Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2010
The writer is a barrister and a public policy graduate from Harvard University firstname.lastname@example.org
Birmingham has been an unlucky place for Pakistanis this weekend. At Edgbaston, the boys commonly referred to as ‘our cricket team’ displayed a level of performance so breathtakingly inferior that it would be a relief to discover that they were engaged in match-fixing. At least that would provide a plausible explanation for their abysmal showing. Dropping an unforgivable number of catches, captain Salman Butt-erfingers and his boys managed to set new records on how long you can stay on zero before scoring a single or losing your wicket. However, do not fear, for I think I have the answer to the team’s woes. Why don’t we send our blind cricket team in their place instead? After all, they managed to score 439 runs against England in one day, the highest successful run chase for any form of cricket, and they don’t drop catches either!
Meanwhile, in a conference hall in the same city our president addressed the local community of mainly PPP supporters. Outside, a number of British-Pakistanis had gathered with placards denouncing the government and Mr Zardari. They raised unflattering slogans as he exited his vehicle but that did not dampen his spirits. Once inside the hall, the president began his rousing speech expounding previously unchartered theories of economics, religious and political history as well as philosophy.
Firstly, the president wants “triple digit” growth in Pakistan. The lowest positive triple digit number is 100. So he wants at least 100 per cent growth per annum. China leads the world with double digit growth at over 10.4 per cent. So is he confusing growth with inflation which, under this government, has a pretty decent chance of reaching triple digits? Or is he ignoring the decimal point? So what he means is triple digits with the decimal point? This is actually known as “double digit” growth. Either way there seems to be no point, decimal or otherwise, in the president’s economic vision, as three of four provinces are submerged under water and the floods “have put us back by decades” in the words of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The next baffling theory presented in the presidential speech was that Nusrat Bhutto, former chairperson of the PPP, is also ‘shaheed’, even though she is still alive at the age of 81 and living in Dubai. This must be ground-breaking metaphysical alchemy. Previously, dying would be considered a pre-requisite for martyrdom. But the Bhuttos can now achieve martyrdom whilst still alive. Not content with this, a fascinating new political theory was also expounded. According to Mr Zardari, those leaders who do not have progeny capable of carrying their political mission are irrelevant. The following historical examples were given to prove this theory: “without Benazir Bhutto, ZAB’s mission would be meaningless” and “without Zainab there is no Hussainiyat”. Too bad Messrs Jinnah, Mandela and countless other luminaries.
Perhaps the speaker’s unprecedented expositions on history, philosophy and politics triggered the infamous shoe-throwing incident which may or may not have happened depending on which government spokesperson you listen to. A news channel, which I shall not name, but which is geo-metrically opposed to nearly every issue related to this government and Mr Zardari in particular, ran the headline story. It is claimed that a man in the audience threw his shoes at the stage, aiming towards the president. When later interviewed by the channel, it turns out he was enraged at the president’s handling of David Cameron. In his view, the president had done the opposite of the much promised “straight talking” with Mr Cameron and had brought “shame” on Pakistanis, by failing to establish the enormous sacrifices and deaths endured by the Pakistani people and its army.
Whatever their views on this incident, after Birmingham most British Pakistanis will be feeling the blues as they face coverage of their homeland in the UK press which usually relishes “Pakistan-bashing”. An embarrassing performance in the cricket field, heckling and throwing shoes at a president and harrowing images of watery devastation may prove hard to explain coherently to English co-workers, friends and fellow students. At the best of times it is tough to be a Pakistani in Britain. After this weekend it may be a lot harder.