Posts Tagged ‘Nadeem Paracha’

Misplaced Moralities By NADEEM F. PARACHA

October 1st, 2017, posted in Ink On PAPER

Misplaced Moralities By NADEEM F. PARACHA ,Misplaced Moralities ,NADEEM F. PARACHA ,Misplaced ,Moralities ,NADEEM PARACHA,morality2,morality,Think About It,Misplaced morality,Misplaced Morality,

Famous Urdu poet, author and satirist, Ibn-i-Insha, once wrote that as he was coming out of a mosque, he saw a person from the shurfa tabqa (respectable middle-class) talk to a poor man who stood outside the mosque, seemingly praying. The shareef gentleman asked him what he was praying for.

The poor man said he was praying for shelter, some food and maybe even a job. Hearing this, the gentleman got slightly agitated and asked, “Why are you praying for these materialistic things?” The poor man replied with a question of his own: “What do you pray for, sahib?”

I pray for the strength of my faith,” the gentleman proudly responded. “Good,” said the poor man, “one often prays for things they do not have.

Why are we indifferent to terrorism, domestic violence and child abuse but applaud initiatives that make us feel morally superior?

This was Ibn-i-Insha satirising a particular mindset which has been prevalent in the country’s urban middle-classes. Some call it ‘middle class morality’. In fact Insha’s tragic fate too can shed some light on this mindset.

At the peak of his career in 1974, he was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors in Pakistan believed that his cancer was treatable but only in a Western country.

On an appeal from Insha’s fans, the populist government of Z.A. Bhutto worked out an arrangement with him. Insha was to be given a salaried job in the cultural section of the Pakistan embassy in London where he could continue his career as a poet and writer and use his salary to pay for the treatment from British doctors. Insha agreed.

The treatment seemed to be working when three years later (in July 1977) Bhutto’s regime was toppled in a reactionary military coup. The military regime was headed by Gen Zia who wasn’t a fan of certain cultural activities and vocations which he believed to be ‘vulgar’.

Claiming that they were damaging Pakistan’ s ‘moral fabric’, the military regime blacklisted poets, intellectuals, painters, actors and actresses and eventually Zia ordered the termination of Insha’s employment at the embassy.

Insha’s treatment came to a halt and his condition began to deteriorate. Some friends shifted him to a public hospital where he slipped into despondency and passed away in 1978. As Zia would have it, instead of praying for money for his treatment, Insha should have prayed for his soul.

In his 1938 play Pygmalion, the proficient Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw explained middle class morality as a phenomenon in which freedom is replaced by fear. Shaw was lampooning British middle class mores in the first half of the 20th century. He explained this class morality as one which makes a person become overtly conscious about his economic and social status. But this person continuously feels insecure because he fears that even a slight downward trend in his status may put him in the league of folks from the classes below. This anxiety thus drives him to stridently exhibit certain mannerisms and beliefs that he imagines are more civilised and which distinguish him from those in the classes below.

Professor K. Husain, a popular teacher at the state-owned college that I attended in Karachi in the mid-1980s, once rather splendidly explained Shaw’s observations in the context of Pakistan.

In early 1985, after the police had raided our college to apprehend certain ‘subversive elements’ (read anti-Zia activists), a group of students and I visited the professor’s office. He was the Dean of Commerce and we wanted him to ask the principal to demand the release of the apprehended students.

After he had agreed to talk to the principal, we began talking politics with him. During the discussion, he asked us whether any of us had read Shaw’s Pygmalion. We hadn’t. He talked briefly about it and then asked, “Do you know why Bhutto fell (in July 1977)?” We all came up with our usual half-baked Marxist theories, until he interrupted, “Middle class morality!

We became silent. He smiled and continued. “Bhutto fell due to middle class morality. His populist demeanour started to make the middle and upper classes uncomfortable. They began to feel that the classes below them were being emboldened by Bhutto. This threatened their carefully cultivated economic and social standing in society. Why else do you think the majority of people who took part in the movement against Bhutto belonged to the middle-classes?

A student tentatively asked, “Because of his socialist policies?” “Nonsense!” the professor shot back. “There wasn’t a single socialist bone in Bhutto. But it was the perception that he created of empowering the poor which aggravated the middleclass!

The professor then asked us to recall the platform which Bhutto’s opponents used during the movement. “Morality and faith,” he answered himself.

The professor claimed that Bhutto’s opponents had little or no economic programme to speak of. He asked, “Have you ever read their manifesto [issued just before the March 1977 election]? All it says is that a theocratic state would produce a just and happy society. That’s all.

Then the professor sniggered. “So off they went, attacking liquor stores, clubs and cinemas … as if it were these which were empowering the poor and undermining the middle-classes!

I must add, the late professor detested Bhutto. He neither drank nor smoked. Heck, he even hated colas. But his words continue to echo in my head every time anyone (from the government, judiciary or media) suddenly decides to crib about certain activities which they deem immoral or going against the grain of ‘our culture’.

Take for instance the two gentlemen who recently submitted a petition at the Sindh High Court against liquor stores in Karachi. Alcohol was banned (for Muslims) in Pakistan in April 1977. The stores are there for non-Muslims, but, of course, many Muslims too manage to buy from there. Question is, how much have these sinister stores contributed to whatever has gone wrong in Pakistan ever since 1977? Do these stores produce terrorists and extremists? Truth is, curbs on alcohol have actually yielded mafias which produce dangerous and tainted alcoholic beverages (katchi sharaab). And as a friend recently quipped, “Ask a nazim or an MPA to give you water, electricity or a road, and he’ll tell you that he will gift you with something more noble — a ban on what he deems immoral. Easier done. Silly middle-class priorities. They’ll remain numb over issues such as terrorism and domestic violence, but applaud initiatives which make them feel morally superior.

The good professor, God bless him, also came to mind when a PTI MPA from Karachi and a petty government bureaucrat in Sindh had a problem with schools teaching dance to children. More than anything else, this was simply about idle minds trying to exercise middle class morality to justify their otherwise feeble political status.

And what about Jamshed Dasti, the MPA from Muzaffargarh who once raised such a huge hue and cry after allegedly discovering empty whisky bottles outside the parliamentary lodges in Islamabad?

In the context of the professor’s theory, his case becomes rather interesting. Dasti originally hails from a working-class background. Becoming an MNA created a perception in his mind that he was now from the shurfa class. He was thus obliged to exhibit some middle class morality, especially after he felt that his status was being relegated to that of an unschooled MNA.

In 1993 during a seminar on ‘youth and crime’ held by a large media group in Karachi, a working-class lad in the audience complained that his sisters were being harassed on the streets in his locality and the police refused to do anything about it. A middle-aged shurfa class member of the panel matter-of-factly replied, “Son, I am assuming your sisters do not wear hijabs?” Go figure.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 30th, 2016


Blow Daddy By Nadeem F Paracha

May 3rd, 2014, posted in Ink On PAPER, PAKiSTAN


Yes, son.

Are we going to have a war with India?


Oh, goody. We will thrash them, right? Like we did in 1857!

It wasn’t in 1857, son.

Oh, okay. But whom did we thrash in 1857?

The British, son…

And the Hindus too, right?


Did Quaid-i-Azam fight in that war along with Muhammad bin Qasim and Imran Khan?

No, son. The Quaid and Imran were born much later and Muhammad bin Qasim died many years before.

Then who ruled Pakistan in those days?

There was no Pakistan in those days, son.

But there was always a Pakistan! It has been there for 5,000 years!

Who have you been talking to, son?

No one. I’ve just been watching TV.

It figures.

Daddy, why are all these people against us Arabs?

Arabs? But we aren’t Arabs, son.

Of course we are because our ancestors were Arabs!

No, son. Our ancestors were of the subcontinental stock.


Never mind.You seem to like wars, son.

Yes. I like to watch them on TV.

But real wars are fought outside the TV, son.

Really? How is that possible? What sort of a war is that?

Never mind.

Daddy, you look worried.

Of course, I am, you little warmongering punk!

Daddy! Why are you scolding me?

Because TV is talking rot and so are you!

Daddy, are you supporting Hindus?


Daddy, have you become a kafir?

Keep quiet! No more TV for you! Go watch a movie on DVD or listen to a CD.

Can’t do that.

But we have so many DVDs and CDs, son.

Not any more.

What do you mean?

I burned them all.


I burned them all.

I heard that! But why?

They spread obscenity.

Oh, God. Son, go do your homework. What happened to that science project you were working on?

It’s almost complete.

Good boy. What are you making?

A bomb.


A bomb.

I heard that! But why?

Because I am a true Muslim who hates America.

But only last week you wanted to go to Disney Land.

That’s different.

How come?

Mickey Mouse is Muslim.

No, he isn’t.

Is so. He converted when he heard azaan on the moon.

On the moon?

Yes. Because the earth is flat and…


The earth is…

I heard that!

Daddy, do you want to see my science project, or not?

Gosh, that bomb? But your science teacher will fail you.

No, she wont.


Yes. I plan to blow her up as well.

God, what is wrong with you? Go call your mother!

She can’t come.

Why not?

I’ve locked her in the kitchen.

But what for?

A woman’s place is in the kitchen. I will not let her out until she covers herself up peoperly!

But she’s your mother!

She’s also a woman!


So she should be hidden.

Hidden from whom?

The whole world and Tony.


Yes, Tony.

But Tony’s a cat.

Yes. But he’s male.

Son, have you gone mad?

No. By the way, I’ve made sure Kitto starts covering up as well.


Yes, Kittto.

But Kitto’s a cat!

Yes. But a female cat.

But she’ll suffocate.

Oh, she’s already dead.


She’s already dead.

I heard that! But how?

I buried her alive.

You what?

Yes. To avenge Tony’s honour. But now I will behead Tony.

But why?

To save mom’s honour!

Oh, God!

Don’t say that. Always say Allah.

What’s the difference?

Daddy, do you want to be beheaded too?


Do you want to be stoned to death?


Do you want to be flogged?


Do you want to get your arms chopped off?


Then stop asking silly questions. By the way, I won’t call you daddy anymore.

What will you call me then?

Whatever that is Arabic for daddy.

I don’t know any Arabic, son.

That’s because you are a kafir.

Who the heck are you to tell me who I am, you little fascist twit!

What’s a fascist?

An irrational, violent, self-righteous mad man!

W… aaaaaaa…

Why are you crying?

You scolded me.

Okay, I’m sorry. You have to be tolerant and rational, son. Now be a good boy and go read a book instead of watching TV.

I have no books.

Of course, you do. I bought you so many books.

I burned them.


I burned them.

But why?

They were all in English.


It’s a non-Muslim language!

But we are speaking English, aren’t we?

W… aaaaaaa…

What now?

Zionists made me forget my Arabic.

But you never knew any Arabic, son.

W… aaaa… yes, I did until you and mommy gave me the polio drops… aaaaa…

Okay, tell me, can you do me a favour?

Sure, dad.

Can you blow up something for me?

Oh, goody! Of course, dad. What should I blow? A CD shop, a hotel, a school…?

No, no, something a lot more sinister.


No, no…

What then?

The TV set!


Blow the TV set.

I heard that! But why?

Just do it!

I see. Dad?


You’re so unconstitutional !!