The Punjab is imploding and exploding at the same time.
The explosions have been at the revered Data Darbar, the ‘spiritual heart’ of Old Lahore. But a week later, more fireworks have been discharged – this time only inwards – and the implosion stems from the British-era quarters of Pakistan’s cultural capital not far from Data’s Nagri – the address where the leaders of the Land of Five Rivers have reasoned, debated and legislated since 1935: the Provincial Assembly.
They, i.e. Punjab’s ruling family that has been damage-controlling this little act of sabotage, say a ‘Lota’ (a South Asian sanitary device that is a cross between a beer mug and a teapot, often shared communally for mutual comfort), with the fitting name of Masti Khel, is the primary troublemaker (the nomenclature translates directly as ‘Mischievous Tribal’).
The evidence they present is clear: that MPA Sanaullah Masti Khel, Musharraf-bred in the PML-Q and now a Sharif inspired N-Leaguer, was the sole vanguard of an attempted anti-press revolution in Lahore; the lone spearhead of a brazen yet legalized attack on the media; Spartacus, Stalin and Zia camouflaged as one overweight politico, out to demolish Pakistan’s fifth column (that “disguises” itself as this country’s fourth estate).
For those living under a shell (which is not recommended in a place like Pakistan as shells are not shrapnel proof, but on the other hand, they don’t rely on electricity either), these are the facts.
The Punjab Assembly met last Friday to debate – according to the agenda, colleges for women among several bla bla issues (bla bla because these items were not deemed important enough to legislate that day). Instead, the debate shifted to a non-agenda item: the ‘Fake Degree Scandal’ – Pakistani Parliamentarians of all hues, but predominantly hailing from the Sharif brigades, using unrecognized and even counterfeit degrees to qualify for office. After a fiery show of force by MPAs including Peoply Jiyalas and Q-Leaguers – the N-League’s Masti Khel climaxed with a command performance.
As he tabled what eventually passed as a unanimous resolution for curbing the media, the Honourable Representative from Bhakkar shouted that “Pakistan is being held hostage by the Three Js’: Journalists, Judges and Jenerals”.
Now, if you’re snickering about Masti Khel’s slip, don’t. Stop being a spelling bee and give the man some breathing space. In fact, get to know him a little.
According to the Punjab Assembly’s official website, M. Sanaullah Khan Masti Khel (who is happily married, despite his name’s implied freedoms) is the proud recipient of two undergraduate degrees: an L.L.B. and a B.A. The site lists his phone number (0333-5614444, which shows that he fancies expensive ‘golden’ numbers) and also updates us about his previous portfolio: that he has served as the Parliamentary Secretary of the National Assembly from 2004 to 2007.
Given Mr. Masti Khel’s dual degrees, his post-paid cellular connection and his very important former posting, one can feign surprise about why he would spell ‘Generals’ with a J. But debating his spelling techniques (exactly what the media is doing since last Friday) is like arguing about the safety of air travel in the middle of a crash landing: redundant.
As he is the face of what is arguably the shortest-lived anti-press coup that has ever been legislated out of the Punjab P.A., the question arises: did Mr. Masti Khel act alone, or is he a mere scapegoat?
Not according to one Babar Awan, the PPP’s “PhD qualifed” legal hit man. In response to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s emergency press conference from London (where the Man of Steel announced that Masti Khel types would be fired from his party, while implying that the burly MPA’s questionable past – Masti Khel is a Q-League turncoat – could make this an act of sabotage against his beloved Muslim League), the caustic Law Minister Awan demanded that the “real Masti [mischief] makers should be fired”.
Awan may have a point. The fact that Nawaz’s efficient number two, Punjab Boss and omnipresent Chief Minister Shahbaz, was present and passive during the crusading session, only to make a hasty backdoor exit when things really heated up, helps Mr. Awan’s argument: that this was not a one-man coup – instead, the N-League’s back benchers, with the tacit approval of their provincial chief, only did what they were always meant to do: bash the free press.
But it doesn’t matter. Though many Parliamentarians ‘vented’ against the media over what was an otherwise lackluster beginning to the weekend – after all, only 105 people were reported killed in twin blasts in the Mohmand Agency at almost exactly the same time Punjab’s finest were ripping apart the media for “irresponsible propaganda” – the fact remains that several Parliamentarian degree records up for verification at the esteemed Punjab University have disappeared over the weekend. Yet, this has yet not inspired most mainstream media to stop gloating over their PR victory (almost getting Masti Khel fired) and move on to the real story: that everything in this country is organized, including corruption.
Frankly, I’m beginning to agree with the big guy from Bhakkar. I just hope he adds another ‘J’ to that list – one that can provide a single word summary of his larger, badly spelt point.