Thursday, December 15, 2005
Thugs R Us
A few weeks ago the chattering classes had a field day with an attention-grabbing story from Punjab’s heartland. Surprisingly, apart from an allusive photograph (above) on the front page of 7 December’s ‘Nation’ newspaper, no local newspaper appears to have had the will or inclination to report it.
As I haven’t blogged for the past month, I might as well recount the tale for the benefit of those who have still not heard it.
It goes something like this:
On a late October or early November day a modern-day ‘prince’ of Punjab was driving through the streets of Lahore accompanied by his usual cavalcade of goons and armed police escorts.
It just so happened that a young Pakistani lad, visiting from abroad, made the unfortunate mistake of driving too close to the fast-moving convoy and his vehicle grazed one of the police patrol cars. Suddenly all hell broke loose as he was dragged from out of his car for this perceived act of lèse majesté and slapped about by the police (and according to some accounts, the incensed ‘prince’ himself).
Not satisfied with this dose of chastisement the annoyed ‘prince’ had the young man sent to a police thana for further punishment. At the police thana the Punjabi tullas thrashed him with their customary zeal.
After the passage of some time one of the policemen took mercy on the by now bruised and battered young man and provided him with the opportunity of telephoning his family to let them know of his unfortunate predicament. The young man called up his aunt, who interestingly enough turned out to be one Mrs. Sehba Musharraf.
Soon two cars drove up to the thana from the Lahore Corps command. After severely ‘chastising’ the police the soldiers took the injured young man away.
Shortly afterwards a missive from Islamabad was delivered to the 'prince’s' father, who happened to be Pervaiz Elahi, the Chief Minister of Punjab. Elahi Sr. was told that his son Moonis, already notorious for making extraordinary profits in Lahore real estate, either left Pakistan within twenty-four hours ‘or be prepared to face dire consequences’.
And so Moonis, in the characteristic manner of most bullies, fled to London on the first available flight.
Now coming back to the photo - it was on the Nation’s front page more than a month after the malevolent incident. It was accompanied with the following innocuous subtitle, “President Pervez Musharraf meets Chief Minister Ch Pervaiz Elahi and his son Moonis Elahi”. In political speak this means: The Big Boss’s has officially forgiven Moonis and the bounder has been allowed back in to Lahore.
Undoubtedly some urban armchair intellectual will blame Moonis Elahi’s behaviour on his feudal upbringing and others will nod their heads wisely in agreement. This argument does not hold water
Why? Well Moonis’s family (along with the vast majority of Punjab’s MNAs and MPAs) are members of Punjab’s traditional urban middle classes. In fact the founding father of the Gujrat Chaudhries was one Zahoor Elahi, a police constable who gradually rose to political success and notable wealth by devotedly supporting each and every military dictator - General Ayub Khan (1958-68), General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88) and General Pervez Musharraf (since October 1999).
The problem is that in the Punjab Assemby it is no longer possible to distinguish the new lot of urban politicians from Lahore, Faisalabad or Gujranwala from the traditional feudal politicians from Multan or Dera Ghazi Khan. Over the decades the newly-minted chaudhries have forsaken their traditional tehmats (or in case of the more modern, western suits) for the Pathan/Baloch garb of waistcoat & shalwar kameez .
Recently another one of these nouveau feudal politicians hit the headlines for his crass misdeeds. He is none other than Musharraf’s current Federal Minister for Law, Justice & Human Rights, a lawyer from Faisalabad by the name of Chaudhry Mohammad Wasi Zafar. Wasi Zafar is a lota from the PPP; he got re-elected as an MNA after switching allegiance to Muslim League (Chumcha group) in time for the 2002 general elections.
In August Wasi Zafar and his son got involved in a brawl at the Karachi airport with a passenger who had questioned their preferential treatment by the security staff. The News reported that the injured passenger, who had been subjected to vicious ‘punches and kicks’, needed on the spot medical treatment by medical officer of Civil Aviation Authority.
Only a month later this same Musharraf-appointed national upholder of Law, Justice & Human Rights was involved in another fracas at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel. According to newspaper reports the Minister from Faisalabad entered one of the hotel restaurants at midnight and got so displeased by the delay in the delivery of his meal that he ended up thrashing a poor waiter by the name of Zulfiqar.