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An ass it was and an ass it will always be

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Unfortunately, the horizon is bleak and the situation across the board is pathetic. There is not much around on which hopes can be pinned. Some actors are new but most have been around for donkeys of years, pun intended, and always have had their snouts in the trough

Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani felt thoroughly insulted by the Supreme Court (SC) eminences not accepting his verbal assurances over the imminent rescinding of the restoration of the judiciary order, preferring instead to believe media rumours, leading them to convene an emergency session. So royally upset was he that he had three chief ministers and two senior ministers by his side when he lamented the affront. Some insult it was for sure!

The episode reminded me of the indomitable Mullah Naseeruddin. Once a person requested for his donkey from him. Saying that someone had taken it, Mullah expressed his deepest regrets. As if on cue, the ass brayed from where he had been hidden. The person said, “Mullah, the ass is right here.” Unruffled, Mullah scolded him and said, “How come you believe the ass and not a respectable person like me?”

The eminences also believed the ass rather than the respectable personage of the prime minister. By ass here I do not mean the media, though it too certainly is an ass of the first order when it comes to priorities, problems and issues. The ass in this case is this government’s reputation and its governance style; it was this track record that the judiciary feared and believed that the rescinding order was in the offing. Had the track record of broken promises and fudging been different, then their eminences could have been faulted.

When Reza Shah visited Pakistan during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government as an ally for the suppression of Baloch rights, the cabinet was being introduced. On introduction to Ghulam Mustafa Khar, he moved a step forward and looked at his behind and said, “This is the first tail-less Khar I have come across.” Khar, in Persian, means an ass. So there is a tail-less variety of this species as well.

I digress. It should be remembered that the dignity and prestige of the offices of the prime minister and the president, which Gilani felt had been insulted by the justices, do not stem from the palatial abodes and imperial trappings accompanying them. The Olympus and the Parthenon were dignified not because of imposing structure and height but for the character and venerability of the deities associated with them. Apparently, the fact that persons and deeds lend respect to offices and not vice versa was lost upon Gilani.

One could dilate upon their financial indiscretions; these are but a common aberration in the conduct of the mighty of the land since 1947. The real reason for the distrust of the people, yes the people, is the waywardness and mis-governance that destroy and shatter their lives irreversibly. The eminences, at most, would become jobless, being replaced by the yes men of the present rulers. One cannot emphasise enough that it is the people and not the institutions and eminences that suffer from mis-governance because the elite and establishment have the wherewithal to either protect themselves from turmoil or to flee to safer climes while the people suffer interminably.

The Baloch were offered a new, peaceful and prosperous era beginning with an apology, promises and packages. Those who pinned hopes on them are now disillusioned. There has been no change in the physical, political and economic insecurity; conditions have worsened as abducted advocates and activists are regularly turning up as mutilated bodies. The tortured bodies of Faqir Mohammad Baloch and Zahoor Baloch were found near Mastung on Thursday. The perpetrators have state sanction and immunity. People are harassed and intimidated and the resistors are branded as traitors and are killed extra-judicially.

In Sindh, the indigenous Sindhis are being completely marginalised and pushed into clearly demarcated areas with the PPP government wilting before its coalition partners who exact their pound of flesh without compunction. Karachi is being strangulated with a set purpose for neutralising the indigenous people and forcing them into a ghetto-like existence.

Unfortunately, the horizon is bleak and the situation across the board is pathetic. All remember Nawaz Sharif’s goons attacking the Supreme Court and his governance style, and the judiciary’s compromise with dictators is not yet history. The role that the armed forces have played is indelibly apparent in all that is wrong in this ‘land of the pure’. There is not much around on which hopes can be pinned. Some actors are new but most have been around for donkeys of years, pun intended, and always have had their snouts in the trough. In short, the situation is hopeless.

Let us seek Sheikh Saadi’s advice in this difficult situation and see if the permanently constituted establishment and elite are amenable to reformation. He says:

“Haich saikal nako na danad kard

Aahanay ra kay bad gauhar bashad

Choon bood asal johari qabil

Tarbiat ra dar-u-asar bashad

Sag ba darya-e-haftgana bashoi

Kay cho tar shud paleed tar bashad

Khar-e-Essa garish ba Makkah barand

Choon bi aayad hanoz khar bashad.”

This means:

“The best of whetstones will useless be

If swords to be sharpened, of pig iron be

Training, tempering serves only those

If honourable of soul and intellect they be

A dog bathed in seven seas is not a whit pure

For the wetter it is the more impure it turns out to be

If Essa’s ass for a Makkan trip taken be

An ass it was and an ass it will always be.”

This qatta (poem consisting of four lines) says that incorrigibles are unaffected by office and rank. Moreover their behaviour worsens with increased power and recurring opportunities. The Muslims believe a wet dog is grossly unclean. “A dog bathed in seven seas is not a whit pure/ For the wetter it is the more impure it turns out to be.” This, in short, is the tragedy here and no institution is exempt from this rule.

Undoubtedly, no institution, be it the judiciary, the media or the armed forces can be supported or condoned to subvert democracy but it also has to be clearly understood that to allow plunder, cronyism and anarchy in the good name of democracy is equivalent to ill-affordable hara-kiri. The Karachi of today is an illustration of all that is wrong with this government and the state; it is gradually becoming Mogadishu. The government, its allies, the establishment and elite are all responsible for making this place a second Somalia due to their warped priorities that have nothing to do with welfare and the betterment of the people.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

Original article