City Notes

How long will Imran Khan resist intervening in the Sri Lankan political crisis? It all started when President Mrithripala Srisena dismissed Ranil Wickremasinghe as PM, and appointed Mahinda Rajapakse. Rajapakse, it might be remembered, was once President himself. Anyhow, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled that Rajapakse shouldn’t hold office, as he lacked a majority in Parliament. Now Imran must find out which of the two was accused of corruption (obviously, a conviction isn’t necessary), and he will have a dharna on Colombo’s main road against him. Of course, the Sri Lankan Army must approve first.

He might postpone going there, now that he has got a letter from US President Donald Trump saying that Pakistan should help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table in peace talks with the Afghan government. First of all, the genuineness of the letter needs to be confirmed, because of the unconfirmed reports that Trump can’t write. Well, he’s been educated enough to write, but he’s of an age when he might be suffering from Parkinsonism, which might leave his hand shaking too much to hold a pen. Is there a disagreement on the contents of the letter? There was a disagreement on the contents of the talk between Imran and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the phone, though that may have been more because of Imran’s failure to capture the veiled hints he had thrown out. Imran is said to be wondering how to answer that letter. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is said to have won a great victory in ensuring that Khan uses his hand for this, rather than his foot.

Qureshi might have won a great victory, but the Pakistan cricket team has not, losing the last Test to New Zealand, and thus the series. That shows that Sarfraz is a corrupt element, because that is the first time New Zealand has beaten Pakistan in a series since 1969-70. New Zealand has not even beaten Sri Lanka at home.

I see the Lahore High Court is also trying to stop the PTI from carrying out its programme, by slapping a stay order on the decision to tear down the walls of Governor’s House. One wonders why the nearby walls of Aitchison College are to be preserved. Because it’s Imran’s alma mater?

Tearing down that wall is an idea Imran may have got from US President Ronald Reagan, who in 1987 called on USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev to demolish the Berlin Wall. Reagan was out of office, but his Vice-President George Bush had become President, when the Wall was actually pulled down. Imran has quoted Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador, who admitted the public to the presidential palace. Of course, unlike PM House, it’s worth a visit, because parts go back to the palace of Montezuma, the last Aztec emperor. Our Presidency is newly built, but people still went there when it was opened to the public.

Coming back to Sri Lanka, Narendra Modi won’t interfere there, so long as the new government is sound on cows. He must be watching developments in Bulandshehr, where enraged crowds not only killed a suspect after the discovery of slaughtered cow corpses, but also a police inspector trying to control it. The Indian police is as devoid of a proper sense of self as ours, for there have been none of the complaints of human rights violations that should follow a cop-killing. But then, I suppose the killing of cows rates the death of a policeman, especially a Hindu policeman. Admittedly, no one asked his opinion of the matter, but then, cows’ lives matter.

There haven’t been anything like the 700 or so arrested in France, mostly in Paris, in the fifth weekend of protests. Frenchmen seem more truculent than us, because those protests are against a fuel tax. Over here, petrol prices can go through the sky, and there isn’t a peep. One hopes the French protests don’t spread, neither there nor here. Some protesters want the killing of President Emmanuel Macron. Well, if the French executed their king in 1792, we also assassinated a Viceroy in 1872. Imran shouldn’t worry though, for in his hometown of Lahore, its premier hospital, the Mayo, is named after that Viceroy.

I wonder how much the protests owe to the meeting Macron had with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. Admittedly, that meeting was not as exuberant as the Crown Prince’s with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which ended with a high-five. It was almost as if the ex-KGB colonel was congratulating Muhammad bin Salman for killing Jamal Khashoggi. I wonder if that killing inspired the anti-Macron protesters who want him offed?

I don’t like this global warming thing, and not just because the Paris Accords are a Chinese conspiracy against the USA. I’ve noticed that this winter, not only are we plagued by the usual sniffles, but there’s also a strange aftertaste in the air, which causes burning noses and throats. The aftertaste continues, even though we’ve lived through the smog.