'If you are not a VIP, you are unworthy of criticising a VIP'

Published September 19, 2014
The rulers of now treat others with the same disdain and disrespect as the colonial masters of yore. -Screengrab
The rulers of now treat others with the same disdain and disrespect as the colonial masters of yore. -Screengrab

The glittering orb of the VIP existence has hung over Pakistani heads for many years. It has special powers, exerting its magnetic magic to stop traffic, permit the skipping of long queues and even delay planes.

Seats in medical colleges can be lost, plots of land grabbed, even lives lost to the bullets of the ever vigilant armed guards posted as gatekeepers to the sacred realm.

Given all of this, criticising this sphere of blessedly endowed is tricky business. For one, it betrays immediately, the fact that the person making the critique, does not and cannot hope to ever belong to this hallowed haven.

Also read: The protocol pillage

Revealed thus to be ordinary, a determinedly yucky and unloved status in Pakistan, the ire that results becomes tainted with the sour odour of rotting grapes. If you are not VIP, you are most often, unworthy of criticising the VIP.

It is for all of these reasons that the recent revolt on the plane, which ended with former Minister Rehman Malik being refused entry on a PIA flight from Karachi to Islamabad, was so crucial.

In the video of the incident, which has circulated internationally, irate passengers (and those of us who are non-VIPs know exactly how they must feel) complain about having been delayed for over two hours because they were waiting for Mr. Rehman Malik to arrive.

“For 68 years we have put up with this,” says one passenger. “Will we put up with this for another 68 years?”

For one small moment then, the immense hierarchy of patronage and importance and favour and superiority that reigns supreme over Pakistan was overturned, and the ordinary prevailed.

Editorial: VIP culture

As it often happens, there are now numerous versions of the incident, mostly because in a system where power is transferred from father to son, and depends on insuring that the common are kept quiet, even such minuscule revolts cannot be tolerated.

In the face-saving edition, it is said that the plane was already delayed owing to some unknown (and uncommunicated to other passengers) technical delay. The lordly ex-minister arrived late for this reason and not of course, because he believes that the plane waits for him and the other passengers are only incidental and unimportant.

Such rationalisations, of course are expected — they save the jobs of the PIA staff that were working the flight. In a Pakistan where the best is reserved for the extremely few, the price of such insubordination easily equals the jobs of or two or several people.

In the era of colonial occupation whose legacy we sit on, the overlords were white and British. There were too few of them, and too many of us natives to rule. To accomplish the subjugation that lasted over two centuries; they trained some minions from among the natives; anointed them as superior, designated them as VIPs so that they could be the enforcers of racist rule.

The protocols that surrounded them were similarly steeped in the idea of arbitrary superiority, based not on accomplishment but the randomness of race or religion or caste or inherited wealth.

These hackneyed structures remain erect and untouched in Pakistan today exerting their daily discriminations on the common person.

Inheritors of that system, the rulers of now treat others with the same disdain and disrespect as the colonial masters of yore; their cavalcades of cars, their menacing guards, all announcing to the common, the ordinary and the hard working their inescapable status as lower beings.

It is because of this legacy that the revolt on the plane, so seemingly small is so significant.

Despite the costs and the dangers and the threats and the thuggery; the ordinary passengers, those who buy their tickets with the money they earn, who get there on time, who follow the rules, who stand in the lines, who wait for their turns seemed to realise finally that the problem is not - and never was - with them.

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