Nadeem Farooq Paracha weighs in on jiyala fury.

I am a pretty liberal man, with roots in youthful flamboyant pursuits such as Marxism, anarchism, Z A. Bhutto, the occasional joint, and good ol’ beer that I still am a big fan of.

This is more than a confession. It is a pre-emptive defence of what I am about to do: support the gung-ho PPP jiyalas who after being offended by a ‘satirical’ piece of art that showed late Benazir Bhutto sitting on the lap of General Ziaul Haq went on a rampage across the recently cancelled Shanaakht festival in Karachi.

Of course, the jiyalas’ reaction was roundly condemned by the ‘civilised society’ and supporters of the otherwise pretty impressive exhibition, but the immediate question that came to my mind was: How on earth can anyone who could conceive of a brilliant idea like Shanaakht simultaneously be so insensitively stupid?

It’s so easy for us ‘civilized and cultured ones’ to look down at those rampaging jiyalas as ‘thugs’ and ‘brutes’, but since I’m in a mood to make stark confessions, let me add that if they were thugs and brutes, then so was I!

Being an integral part of the PPP’s student-wing, the Peoples Students Federation (PSF) at college in the late 1980s, a good part of my student life was spent interacting with such thugs and brutes. And the truth is, these guys, most of whom hail from lower-middle and working-class backgrounds, are amongst the most passionate, sincere and loyal folks one can have as friends.

Now, I ask myself, had I, the cultured, educated and middle-class urbanite, still been in my late teens and a PSF member, what would I have done after looking at that photomontage displayed so proudly at the exhibition?

Well, I guess I would have made my protest a tad more creative (but equally offensive). I would have gotten drunk, unzipped my jeans, peed on the floor and called it modern art, or better, ‘situational protest satire’!

Disgusting, isn’t it?

Well, disgusting is what those jiyalas felt looking at that picture that oh-so-cleverly showed their recently slain leader on the lap of a reactionary military dictator who sent her popularly elected prime minister father to the gallows and whose vicious intelligence agencies were probably involved in the mysterious death of her youngest brother, Shahnawaz Bhutto.

Admittedly, Benazir was no Mother Teresa. But then politics is no place for Mother Teresa. She remained an extraordinary woman. For my generation of hot-headed yet dreamy young men of the 1980s - many of whom faced jail, torture and even public flogging by the Zia dictatorship – she was a hero; a woman braver than most men, bolder than the malicious and trigger-happy generals of the Zia regime, and tougher than us, stoically bearing the humiliation, torture and jail terms that she served under Zia.

Above all, she was one of the finest human beings, never uttering a single derogatory word for her biggest enemy, Ziaul Haq, even when the wily reactionary blew up somewhere over Bhawalpur in 1988.

Unfortunately, it seems this generation of haughty and arty ‘activists’ and culturalists only have the intellectual capacity to view her, not through history books and academic critique, but through the lens of bad, one-dimensional toilet humour that started doing the rounds against the Bhuttos in the 1990s, and continued even after Benazir was mercilessly assassinated in December, 2007. Nadeem Farooq Paracha can be reached at nadeemfparacha@gmail.com

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