City Notes

It seems that airports are not safe places. Looking at what’s been happening at them, one would be forced to put them alongside the country’s roads as places of danger, where one should be ready for anything. After all, the old certainties are not at all certain.

For example, when one takes off from one airport, it is to land at another. And that is specific, because that is the town one is going to. No one plans to go to an airport, so one is mentally prepared for that city. There are so many arrangements one has made in advance, ranging from who is picking one up, to where one is going to stay. That was one of the things that went out of the window when Tahirul Qadri’s plane was diverted from Islamabad to Lahore at the beginning of the week. Maybe Tahirul Qadri expected something of the sort, but what was the fault of all those passengers, many of whom, perhaps most, did not even know he was on the plane, who suddenly found themselves in Lahore when they had expected to reach Rawalpindi? And we won’t begin to talk about all those who had come to receive the travellers at Rawalpindi Airport.

We won’t think about the feelings of the Customs officials who had expected to deal with an international flight. I think we should just agree that Emirates did the right thing to stop coming to Pakistan. It’s bad enough having an Islamabad flight diverted to Lahore. But maybe the next thing will be having to land on the Motorway, in Hafizabad district. And that’s if you’re lucky, and the Motorway has been built. PAF planes have landed on the Motorway, but then their pilots were not then busy with an operation like Zarb-e-Azab.

It seems everyone was rooting for the operation, but it also seems no one was quite prepared for the sheer volume of those who would be internally displaced. The number of Internally Displaced Persons, or rather IDPs, is crossing 500,000 and may grow beyond that. And those IDPs are turning up their noses at the official camps. As both the USA and Afghanistan wanted, the Haqqani Network is being torn apart. The cost? Pakistanis, including troops, are being killed. And hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are becoming IDPs. The cost to the USA? None. To India? None. Who’s in occupation of Afghanistan? The USA. And who’s being given the run of the country by it? India.

Despite his complete and total backing, our brave men in uniform are said to have been adversely affected by what happened to Dr Qadri. I wonder what they have to do with him. They couldn’t even give him the escort he wanted. Look at other airports, the ones he didn’t go to. There were terrorist attacks at Karachi and Peshawar, and after what they did to Dr Qadri’s plane, there was the Army helicopter which crashed at Multan, and killed its pilots, a major and a captain. And the ASF isn’t safe anymore. Not only were its people killed in the Karachi attack, but its academy was separately attacked, and Dr Qadri’s workers beat those of its personnel they found at Lahore.

Apart from the police and the ASF, Dr Qadri also didn’t leave the Governor alone. Governor Sarwar got him off the plane, but Dr Qadri wanted him to help with the FIR. Governor Sarwar is from Faisalabad proper, while Dr Qadri is from neighbouring Jhang. Funny, but Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who resigned over the Model Town incident, is also from Faisalabad, and accused to being backed by the ones whom the army is fighting.

Dr Qadri has also promised to help the IDPs, which they desperately need, for Zarb-e-Azb began at wrong time for the Army, let alone the IDPs. Not only did it begin in the heat of June, but it also coincided with the start of Ramazan. So you’ve got about half a million people who just about a fortnight ago were buckling down to fast in the heat of Ramazan. And now they’re temporarily homeless.

And Ramazan has started, with these notes being the first appearing in these fasts. The fasts are very long, and very hot. The only positive is that they’re going to get even longer and hotter in years to come. There is the chance of a monsoon failure, which would add the prospect of food shortages to join the IDPs and the operation, terrorism and the other woes of the country, to the joys of Eid.

Of course, we should not forget that Ramazan brings with it the prospect of Eid, and all the social and economic implications it carries. However, for the time being, it’s a month away. And a lot can happen in a month. Perhaps that’s why PTI chief Imran Khan decided to march on Islamabad after Eid. And he made the announcement in Bahawalpur. It’s almost as if he’s tired of holding rallies in the boondocks, like Faisalabad and Sialkot, and now wants to play the big cities. What about Karachi? Or Quetta?