Hypocrisy of the most blatant kind

Ayaz Amir:

Blood tests ordered by my cyber medical consultant, Dr Mahjabeen Islam MD, USA, have plunged me not into any kind of depression but a decidedly pensive mood. My mind has been dwelling on the vanity of human wishes, the hollowness of human pretensions, the transitory nature of all things, etc.

Part of the problem has been Latif Ghee from the good parish of Chakwal itself which I am now informed is the favourite cooking medium of the place from where I regularly used to get my halwa-puri on Thursday mornings.

Local gourmets tell me Latif Ghee is several lethal stages ahead of regular dalda, our favourite cooking ghee which is pushing Pakistan relentlessly into the top drawer of nations most at risk from cardio-vascular disease.

If I had to do it all over again, what would I do? Cut out the nuts, especially the peanuts. Too much fat, and of the bad sort, is a more serious national problem than the demonisation of things yellow which has stood at the top of our moral agenda since that fateful summer of 1977 when in order to appease the religious right wing, on the warpath because of the disputed elections of that same year, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto thought he had played a masterstroke by banning drink, gambling and horse-racing. When Gen Ziaul Haq seized power not long afterwards, Bhutto’s masterstroke became one of the central tenets of state policy, ban this and that, the glory of Islam reduced to a set of punitive decrees. We didn’t become any more Islamic during those years but hypocrisy of the most blatant kind.

It was not enough to start official functions with the words “In the name of Allah…” which one would have thought took care of everything. Never mind that PIA was steadily going to the dogs, it began its flights with a prayer that the Prophet used to say before setting out on a journey. Mosques were built everywhere. When time was set aside for prayer during office timings, bureaucracy had another excuse to avoid work.

Beards and dopattas first invaded then dominated the TV screen. The begums of the great went in for milads in a huge way, at official expense of course. Bhutto’s ban on drink was not enough. It was made stricter, inviting heavier punishment, by the Hadood laws passed by General Zia in February 1979.

All very well and highly desirable if these practices in any way tended to produce a more pious nation. Alas, in its everyday life the nation continued to be as cheerfully sinful and corrupt as before. The crucial difference was that cheerfulness or merrymaking went underground. Two consequences followed: cheerfulness became more expensive and thus beyond the reach not only of the poor but of the white collar class; and a premium was put on make-believe compelling perfectly sensible people to behave in a manner at odds with their natural or spontaneous behaviour.

Ours was a perfectly healthy and normal society, with huge problems of course but with none of the psychological distortions that have crept in now. If we are a sick society today it is not so much because of the elusive quest for constitutionalism and other things political as because of the violence we have done to our social mores, pushing perfectly normal patterns of behaviour into the realm of the criminal and the sinful. The moral brigadism visited upon the hapless people of Pakistan has produced a culture of taking the perfectly normal and natural behind closed doors.

Ayaz, a cloumnist for Dawn, writes for THT from Islamabad