City Note

There have been all sorts of odd things happening, and those in Malaysia probably most encouraging for Mian Nawaz Sharif, what with the return of Mahathir Muhammad to the Prime Ministership. Of course, he might not be so positive about the timeline. Mahathir is 92. Nawaz is turning 70 this year, and would probably not like to wait 22 years to return to office.

Still, Mian Nawaz is hopeful. After all, Mahathir had first become PM back in 1981, and retired in 2003. Mahathir is back, and wants three or so years before he retires, leaving the office to Anwar Ibrahim, the leader he won over from the right, and then ousted, during his previous term of office, on charges of sodomy. Anwar, who was once a student leader, is now 70. He’s in jail, and his wife, Wan Ismail, is Deputy PM. Anwar is about to get a royal pardon and return to politics.

Maybe Mian Nawaz might not want to go that route, though like Anwar, he has also been barred from politics, but he has not yet gone to jail (which he might soon, as the Accountability Court has got only until Jul 10 to decide his case). However, our politics’ Anwar is probably Ahsan Iqbal. He had been elected President of Engineering University’s Union on an IJT ticket back in the day (when Nawaz was Finance Minister, and Anwar left PAS to join UMNO), but Ahsan did his adult politics on the PML (N) platform. He hasn’t been imprisoned, but he has been shot. Prosaically, at a rally in his constituency. He is thankfully up and about, but the message has been sent home, I suppose. He was shot by a Tehrik Labaik Ya Rasoolallah supporter, for allegedly being soft on Qadianis. Maybe Ahsan Iqbal is now wishing that he had been in the DSF. At least then there would be some justification for being soft on Qadianis. Well, I suppose Qadianis are a big issue in Ahsan’s area, which includes Shakargarh tehsil of Gurdaspur district, of which Qadian was a municipality. Qadian was left in India, but the Qadianis shifted. Not to Shakargarh, but to Rabwah in what is now Chiniot district.

Still, Ahsan has not been jailed, though there are some rumblings about his iqama. Remember, iqamas did for Mian Nawaz and Khwaja Asif. His portfolio has been given to Khurram Dastagir, who is like Ahsan an engineer, but unlike him, iqama-less. Ahsan’s predecessor as Interior Minister, Ch Nisar Ali, was lucky not to be shot. Ch Nisar advised Mian Nawaz not to clash with the institutions of the judiciary and the military. Did Ahsan suggest that Mian Nawaz should attack them head on?

PTI chief Imran Khan wants to support the institutions. Then how does he expect to bring tabdeeli? Hmmm… Interesting. Is there more of a role for the military, than Mian Nawaz gave, that Imran wants to? True tabdeeli would involve not giving the military any role in governance, wouldn’t it?

True tabdeeli should involve justice for Aussie scientist David Goodall, who had to go all the way to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. Well, Goodall reached 104. He committed suicide because he didn’t like the indignities that age was imposing. For some reason, I’m reminded of Socrates, who was executed by being given up cup of poison to drink. It counted as a suicide, though. I’m also reminded of one of the slogans of the 1968 students’ movement: ‘Shoot anyone over 30!’ What is the maximum age limit for life?

But Himanshu Rai, one of India’s top cops, did not commit suicide because he was too old, but because he couldn’t take any more of the chemotherapy that goes with cancer. Well, someone else who committed suicide in the same state, Jagannath Shelke, a vegetable seller, who had got an electricity bill for about a lakh. It seems that he was billed for 61178 units instead of 6117.8, just the difference of a decimal, and his bill should have been Ind Rs 2800.

However, the girl who was criminally assaulted in Madhya Pradesh was not given a chance to end her life from shame, but was burnt alive by her assaulters. India was not convulsed with horror by this case; after all, it was the third assault which was followed by burning alive. There had been two prior cases, in Jharkand. We’re quite as brutal in Lahore. A motorcyclist threw acid on the face of a teacher when she was returning home.

Speaking of justice systems, the Chief Justice of the Philippines was thrown out of office by her colleagues, who found her original appointment improper. Shades of Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, back in 1997! Interesting, that then Pakistan Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, had presided over police encounters while Punjab Chief Minister, just as the present Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, did while Mayor of Davao City, a job he held since 1988 before being elected President in 2016. However, no one has accused Mian Nawaz of personally shooting anyone, as Duterte is accused of doing. And perhaps it’s no wonder that the Chief Justice of India is facing a hard time these days. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while Gujarat CM, presided over a policy of police encounters, at least according to a former provincial police chief.

A non-police encounter is on in Dublin, where Pakistan is playing Ireland for its inaugural Test. And typically for Ireland, the first day was washed out. Still, there’s an appropriateness. Just as Pakistane struggled to come out of India’s shadow back in 1954, when it got Test status, so is Ireland out of England’s.