Farooq Sulehria is a London-based researcher in media studies. He has written for many publications and periodicals in Pakistan, Sweden and elsewhere. He can be contacted at mfsulehria[at]hotmail.com.
Back in 1997 [or was it 1998], I was editing Mazdoor Jeddojuhad (Workers Struggle), the weekly organ of the Labour Party Pakistan [now incorporated into Awami Workers party]. After the Clinton Administration fired missiles to destroy al-Qaida camps in south Afghanistan, Mazdoor Jeddojuhad ran a cover story on al-Qaida/Taliban. The provocative sketch we ran, depicting beards raping Afghanistan on the cover, infuriated some jihadis. We received a threat from a group identifying itself as the ‘Osama Group’ [or something like that].
The Jeddojuhad Centre which housed both the Labour Party Pakistan and the weekly Mazdoor Jeddojuhad, was located at the time in a rented building on Abbott Road, Lahore. A close by Imam Bargah was also attacked those days in Qila Gujar Singh. [Again, am not sure if the Imam Bargah was attacked before the time I am speaking about, but puritan violence was on the rise].
In any case, the threat could not be ignored. We were a bunch of unarmed, ill-resourced, activists. Individually, each of us had suffered police violence or a thrashing at the hands of Islami Jamiat Talba. However this new kind of puritan violence was whole other thing in the times of crisis for the left [when being a socialist was a joke].
We thought some measures should be taken. We tried to ‘fortify’ the office. The entry door was locked from the inside and we opened it only if we recognized someone and so on. One day, I asked Comrade Farooq Tariq to at least obtain a pistol for us. ‘I don’t want to die like a rat. At least, I should resist,’ I pleaded. The next day Comrade Zafar Awan [who died in an unfortunate accident at his work place in Paris] produced one.
For the next couple of days, the pistol lay in the drawer of my table. One day, it occurred to me that I had never fired a pistol. I had some experience with couple of guns my cousins had in the countryside. But never a pistol.
‘Look, I’ve got no experience in handling a pistol. Shouldn’t we someday go outside of Lahore and fire some aerial shots,’ I suggested to Comrade Farooq Tariq.
‘No, No, No….you don’t have to do that,’ he fumbled and went on fumbling nervously for a while.
‘What do you mean,’ I asked.
‘Well,’ he took the pistol from my hands, saying, ‘aay pistol kharab aay, aay kehra chalda aay’[“the pistol is out of order. Itdoes not work”]. A hearty laughter, that followed, by comrades present still echoes in my ears.
This funny anecdote flashed into my memory this morning, March 4, while reading a news item on BBC Urdu website.
Reportedly, during the hearing on the case of suicide attack on Islamabad ‘Kutchehry’ (District Courts), the Supreme Court was informed by the agitated Islamabad lawyers that the cops did not fire on the gun-wielding attackers.
‘Instead, these cops informed us that their guns are good for nothing guns. We cannot fire with them,’ the advocates reported to His Highness, the mighty Chief Justice of Supreme Court.
If nuclear Pakistan’s Islamabad police are as ill-resourced and as non-violent as the bunch of activists running Mazdoor Jeddojuhd, we don’t need Mirza Ghalib’s idiomatic Brahmin to predict ‘ye saal (bhi) achha hai’ [for Taliban, of course!].
Unfortunately, we can’t even laugh anymore!
First published on viewpointonline