No flowers, please

Published July 2, 2015
The writer is an author.
The writer is an author.

THERE is a stench of formaldehyde permeating through the streets and the slums, through the hospitals and the morgues of Karachi. It is the smell of over 1,200 victims of heatstroke who could not find a space in Edhi’s overfilled mortuaries or in overcrowded graveyards. It is the stench of civic corruption and corrosive incompetence that has converted Karachi into a commercial charnel house.

There was a taste of formaldehyde in every slice of the birthday cake served by her widower to PPP diehards at Naudero on the occasion of Benazir Bhutto’s 62nd birthday. Her memory has been embalmed, and like some fallen communist leader’s remains, kept on display to wring tears out of the faithful. Meanwhile, her pall-bearers, their duty done by her but not by themselves, escape the heat beginning to surround Bilawal House.

Read more: PPP workers remember Benazir on her birthday

There is a glint of graft refracted from the precious stones set in the necklace donated to Pakistan by Mme Erdogan, Turkey’s first lady. The necklace, bought for unexplained reasons by Nadra out of the Peter’s pence provided by Pakistanis applying for ID cards, was traced to the hands of a former prime minister and to his wife’s neck. It has passed into international folklore, to join the £117,000 diamond necklace reputedly purchased by Benazir Bhutto that cost her the prime minister’s job, and the diamond necklace that cost the French Queen Marie Antoinette her head.

Read more: Necklace issue: Gilani rejects ex-Nadra chief’s claim

There is an odour of formaldehyde emanating from all those decaying election promises contained in the PML-N manifesto of 2013. Dead, for example, is the Bureau of Infrastructure Development (BID) that “single window for the development of infrastructure projects [that would] improve transport and communication by constructing national trade corridors and providing mass transit facilities in all major cities”. A single window may exist but it faces only China.


The odour of formaldehyde is all around.


There is a whiff of camphor attached to Dr Tahirul Qadri’s robes. His sudden reappearance in Pakistan this week, months after his damaging support to Imran Khan’s dharna last winter, confirms his talents as a restless Lazarus, rising even after political pundits have written him off as dead. His exhortations are both exhaustive and exhausting. But one is still unclear about whose agenda he is promoting this time, again camouflaged as his own.

Read more: Qadri invokes army for ‘justice’ in Model Town episode

There is a touch of formaldehyde in Saarc, whose headquarters should now be converted into a funeral parlour. It has become that doleful place where regional countries can collect and mourn a lost ideal. Indian Prime Minister Modi read its requiem by signing on June 15 “agreements on roads, ports, power and education with South Asian countries to build and strengthen ties, circumventing the Pakistan hurdle”. An Indian government official explained: “For long it was a Pakistan-obsessed regional policy, for that matter foreign policy. Time has come to think out of the box and move ahead.” In effect, an Indian South Asia excluding Pakistan.

There is a splash of formaldehyde thrown by Mr Modi at his senior-most colleague L.K. Advani. Mr Modi’s deliberate, wounding exclusion of Advani from the celebrations marking the 35th anniversary of the BJP (the party Advani helped found) reveals that Mr Advani is in danger of being canonised by saffronista while still alive.

Read more: Emergency possible in India again, warns Advani

There is a stream of amber permeating through the emblem of the Indian Congress party, as its leadership clings to the glories of past leadership because it cannot see any future in its present one.

There is a reek of formaldehyde in international bodies such as the IFF (football) where a five-term president can be hounded out on accusations of corollary corruption, and where the ICC (cricket) should be silent on Lalit Modi’s misdoings in the IPL.

The authorities are spraying formaldehyde over the MQM’s local headquarters in Nine Zero at Karachi and its international one in London. Suddenly, two culprits wanted in the Imran Farooq case mysteriously ‘appear’ in official custody, then disappear, and reappear to be apprehended on the Afghan border. Were they also our ‘guests’, untraceable like Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad? Is it simply a coincidence that the £400,000 unwashed money allegedly found in the possession of Altaf Hussain in London is the near equivalent of the stash of $750,000 discovered with Saddam Hussein when he was captured in his rathole 10 years ago?

Read more: 'MQM leader's confessional documents not property of London police'

Finally, there are traces of self-administered formaldehyde in the veins of members of our affluent society. They are all educated, rich, well-placed and well-connected. Yet, every day, they choose consciously to condone corruption. They can see it exists. They can smell it. But they would prefer to float above it, as if they were in some glass-bottomed boat, peering into the swill swirling below them.

We all share the guilt in this gradual decay of our country. All that may remain one day will be a sniff of formaldehyde.

The writer is an author.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2015

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