It seems rather unreal that the worth of the US dollar has come down to Rs. 98 from Rs. 108, given that there is no record of things taking a good turn in Pakistan. Usually things only spiral out of control; so much so that the government is forced to put an experts committee together for appeasing protesting idiots. That nothing really comes out of the aforementioned expert committee and only goes back to its original state is entirely another matter. So, for the moment, the Minister for Finance can rightfully bask in glory and accept mubaraks for covering the gap. More good luck to him in stabilizing the economy.

However, there remain other areas which also continue to slide down, and which are certainly not as favourable as the dollar slide. The entity called the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has decreed that Pakistani laws that prohibit under-age marriage and place conditions on a married man taking on more than one wife are ‘unIslamic.’ This female fixation does not ease up despite the centuries we have travelled from the customs of a historic Arab world. Also, despite whatever life threatening and existential issues we face, most of the clerics and aspiring clerics in this country are single mindedly obsessed with women. This creature called the woman, is the reason for their nightmares in this world and their rewards in the hereafter. They’ve figured it’s best to keep her under wraps, deny her her basic rights and treat her as only a shade better than an animal. The ones waiting for them in the hereafter, they hope, will be the real Marilyn Monroes of their dreams, with whom all musti will be kosher.

Thank goodness the CII cannot legally enforce its views. It is an organization that was formed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – to what end I don’t know – and later strengthened by General Zia ul Haq with the addition of the Federal Shariat Court. We already have a Parliament as well as a judiciary and these extra organizations  need to be done away with as they are superfluous. This is the same CII which declared that DNA was inadmissible as evidence in rape. One of the many cases where DNA has proved the guilt of the attackers was the incident in Muzaffargarh, where a young student was brutally gang raped. She set herself on fire and committed suicide two days ago, because her abusers, whom she identified in court, were set free by the court trying the case. Cases like this are horrific and the MNA representing that particular constituency, Jamshed Dasti, should have been doing something to help the unfortunate victim. Instead he failed her, busy reporting on fellow parliamentarians  and accusing them of aish-o-ishrat! He declared on more than twenty television appearances that his conscience pricked him into action so he had to expose the MNAs. What of his conscience now? How sharply does it prick him when he thinks about the young girl who had to kill herself to draw attention to the injustice accorded her? 

The importance and the space provided to obscurantist and intolerant view points in the system encourages others to become more daring in their acts. An example of this is the burning down of the yoga retreat in Islamabad. Having attended one of the courses in person, I know what a wonderful job they are doing of teaching good values at the retreat. In the prevailing culture of acquisition and rat race, the center offered a little oasis teaching one to value nature and nurture peace in one’s surroundings and soul. That was all there was to it. Yet, the media, hungry for exposure even where issues don’t exist, had a role to play in the burning of private property; an obvious hate crime. In one of the talk shows held just days before the act, it was implied that the organization behind the yoga retreat was an Indian conspiracy (to what end it did not specify).

Post Script: I have to admit that despite hearing all sorts of stories, some good and many not so good, I’m developing a grudging admiration for the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz. He leads from the front in any and every crisis that befalls the country. There are others with the money but nobody seems quite as forthcoming as Malik Sahib. For one, he is self made and a huge success story. His enterprise Bahria Town has people vying for a plot or house wherever they are located in Pakistan. When the merchant navy personnel are taken prisoners by pirates, it is Malik Riaz to the rescue. When Shahid Afridi plays a fabulous innings it is Malik Riaz who gifts him a plot. And now, as the people of Thar struggle with famine and food shortage, it is Malik Riaz in the forefront again helping with his state of the art mobile hospitals and leading the effort in person. Perhaps we should contemplate giving him an elected role to play. At least he’s proved himself to be proactive. If the country becomes half as successful as the Bahria Town project, our days are bound to change!

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.

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