Browsing "Raja Pervaiz Ashraf"

From preposterous to downright ridiculous

American humorist Will Rogers said it a while ago but it still holds true. “People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” What should get people thinking or outraged elicits a different kind of response these days among the voting population. With the kind of lives we are leading for past couple of decades, we have started taking things lightly as a coping mechanism. What used to be criminal is now laughable and what used to be stupid is now endearing. No wonder we scored that high on the happiness index, because there cannot be any other rational explanation for it.
Many people have sold volumes and have made fortunes by compiling Bushisms during Dubya’s 8-year rule. I am sure someone is doing the same in Iran with the pearls of wisdom of Mehmoud Ahmadinejad, though we have no way of knowing if that compilation will ever see the light of day. George W. Bush was not the only US president suffering from ‘foot in mouth’ disease. Republican candidate Mitt Romney was planning on firing the big bird (His plan was to stop giving subsidy to PBS which will lead to closure of Sesame Street and make Big Bird redundant) to decrease the domestic debt. Fans of the muppets plan to march the streets of Washington DC before the election to register their protest.  Romney’s brilliant plan is at par with Nobel Committee’s decision to give peace prize this year to European Union or our very own prime minister’s disorientation when he called 14-year-old victim of terrorism Malala Yousufzai who is a high school student and a national icon of courage, an IT expert during a parliament session. Being the head of the government of Islami Jamhooriya of Pakistan, one cannot even ask him what kind of quality stuff he has been smoking.
If any politician in Pakistan who comes even close to good ol’ George W. in terms of political gaffes and repeated faux pas, it is no-one but Senator Rehman Malik. From claiming to have seen surveillance footage of Darth Vader like terrorists to blaming majority of deaths in Karachi on wives and girlfriends in the city rather than the precarious law and order situation. I am surprised that Rehman Malik’s comment did not give birth to a “Real Housewives of Karachi” kind of a reality TV show. Last month, he made a statement about Karachi being the destination of choice for Pakistani and Afghan Taliban for vacations. Being the interior minister, he thought it was prudent to announce it in a news conference but he decided not to do anything about it.
With the passage of time, the delusion of grandeur is reaching epic proportions. Only recently, he decided to extend his jurisdiction to other countries and took credit for people being arrested in the United States.  Yes, Rehman Baba, formerly of FIA and now of Ministry of Interior, claimed the credit for the arrest of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the producer of anti-Islam movie Innocence of Muslims. When it was pointed out to him that Nakoula was arrested for violating his bail in another case, he persisted that it was his voice that reached the right quarters which resulted in the arrest. I mean seriously! How idiotic one has to be to take credit for an arrest which was a very minor domestic matter of another country?
If Dubya stuns everyone with the fact that he was a Yale graduate, Rehman Malik, too, was bestowed with an honorary doctorate degree from country’s premier university, Karachi University perhaps, for his famous one-liners about and apples and banana or his sterling recitation of Surah Ikhlaas during a cabinet session.
The other politician who is known for shooting off the handle is Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani whose unforgettable words “Degree tau degree hoti hai chahay asli ho ya naqli (a degree is a degree whether genuine or fake)” will go down in Pakistani political gaffe history alongside with the boobie groping video. It has become such a point of reference for mockery that everything from space adventures (On Felix Baumgartner’s Space Jump, “Jump jump hoti hai, chahe space se ho ya sofay se” — a jump is a jump whether from space or a sofa) to local politics (Letter letter hota hai, chahay Grade 11 ke boy friend ko likha jaye ya Swiss hukoomat ko — a letter is a letter whether written to the boyfriend of an 11th Grader or the Swiss government).
While we are it, the Marie Antoinette of Pakistan, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, also needs a special mention. When asked during an interview that one-fifth of Pakistanis want to leave the country, the premier didn’t hesitate to respond: “Why don’t they just leave then?”
That nonchalant matter-of-fact response was followed by, “Who’s stopping them?” What followed that super glib response were an awkward silence immediately and a thousand memes on Internet after that.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is famous for either scandals with underage girls or for paying them for their affections. The late tent pitching nomadic leader of Libya Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was also not particularly well known for his sanity and discretion.
During his last trip to Italy, he requested the Berlusconi government to meet arrange for him to meet 700 women from the world of ‘politics, industry and culture’ who he can preach about Islam — the list included a female minister who used to be a topless model. Not only did he make the request, the Berlusconi government was weird enough to entertain it! Apparently, it was not the first such incident and the Sarkozy government was also guilty of giving in to a similar request  made during his earlier trip to Paris.
There have been politicians like Sher-e-Punjab Ghulam Mustafa Khar or Khadim-e-Ala Mian Shahbaz Sharif who are known for being ladies man and a serial groom respectively, but if there is one politician who endeared himself to people for his buffoon like antics around women, it is the latter’s elder brother.
Who can forget the saga of one Kim Barker and how the Barre Mian tried to ‘iPhone’ her. Things did not stay the same after the whole debacle became public and an iPhone had lost the innocence of being just a gift — at least in Pakistani political domain.

Bilour the bounty offerer is the recent entrant in the exalted club of ‘The gallactically stupid and the damned’. Before he offered to pay the bounty of $100,000 for the head of the filmmaker who made Innocence of Muslims, he was infamous for single-handedly ruining Pakistan Railways and for the ownership of cinemas that showed uncensored clips during regular viewings.  Had it been another country, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour should have been investigated by the taxation authorities for possessing that kind of money because reports suggests that during the last fiscal year, the tax he paid was just a little over $ 1,000 (around PKR100,000). 
Last but definitely not the least is the most theatrical of all Pakistani politicians. He may not grace your television sets everyday but when he does, he does it for a solid three hours and entertains you to no end. Altaf Bhai’s performance in the chooran chatni video is the stuff of legends and his rendition of parday mein rehnay do was perhaps the highest rated — under duress of course — television performance ever. Even Katrina Kaif cannot rival that. 

First published in the monthly magazine Pique

Are fashion statements stronger than political statements?


 For as long as I can remember, Maulana Fazlur Rehman is harbouring ambitions of ending up in the PM House. He was one of the candidates back in 2002, then tried his luck again in 2008 and the latest attempt is as recent as the exit of Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Armani suits from the prime ministerial abode. The third time around, too, the Maulana’s effort to weasel his way in was to no avail; he stayed out and somehow Raja Pervaiz Ashraf got in. My sister thinks that Maulana Diesel (as he is affectionately called) is a master politician and the only reason — apart from the fact that his party is nonexistent in two provinces — that he has not been able to make it to his desired destination is his inability to enunciate his political wizardry. I beg to differ; if diction and oratory had been the desired skills then Chaudhry Shujaat would not have made it to the seat of prime minister — even if it was for a few short weeks.
The James Bond-esque shades
The only reason — apart from the clout in that parliament — for Chaudhry Saab’s ascent was his sartorial elegance. While Chaudhry Saab in his crisp shalwar qameez and designer glasses looked quite at home in a cabinet meeting, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, in his orange checkered roomal over his rumpled kurta, could have only looked at home on a dastarkhuwan with sheermal and qorma
Perhaps, if he had been fonder of the diesel of other kind, he would have stood a better chance. It was his sartorial choices — or lack thereof — that sealed his political fate. Pakistan may not be high on international style meter and our fashion weeks do not even get the fraction of buyers that a Milan fashion week gets, but no-one has made it to the top offices in this country after sporting bedraggled shalwar qameez.
The longevity of erstwhile PM Yousuf Raza Gilani at his former position owes a lot to his fashion sense; early on in his position as the head of government, Mr Gilani had learned that no matter how unintelligent he sounds and how he makes a fool of himself — either in the cabinet meetings or during interviews with former journos — a good suit and a shiny new watch can deflect attention from rather serious matters of state. Since then, we have seen Armani suits, Marc Jacobs’ shirts, Rolex watches, impeccably dyed mustache and of course, the occasional Amir Adnan Sherwani. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, on the other hand, may not survive long. Apart from the very obvious love affair between any PM from PPP and upper judiciary in this country, Raja Saab’s slicked back-do is more appropriate for an Al Capone of Godfather film rather than the Prime Minister’s House. No suit or sherwani can take away that Mafioso look. The moniker his electorate has bestowed up on him — Raja Rental — also deters anyone from taking him seriously.
Perhaps, the only person who thinks that Raja saab is a real prime minister who actually has any control over his government is the chief justice who prompts him to write a letter to random strangers in a country called Switzerland and reopen cases against distinguished people not quite resting in peace. He has not asked the sitting PM to reopen cases against perpetually waiting-to-be PM Nawaz Sharif (is it just me or do other people also feel that Mian saab looks like a vampire at times, always very white and always carnivorous). Two other politicians who owe their popularity to their wardrobe, their sense of style and accessories are Firdous Ashiq Awan and Hina Rabbani Khar. While Hina’s Birkins are easily recognized by most, Firdous’s array of gold bangles is harder to spot, though it is heard that most of her accessories come from the opulent lands of UAE.
If Hina is known to favour Roberto Cavalli shades and the Jimmy Choos that would look great in a Carrie Bradshaw wardrobe, Firdous wins it with her impeccable makeup. It has been pointed out that she does not use any brands other than Bobby Brown and Mac for enhancing her God given beauty. Considering the amount of makeup she uses every day, I have a feeling it would cost the same amount of money it needs to feed an army of a country like Liechtenstein. 

Bobby Brown vs Robert Cavalli
What can and has helped a great deal in the not-so-recent past in the ascent to power is the colour of clothing. If you happen to prefer khaki over all other colours and heads an institution that has over half a million armed men waiting to move against anything and anyone on your orders, chances are that you will at least have a couple of chances to take over the government in your reign. The best thing about this kind of power grab is that you don’t even have to worry about periodic elections and you end up at the top for far longer than any other politico — no matter how many labeled suits he wears. Another thing that aids the men in Khakis to assume and then cling on to the power is their ability to carry big bad boots with their khakis. If khakis maketh the man, then boots are the one that pave the way to the path of power and glory!
Though Khakis have a long established claim to power and glory in this country, the last few years have been instrumental in  bringing another group to the fore — they are ‘The Robed and the Black Coats’. Just because they are endowed with a black robe, they think they can order anyone around — be it an election commissioner or the elected prime minister. They are so high on their robes, imagine how cocky they would have been if they had still been wearing Raj Era wigs. Their conceit would have known no bounds! However, despite their conceit, their self preservation instincts are stronger and they neither issue summons nor do they tell the khakis to write letters to strangers or pay taxes on all the imports for their use.
Originally written for monthly magazine Pique’s August issues
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