It was in around the 1960s that Ghulam Abbas wrote a famous novella titled Dhanak. In it, he presents an imaginary vision of the next 50 to 60 years of Pakistan. The future that Abbas painted depicted the maulvis holding sway over Pakistan; majaalis-i-shura have been established and decreeing various punishments left, right and centre. Everywhere shops have been established to sell lotas, dhelas [stones used for sanitary purposes], and khizaab [hair colour]. Numerous small mosques have been set up all over the place and innumerable religious factions have cropped up. Abbas sees the entire state conform to this ethos.
Similarly, Sadat Hasan Manto in his last days wrote an epistolary series to Uncle Sam. In that series, in one letter talks he tells Uncle Sam of the Mighty United States of America that ‘in the coming years we will not need arms but lotas, dhelas, straw mats and khizaab; so please make provisions for the needful.’
This rang true to us when the horrific martial law of Ziaul Haq was imposed on us. It reminded us of Abbas’s and Manto’s stories.
If I think about the next 70 years, the picture I see emerging shows what can be the only way to salvation for us. Historically, we have mistreated Balochistan, even worse than we treated East Pakistan. Balochistan tolerated all this. But when things got out of hand, the Baloch rose in rebellion and went into the mountains to fight. They were in the right. We are only now witnessing that all stakeholders are working together to bring the Baloch on the same page. Balochistan’s mineral-rich resources are no secret due to modern and satellite technology. This is the outline of the future that I see…
70 YEARS LATER
It is the 140th year of Pakistan’s existence. The United States has relinquished its responsibility for Pakistan. The New World Order is in place and China and Russia have assumed the responsibility of looking after half the world. They pay special attention to Pakistan. Now Mandarin is Pakistan’s national language, because in order to benefit from better job opportunities, it is essential to learn that language. Urdu is no more, English merely a second language. Urdu literature gathers dust in the archives.
Chinese architecture, Chinese industry and Chinese culture have spread throughout the land; so much so that Thatta, Badin, Larkana, Multan, Bahawalpur, Peshawar, Mardan, Quetta and even Turbat… all have become ‘Chinatowns’. Chinese cuisine has replaced Pakistani food and Chinese food markets have sprung up like mushrooms. People have stopped having kitchens in their homes. Due to the excessive consumption of chickens, rabbits, snakes, ducks and seafood, giant farms for them have been established. The Chinese have brought with them their vegetables and herbs. Pakistani food is now kept as memorabilia; chapli kebabs, qorma, biryani, pulao and seekh kebabs are mentioned in children’s books as ‘things of the past’.
For a long while now, the Chinese have taken over the responsibility of the country’s defence; Russia and China have brought about peace at the borders and the country is being run as a ‘welfare state’. There are only five azaans a day from mosques. Religious freedom prevails but with regulations that restrict interfering in other people’s business. As poverty has been completely eliminated, nobody enrolls in madrassahs anymore.
The Pakistani army has been put to work on development and infrastructure projects. Since the army already had a vast experience in town planning and road building, its role in real estate and the corporate sector is yielding far better results. Since politics was sidelined a long time ago, the military is now fully immersed in its new job. Ayesha Siddiqa’s book on the institution is now being used by the army in a better way. Pakistan’s nuclear bombs are displayed in a large museum where foreign tourists are drawn to view these relics.
The words biggest and busiest airport is the Gwadar airport; the airports of Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi see little traffic. In efforts to populate Balochistan, new cities and new worlds have been built and the province has now became famous the world over for its indigenous fruits. Thousands of tonnes of dates, apples, pomegranates, grapes, watermelons, melons, cantaloupes, lychee, almonds, walnuts and cherries and apricots are exported from here across the globe.
A vast network of universities has been laid out across Pakistan. Confucianism, the latest marketing and IT have come together to sell new dreams like hot cakes. The vice chancellors and faculty members are robots that are imparting quality education to girls and boys. An intellectual has noted sarcastically that Pakistan’s vice chancellors used to be robots before as well, the only difference being they were robots of flesh and blood.
There are still Pakistani embassies so to speak, but it is the Chinese who are in charge of the visa sections. Nobody gets a visa without their approval.
Migrants from various cultures and countries have populated Balochistan. The legacy of Bahria Town’s Malik Riaz continues. Statues of Riaz are found on nearly every roundabout and the builder and his team are now planning Bahria Towns on the moon and on Mars.
The rest of the world has also changed. Due to the unprecedented rate with which Pakistani and Indian populations have increased in Germany and Britain, their native populations have become diminished. Pakistani, Indians and Bangladeshis have set up their coalition governments in those countries — just like when in the past the Westerners used to rule our parts of the world.
China has also cut a tacit deal with India: The former has given the latter access to the rest of the world through Pakistan.
If this sounds like just imagination, then you know what they say: the imagined is what turns into a dream. And sometimes dreams can come true.
The writer is an Urdu playwright and poet
This essay was translated by Peerzada Salman
Published in Dawn, EOS, August 13th, 2017
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