City Notes

Well, democracy triumphed, and the Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, went before the Supreme Court’s Joint Investigation Team, in answer to its summons. The JIT did not engage in any of the rudeness that Mian Nawaz’s son had complained of, as had the NBP President. Mian Nawaz’s blood sugar didn’t become low, nor have any photos of him before the JIT made it to the Internet. There weren’t any photos of Punjab CM Mian Shehbaz Sharif doing the rounds, and his blood sugar remained normal.

I don’t know what Mian Shehbaz told the JIT, but Mian Nawaz briefed it about his visit to Saudi Arabia, where he went with the COAS to try and patch up things between it and Qatar. Qatar might seem far away, but it is the main provider to Mian Nawaz of defences against the Panama Papers charges, which Imran Khan has kept alive.

Rehman Malik has not yet appeared before the JIT. Rumour has it that he’s been scared off by the photos leak. That has made his blood sugar fall to dangerous levels, and being prostrate, he’s of no use to the JIT. However, he’s said to be taking doses of orange juice to get himself up and about.

Imran, by the way, is feeling blue. After the Malta election, where a Prime Minister with a minister in the Panama Papers was re-elected, the Spanish government survived a vote on corruption, 170-82, 97 abstaining. The party campaigning against the government, Podemos, had had a bus touring the country to raise awareness. Imran would have held a couple of dharnas and that would have been that.

And I’m not sure he entirely approves of Pakistan’s win in the Champion’s Trophy. Imagine Sarfraz Ahmed as PM. But he’ll have to set up a hospital first. But India lost because Kapil Dev and Dhoni didn’t go into politics, despite winning the World Cup.

Corruption isn’t the only thing that democracy seems to bring. True, when Helmut Kohl died, along with everyone saying that he had been Germany’s longest-serving Chancellor (his 18 years is indeed a mark to aim at), along with his achievements (the collapse of the USSR, the reunification of Germany and the introduction of the euro), his post-retirement conviction for campaign contribution corruption is also mentioned.

But perhaps the new frontier in democracy is perversion. Is it purely a coincidence that both Ireland and Servia got their first openly gay Prime Ministers? Leo Varadkar, the new head of the Fianna Fail and thus the new PM of Eire, is also half-Indian, his father Ashok having migrated from Varad village in Maharashtra (and married an Irishwoman). And Vardakar junior, a doctor like his father (and his friend), is also at 38 the youngest holder of the office.

Ireland seems set to lead in this respect, having started off with Oscar Wilde, who was actually convicted for this crime, whose resultant Ballad of Reading Gaol is a minor classic. But the new Serbian PM, Ana Branabić, 40, has only being her country’s first woman PM as an additional distinction.

While she has nothing to do with India, Portugal’s PM, Antonio Costa, may not be gay, but he is like Varadkar, but he is also the son of an Indian immigrant. His father was from Margao village in Goa, which until 1962 was a Portuguese colony. That was the year Costa was born in Lisbon to a Portguese mother. And he first served in a cabinet headed by Antonio Guterres, these days UN Secretary General.

Narendra Modi being a Gujarati means that he, Varadkar and Costa all come from the west coast of India. One hopes the example set by Varadkar and Branabić will not be followed by India. And I wonder what will happen if Trump goes to Ireland…

Of course, there wasn’t a crisis in Eire like there was in London, where the fire on the Grenfell Tower killed 40 (and counting). Mostly migrants, but what else do you expect on a council estate tower block? Another Great Fire? The one in 1666 allowed King Charles II to do a lot of rebuilding, but this didn’t. It’s interesting that there was a preceding catastrophe back then that made 1666 known as an annus horribilis; there had been an attack of the Black Death, or bubonic plague. This year, there had been the terrorist attack on the London Bridge Market. These two were enough to make 2017 an annus horribilis for Theresa May, even if one didn’t count the election disaster.

The fire should also be blamed on militants. Indeed, following the traditions of our police, the 1666 Great Fire should also be blamed on them. As should the killing of the journalist Bakhsh Elahi, who was gunned down in his native Haripur. The government, the militants… everyone seems to have a down on news-gatherers.

Just as if to show that militants don’t have a monopoly on violence, a 66-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter tried to kill people at a Republican practice before a Republicans vs Democrats charity baseball game. Representative Steve Scalise was wounded badly enough for his life to be feared for, and others wounded included a congressional aide, a lobbyist and two policemen.