American movie goers will be familiar with the feeling many Pakistan’s are going through. It is very close to the feeling of déjà vu you get upon watching Chucky the killer doll part 3 (there might even be a part 4, but who cares), mixed in with a bit of watching Rocky part 5 or six where the old geezer shambles in yet again and you watch in horror, unable to turn off the TV set but knowing exactly how it plays out. So we have Benazir Bhutto starring as The Pinky Bride of Chucky, while Asif Zardari moonlights as Chucky himself as he takes up once again his passion of mutilating the economic fabric of Pakistan, while his bride kills the body politic. Musharraf is shadow boxing in the background as Rocky, the aging but still potent hunk-a-muscle who can still take on Chucky, the Bride, and perhaps even the bald headed threat to Pakistan, all at the same time.
Back in the good old days when men were men and sheep were scared, so says the Readers Digests condensed history books, things were simpler. For example, if you saw a group of people dancing, you could infer that they were happy, and dammit, you would be right!
Today, times have a changed. When we have people dancing in the streets these days, it could mean just about anything. A few days ago a million people were dancing in the streets of Karachi because the Daughter of the East, the self styled savoiur of Pakistan’s poor in a reverse Robin Hood kind of way, had stepped out of her mansion into a Mercedes onto a jetplane.
The interesting part here is the wheels within wheels. Here we had people dancing, but why? Before we get to the list of the possible reasons, let us consider the outermost wheel, the one visible on TV, which can essentially be divided into three categories:
* They were paid to do so – these are the ones hanging out of buses bursting at the seams and packed four deep on motorbikes wobbling all over the place threatening to spill out all over the roads where.
* The ones hanging out of cars waving flags with hands attached to wrists clasped with expensive watches and the other one clutching for dear life to a mobile phone – these are the ones who have been paid with IOU’s. Existing ministers of the PPP had been ordered to bring at least two bus loads of people or else the empress would be displeased, and they might not remain ministers in the next elections.
* The freebies. There are rumours they exist, shambling around Karachi like the abominable snowman. Perhaps they are throwbacks to simpler times, when people didn’t have newspapers, TV, or even language, as who else could anyone in Pakistan support the dynamic duo of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari?
Now we get to the wheel spinning this outside visible wheel jerkily dancing on the streets of Karachi and flickering across TV screens all over the world, the wheel which decided to make these people dance. Why the dance?
* It seems that these days you must have people dancing to get yourself on TV in Pakistan. We have become so used to all those Indian movies which seem to mostly consist of hot young people dancing in the rain that the wheels that be have decided to put this to good use. Secretly they are hoping it rains.
* The American government has been well trained to react to numbers, so the more the people dance, the bigger the check they will make out to Benazir.
* To put yourself on CNN and BBC these days, you must kill a few people, or get a few hundred thousand to do something, like bring a city screeching to a halt by clogging it’s arteries.
Sheikh Rashid, the most honest politician in Pakistan, commenting on the whole shebang: “All our politicians live in a field of dreams”, and “this million man figure was pulled out of her ass because she saw on TV the million man march on Washington”.
There is a question often asked to billionaires around the world, why work after your first billion? What need? There are many answers, but sadly Benazir has never been asked this question. Sitting idle counting -millions- a billion or two can get boring fast, so perhaps that’s why she’s back in Pakistan. Like a drunk slipping back off the wagon, how long till she reverts back to her old self? Old hands say the bank accounts will start ticking soon as her husband flies back, while others say his old boy network is already busy greasing the wheels in anticipation.
Now, if only Imran Khan could get himself exiled, for his plane would be full of starlets instead of stuffy old men twirling their mustaches. And if he declared he would give away some of his world cup memorabilia there would defiantly be a few million people lined up at the airport to receive him.
When a nation of nominally literate people can vote for Dubya, than a nation of illiterates can votes just about anything in, whether it is a crook like Nawaz, a crook like Benazir, the yet bigger crook Nawaz, and then the biggest crook of them all, Benazir again. There seems to be a pattern here, of escalating crooky runs for kingship by crooks named Benazir and Nawaz. My theory as to why we have only two crooks for life taking turns on the golden throne instead of 3, or more, is that on TV more than two split screens are not watchable, and it seems the same principle applies to crooked rulers. Also, this being a simple nation, it is much easier to deal with when both crooks hold exactly opposite public opinions. If there was third crook gunning for the throne, there would be no place in the simple spectrum of Pakistani politics to slot in his or her views. Pakistan is a poor nation, so it can only support two crooks along with their many hanger ons at one time. A third crook, and there are many pretenders to the throne jostling away, will be hard pressed, barely able to fuel the jet let alone outfit it with gold taps.