City Notes

It seems that someone, somewhere, has gone for overkill, or maybe there’s a competition going on. Without overkill, there wouldn’t be two marches from Lahore to Islamabad, unless someone was trying to prove a point. Not the organisers of the marches. But the people they are talking to.

And it also seems that the real purpose of the marches is to drive Mian Nawaz Sharif from power by making him abandon his capital, by the rather interesting method of making it too noisome for him to stay. In short, by creating a Big Stink. Which will happen in any sit-in in August from sweat alone. Never mind what happened early on the morning after, when people normally go, and did.

It seems that Imran Khan wants to replace memories of the Pakistan Movement by calling his an Azadi March. There are fewer and fewer people left to ask what they did during the Pakistan Movement. It was a long time ago, after all, and those who were striplings of 18 then, are now 85. If alive.

So Imran wants people to replace those memories by new ones. Nowadays, if you’re lucky enough to ask someone what he did in the Pakistan Movement, the ancient one will probably tell you he campaigned for the Muslim League in the 1946 election, or was part of the Jail Bharo protest movement. My late father, who was then at school, tried this. The attempt came to an inglorious end when he and his classmates were chased away by the policeman they asked to arrest them.

Veterans of the Azadi March will tell their grandchildren that they did their business for Imran in Islamabad. I think they should try to surround the Prime Minister’s House. Will Mian Nawaz be able to stand the sound of all those marchers straining in the morning? And that is before he is hit by the smell.

It seems the Inqilab March organisers are relying on the same strategy to bring about the Revolution. They don’t intend storming the barricades, but the toilets. And one wonders what made both march leaders become ill. Was it diarrhea or constipation? While Imran Khan went off to his Bani Gala house, which presumably had a working toilet with running water, Tahirul Qadri stayed with his March, presumably out of solidarity, not because he was keeping his stuff for the system. By the way, does Imran Khan Azadi means the right to do whatever one wants, wherever one wants? Has Qadri given a new meaning to the term ‘revolutionary material’?

This factor has brought to the fore another dilemma. Which March’s… er, efforts… will be considered the reason for Mian Nawaz fleeing. The secret lies in what can only be described as the scent coding. The PAT marchers have stocked up on lentils, while the PTI people are relying on radish parathas. Both are nutritious, both explosive, and both guaranteed to turn the air nauseous. Islamabad is supposed to be a beautiful city, its site chosen for its being so salubrious. And then what did they do? Plant it with mulberry and eucalyptus trees, with the result that everyone has asthma.

And there seems to be some element of competition between the two leaders. Imran’s March was attacked in Gujranwala, and PTI gained a Pomi Butt to compete with the Gullu Butt who shot to fame when the Lahore police killed the PAT workers. Then Dr Qadri responded when he was attacked on stage by a gun-wielding assailant. Name not known, but presumably some sort of Butt. So what happens when the two Marches compete in smells? Will party workers be cheered on to greater efforts? Will some party produce a Butt to dominate in this field?

Just in time for the addresses came the news that the Sessions Judge Lahore had ordered the registration of an FIR against the Mian brothers for the killing of the PAT workers. That should be taken seriously. After all, the registration of the FIR against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the murder of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan led to his hanging. By Gen Ziaul Haq. And Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan’s son, Ahmed Reza Kasuri, is Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s lawyer… The last Martial Law had Mian Nawaz on trial for his life, on a hijacking charge. If Martial Law comes again, both brothers will go on capital charges. And this time, the charges will be made to stick.

There seems to be a legal mind at work, apparent in the Punjab government’s decision to appeal, as there is already an FIR registered in the case. Whatever the Lahore High Court decision, it will be appealed by the losing party to the Supreme Court. Only after the Supreme Court decides will the Sharif brothers have to face the question of whether or not they should seek pre-arrest bail. It would be pretty tough to be on bail and conduct the affairs of the country, but it would also be impossible to run the country if you can’t breathe.

But the question Imran and Dr Qadri need to ask themselves is not so much whether they will reach the throne hidden in a bathroom in PM’s House, as how they would react to Mian Nawaz leading a similar Long March to Islamabad, and creating as Big a Stink as they are now doing.