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In the best interests of the nation

February 07, 2013

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

Our dress codes of suits, ties, sherwanis, waistcoats and uniforms transform according to what our national interests are at a particular moment. Musharraf Bhai’s power lay beneath his uniform and cap. Until he was in uniform, it seemed like no one else could be as powerful as him. But when he discarded it, the wilted result was as if the air had been let out of a balloon.

Now there are different styles of caps to be seen everyday. Each hides beneath itself the corresponding dreams and desires, which the wearer does his best to fulfill. It doesn’t matter if it will harm the country. He will continue to realise those dreams in the name of the overall alleged national interests.

London Karachi Rabita Committee members issue quick, contradictory statements everyday. We have barely gotten over the first one, when along comes a second statement. Thankfully, we live in the era of electronic media that is responsible for keeping the public informed 24/7. Previously, statements couldn’t be changed instantaneously, due to the lack of electronic media but thanks to the cameras today, we can see the hidden truth in their eyes, despite the constantly changing statements.

Every so often, we hear that the entire nation is on its way, marching towards Islamabad, that a revolution is about to come, probably in about a couple of days. Two days later, we discover that the long march has dispersed, for the sake of national interests. Then, the authorities have to implement ‘revolutionary’ measures in order to take care of the idealistic debris the long march participants left behind them.

Our government has been taking measures for the last 65 years in the name of best national interests. It is unanimously upheld as the nation’s favourite euphemism. Billions of rupees worth of damage is caused to the state by calling strikes. Entire generations are pushed further back than the rest of the world by regular closures of educational institutions due to strikes and violence. We are probably the only country in the world where the government itself calls for a strike, camouflages it as a public holiday, which the public celebrates.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed’s idea of 1990 to hold a strike on February 5 was given the name of ‘Kashmir Day’ and imposed on us. Now we ‘celebrate’ it every year as a public holiday. If we wish to bring the Kashmir issue to the international community’s notice, then why must we close down our businesses and harm ourselves as well as our country for this purpose? The economic situation of the country is already precarious. But why would this warrant our concern? We are distracted with holidays. The previous public holiday has barely passed when the next one comes up. Can’t we make the world care about the Kashmir issue without taking a holiday?

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

In the name of national interest, we first handed over Swat to the Taliban after an agreement with them. Then they got out of hand so we made them leave the valley by force. But we didn’t apprehend any of them as their presence is vital to us. How else would we run our business and country? How would we obtain funds in order to fight terrorism?

Our army is considered one of the best in the world, or at least that’s what we hear. They have incurred more damage fighting against Taliban than in the two or three wars they fought. Yet, they are still being encouraged to hold talks with the Taliban. That day isn’t far when we hear that dialogue with the Taliban is being held. Afghan Taliban members are already being released in the name of national interests.

Our leaders are busy trying to keep each other agreeable, making countless agreements. I will never forget how an entire nation of simple people spent four cold, hungry nights out in the open in freezing rain, waiting for a revolution to occur, while issues were being resolved and agreements made amicably in the name of national interests in an air-conditioned container. Eventually, the nation was told about the ‘revolution’s’ arrival by Chaudhry Sahab, who can be barely understood, even by those with perfect hearing ability.

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

The nation was already deprived of gas, electricity, petrol, health, education and employment in the name of our national interests. But now efforts are being made to deprive them of their right to vote. For this ‘noble’ aim, those who always think of the nation are relentlessly working towards achieving it. Those who are now leaving after spending five years in power are in a situation that reminds one of the saying, “na khaya na piya, glass tora, bara anna.” Actually, they ‘ate’ and ‘drank a lot but didn’t return anything. They even broke the glass but the public had to pay the bara anna instead.

The others take loans worth millions; they use the electricity, steal the gas, evade taxes, and take away subsidies on agricultural production. Whether it is the textile industry or any other dying industry, the public is made accountable for their damages. We have no choice but to pay the bills even if they aren’t ours.

You have done whatever you had to do in the name of the best interests of the nation. Now the only thing that remains is to keep the future in mind. We’ve had too many holidays now, sir, it’s about time we stopped. It would be good if everyone withdraws from the random strikes and protests. A ban should be enforced on extra holidays in educational institutions. Government and financial organisations should have a one-day weekend and work six days a week. Let the wheel go forward. How long will you keep trying to push it back?

Listen to this blog in Urdu [soundcloud url="" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.