Jumping into trouble

The Other Column, May 6, 2007

EJAZ HAIDER

It’s silly to punish people for their virtues rather than vices and I am both saddened and amused when that happens.

Some ascribe such arbitrariness to divine justice, arguing that the vices finally catch up with a person and take him or her down when they least expect it. But this seems to me to be a rather specious argument –— unless one were to accept that gods are either capricious or badly in need of efficient secretarial staff that can work out the small details of who needs to be punished (or rewarded) when, why and for what.

In any case with I-mates and other gadgets these minutiae can be managed quite easily now and surely the gods know what is happening at the foot of Mount Olympus. Methinks, therefore, that if there is any impulsiveness involved in such cases, it has more to do with the fickleness of humans rather than vindictive gods.

Consider the case of Ms Nilofar Bakhtiar, the federal minister for tourism, and until recently, the head of Q-League’s women wing. (Incidentally, her bio on the official website reveals that like the present writer she was also born in Bannu, NWFP. Could she be an army brat also?)

Ms Bakhtiar, who “got passionately involved in social work right from childhood”, also worked fervently towards getting the boot when she was advisor to prime minister on women’s development — the case of Mukhtar Mai comes to mind immediately. Instead, she was made the minister for tourism.

As tourism minister, however, she seems to have directed her energies towards making Pakistan an attractive destination for those who, like Ian “Beefy” Botham think it is a place to send one’s mother-in-law to, all expenses paid. She knows the tourists don’t normally come to a country that is dry, has poor hotels, high morals, low morale and even lower regard for women, especially the kind who like to go economical in their clothing when on vacation. Yet, Ms Bakhtiar has accepted the challenge and, as fellow-writer Alefia mentioned, is trying to create something out of nothing.

Ms Bakhtiar is one brave lady and an incorrigible optimist.

But what has really endeared her to me is her gumption to go paragliding on a physique that would normally keep lesser souls away from athletic activity. What’s more, upon landing she also decided to hug her male instructor, damned be those who have since been singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic and announcing the arrival of the Lord.

Indeed, as she told an Indian TV channel, she “jumped” for a “good cause”, and as causes go, this one was also definitely higher than the individual who undertook it. Even so, if you jump from above, cause or no cause, and anyone who has done that and survived knows it, you tend to hug whatever or whoever is close to you, be it a tree, a man, a buffalo or, if nothing or no one else is available, yourself. As it happened, the instructor was on hand and it is generally accepted practice in the civilised world that after performing and surviving a dangerous stunt, one hugs the instructor if he or she is on the spot. No big deal about that.

But no sir, it seems like Ms Bakhtiar’s party is not convinced. Under the able leadership of Chaudhry Sahib, the party thinks that Ms Bakhtiar’s act of hugging the instructor has set a bad precedent for the women of this country and she must be removed from her position as the head of the party’s women wing. I must note that while Ms Bakhtiar’s head has rolled for an innocent hug, Auntie Shamim, the Heidi Fleiss of Islamabad, is planning to rock hundreds of happy households (but of that some other time).

For now all I can say is that Ms Bakhtiar is likely to have the last laugh when Auntie Shamim’s book comes out.

Meanwhile, insiders say Chaudhry Sahib is really worried about the future of the League. He should be because Allama Iqbal and the Quaid have passed away, Liaquat Ali Khan has been murdered and, as Chaudhry Sahib put it succinctly, “Tabiat apni vee kuj theek nahi rehndi“.

The League’s future does look bleak, but that is another topic again and can wait until we have another incarnation of the party.

Leaders sometimes take decisions under pressure which may not wield good results, but must be forgiven because we cannot reach either their highs or fathom their lows. So it is with Chaudhry Sahib and the Great Leader. They do things that would look plain stupid to common minds but that is because common minds are just that — common.

Why do you think, dear reader, we refer to something that looks quite straight as common sense? And pray, how can anyone expect the leaders to employ a sense that belongs to the commoners. Theirs is a special world; for them is a special sense.

Take, for instance, the fact that it is common sense to stop digging when you find yourself in a hole. But if you are a leader, what will you do: finding yourself in a hole you will start digging and keep digging until you just can’t get out.

Don’t shake your head, sir. How else will you ever get rid of one set of leaders and find another.

Originally published in Daily Times: http://archives.dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/06-May-2007/the-other-column-jumping-into-trouble-ejaz-haider

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