City Notes

Someone out there has it in for children. It can’t be just the TTP, because I don’t think they have been accused of killing Muhammad Murtaza, the Lahore Grammar lad killed in Askari market. Yes, even schoolboys in a good school are not safe shopping in upscale markets. Students seemed have a tough time, with three gunned down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The killing of three young people was overtly because of a parking space, but we are not allowed to say it, because the three victims’ killer, their neighbor, was a Southern redneck and probably an Islamophobe. It’s almost as if a wave of Islamophobia is sweeping the West, almost as if, deprived of Jews, Blacks and Red Indians, Westerners must have someone to hate, and it’s (mostly brown) Muslims.

Of course, we continue to have more traditional killings. Like those killed in the imambargah in Peshawar this Friday. Of course, that is ascribed to sectarian killers, just as all the polio and measles victims are because of maulvis. Well, the USA must be full of maulvis, for there’s been a measles outbreak there.

And though it is no justification for the burning of the Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State, the USA hardly brings clean hands to the matter. I mean, after from the deaths it caused by using napalm in Vietnam, it has used Mark 77 incendiary devices (which have replaced napalm because they are the same thing, a fuel-gel mixture that ‘melts flesh’) in Iraq. US drone strikes using Hellfire missiles have caused deaths by burning in Afghanistan, as well as on a wedding party in Yemen. White phosphorus has also been used in Fallujah by the Americans, and by Israel in 2005 against Hizbollah. It’s a substance that burns on contact with air. Israelis didn’t use it against Muhammad Abu Kheidr, 17, a Palestinian youth. They just kidnapped and burnt him alive last week. So far, our people have not been burnt. But for how long? Not, of course, that that justifies the burning. Burning is not permitted because there is a Hadith which reserves burning to the Almighty.

Of course, those were deliberate burnings. The MQM does not stand accused of any deliberate burning, not even in the Baldia Town factory burning, which supposedly the result of an extortion attempt. Imran Khan of the PTI and Altaf Hussain engaged in an exchange which left me unable to explain to my eight-year-old what Altaf had said about Shireen Mazari, reminding me of the saying that when elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled. And when Altaf apologized to Shireen Mazari, I was reminded of something that Punjab Speaker Rana Iqbal’s father Rana Phool Muhammad once said. Now Rana Phool was famous both for his lack of education and his grasp of parliamentary procedure. He once said you could say anything, even forbidden things, so long as you apologized.

Hover, Imran was probably distracted by the whole controversy from the win of the Aam Admi Party in the Delhi state election. The AAP lacks a cricketer, but leader Arvind Kesriwal also says the right things about corruption and so on. The AAP, like the Tehrik Insaf, also rules only in one place (in India, a union territory; in Pakistan, a province). Imran had another distraction, in the shape of former Punjab Governor Sarwar, who joined his party. That showed Sarwar as having adapted to Pakistani politics, as it was his third party in two years. Not bad after having remained in the British Labour Party for decades. He’s not the first Punjab Governor the Sharif brothers have had leave their party. They no longer have either Mian Azhar or Zulfikar Khosa, and while Sajjad Qureshi never left the PML(N) to his dying day, his son Shah Mahmood is also in the PTI.

However, Imran does remind one of a more innocent time. When he won the World Cup in 1992 (well, he didn’t do it alone—there was a team), there wasn’t the same certainty that the India-Pakistan match was in the book. Well, I suppose that’s perhaps a good thing; that conviction has meant that the India-Pakistan match has not raised tensions; instead of fiercely contesting sides we have had a carefully choreographed contest. However, Sunday’s match showed that, unlike hockey players, cricketers are aware of the needs of diplomacy. Even if they win the World Cup, nothing will overcome this loss. Of course, there could be another meeting in the final, but still, for national honour to depend on a bunch of bookies should show us the value of that honour. It gives rise to the thought of what would happen if there was an indo-Pak war. The 1965 and 1971 Wars occurred without any bookies being around. No wonder ‘players’ and ‘actors’ are synonyms.

Now even doctors are treated violently. A cardiologist was shot in PIMS in Islamabad, which raises the prospect of patients violently dealing with unpleasant diagnoses.