Ending Jamshed Dasti’s War

Jamshed Dasti, it seems does not have a degree, but that’s not the only education he lacks. The ilm of Bullay Shah, the one where you quit fighting with the devil and fight your nafs first, is also absent. You’d think as a son of the Punjab, a grass roots politician who outdid large feudals of Muzaffargarh, he would know more of the latter edification.

Emboldened by the courts letting him become a Member of National Assembly despite his earlier bar, and having jumped many political party ships, he has now joined the moral policing brigade. He has in the assembly claimed to have a video which exposes parliamentarians living in the Parliament Lodges of having consumed three million rupees worth liquor in a year, to have called dancing girls to the lodges and to have frequently invited women of ill repute.

Where does one start? If there is such a video, the exposure of this piece of technology to tarnish the reputation of your peers is a tremendous breach of privacy laws which in our country is a far cry to enforce. Nonetheless it is a breach.

The other slightly minor issue is that, if this is fiction, to seek some publicity, it is slander. And that is a crime: you know the thing that is punishable in this world and not the after world. Perhaps even less minor because given that the Taliban are looking to eliminate the “citadels of vice,” when and where they find them, it is actually the equivalent of putting a bullseye on the lodges and its inhabitants.

This country has a tradition of hurling accusations at anyone you don’t quite like, exposing the rant to a wider, wilder audience and waiting for the wolves to descend on the person. The power must be exhilarating, probably worth much more than the drunken stupor three million rupee worth liquor can provide. It doesn’t end here, once the prey is mutilated by the self-professed soldiers of God; the perpetrators are celebrated on our streets and mosques. In this way, one becomes a legend. So, it’s not entirely Dasti’s fault to want this glory. It is above all, easy.

It is entirely his fault though to have, at a time we are anaemically crawling towards a national consensus on an anti-Taliban policy, created a diversion in the form of a measuring exercise where we start weighing the moral character of our politicians. It doesn’t help that it is a supposedly the same strain of alleged wickedness that a post-Taliban world would be free of. The oversimplification by enforcing a sense of duality is most unfortunate, because it not only confuses but also denies us the clarity needed to name the enemy.

We need to stop struggling with the notion that the authorities ought to punish sin, defined by a social construct, articulated sometimes by the Dastis, and at other times the Taliban whom we have given legitimacy by pleading to come to a negotiating table. We need to instead allow the moralizing to be done by individuals at their level, or at best at their community level.

The fact that there is no media outrage on Parliamentarians not doing enough for education or health, and a disproportionate scandal when turns out they drink or frolic is telling of our priorities. In the end, it is a shame.

The book of law will protect Pakistan from the abuse of scripture, from any scripture’s abuse. It will protect us from the middlemen who corrupt, stagnate and plunder our spirits. We need to cultivate that spirit which creates better progress indicators for our country. Reported just the other day, Pakistan is now the country with the greatest number of first day child deaths.

But can we expect those without a college education to know how to fix this?

 This was published in Daily Times on March 2, 2014

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