City Notes

It seems that no one is ready to give the credit for the precipitous fall in international oil prices to the government, with the result that there’s an oil shortage, and though at first no vehicle has actually been taken off the roads, that is now happening. The PM suspended four Petroleum Ministry men, with the result that there was no difference. Fuel is still not coming in. It’s not a move by the government to spite Imran Khan, though he took credit for the oil price cuts.
Imran was being spited by those who raised the slogan “Go Imran go!” outside the Army Public School Peshawar when he went to visit last week. He might claim it was a condolence visit, but we all know it was a photo-op. The day before COAS Gen Raheel Sharif had been there, in fact on the day the school reopened. Now we all know that wasn’t a photo-op, was it?
And is it possible that Imran would have slogans raised against him outside an Army Public School without at least the tacit permission of those who let through the attackers on December 16? That was not a photo-op either.
Another event that wasn’t a photo-op was the march through Paris against the Charlie Hebdo killings, attended by a large number of heads of state. For my money, the real winner was the hat worn by the President of Mali, which gave rise to numerous speculations about Africa, not the killings. Wasn’t that the same as the hat Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan? Was it Jonathan’s hat? Was it worn against the cold of Paris in January, or is it a symbol of the executive presidency in African countries? If the latter, are ordinary citizens allowed to wear black hats? Can we expect Nawaz Sharif to follow the fashion. He did have a red muffler when he was Punjab Chief Minister about 25 years ago, a fashion which was followed by Mian Shahbaz Sharif (then a mere MPA) first, then by Labour Minister Akhtar Abbas Bharwana. But if we stick to headgear, who can forget the peculiarly flat and thin Jinnah caps worn to their oaths by the Sharif brothers, and favoured by the late President Ayub Khan and qawwals?
What was also interesting was the presence of Israeli PM Netanyahu at the march, presumably because a kosher supermarket was later attacked. Obviously, no one would expect him to go to a march for murdered Palestinians, would they? Still, Charlie Hebdo is facing a case for anti-Semitism about former President Sarkozy’s son, which it said would convert to Judaism after he got engaged to a Jewish heiress. And it’s OK to blaspheme against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) because of freedom of speech, but Holocaust denying is a crime. A BBC reporter has had to apologise for perceived anti-Semitism while covering the event, and French comedian-politician (well, he fought an election) has had a Facebook post trashed. There have been suggestions that Mossad was behind it, and even that French intelligence was.
The upright Muslims of Niger, neighbouring Mali, rioted against the blasphemy. It’s fashionable to say those objecting are extremists, but Charlie Hebdo’s response, of committing further blasphemy, does nothing to help. Something is wrong here. Why are the attackers considered fanatics, and not the magazine?
But what of the superpower wannabe’s PM, Narendra Modi? What invaluable advice did he have to offer? It’s a wonder he didn’t blame Pakistan. Perhaps he was too busy investigating the deaths in UP caused by drinking country liquor. It’s interesting, but fundamentalists are also abolitionists. Not just Muslim fundamentalists, who are natural abolitionists, but Christian and Hindu fundamentalists too. I don’t know about Jewish fundamentalists, but can you imagine Netanyahu downing a few after work with the boys? Modi probably saw in the New Year stone cold sober, and must be exercised by the countrymen of the Cow Belt.
But then, perhaps being sozzled is in these days, and staggering is a sign of moderation. Anyone who can stand up unaided is a suspect in the Paris shooting or the Peshawar massacre. No wonder the Chinese authorities have banned burqas in Xinjiang. There’s already been so much unfavourable publicity because of the Uighur militants, and they can’t risk having anyone nabbed for the Paris attack, can they?
Nobody is taking much notice of the Shadbagh wedding hall collapse, in which the bride too died. No wonder Imran held his nuptials at home, what with the risks attached to wedding halls.
The collapse had nothing to do with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Islamabad, for the latest round of the Strategic Dialogue. Of course, he had gone to India first, where he paved the way for President Obama’s visit there. And he isn’t coming here. General Raheel didn’t make him agree during his trip there. Not to be confused with his UK visit, of course.