government that Mian Nawaz Sharif does not think his death a problem, but that of the PIA protesters. Of course, Mian Nawaz would probably prefer to have the sort of problem that Malaysian Prime Minister Haji Najib Razak has had, that of having been given $990 million by a Saudi Prince (one of King Faisal’s sons), of which he has returned $681 million. For some reason, ex-President Asif Zardari is greatly shocked, and (I have heard) wants to know whether Haji Najib thought he would take it with him, especially while Asif didn’t have a finger in the pie. Mian Nawaz, one hears, has been asking Haji Najib to introduce him to the generous prince. And Imran has threatened a sit-in. Once taken, money isn’t meant to be returned, is it?

American presidential hopefuls would have liked the money, for campaigning is an awfully expensive business. Anyhow, the first actual votes have been cast in the primary season in the Iowa caucuses, and while on the Democrat side the Iowa caucus results foreshadow a strong contest for the nomination between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. True, Hilary is a woman, but Sanders is a socialist. And if you think the Democrats are going to commit suicide, then the Republicans have Senator Mark Rubio as their winner. You shouldn’t get your hopes up, because while Rubio doesn’t share Trump’s desire to build a wall against Mexicans, he wants to carpet-bomb Muslims. So it seems that an Islamophobic card is still popular in Republican circles in the USA.

And rather than such problems as the attitudes of US presidential candidates to Muslims, maybe we should ask ourselves about their attitude to the Kashmir dispute, especially after this weekend was increased by Kashmir Solidarity Day. They’ll probably be pro-Indian, and thus anti-Kashmiri.