Jokes go where pundits fear to tread

November 25, 2008

One of the most common questions I get asked by Pakistani acquaintances is: “Where is this country going?”

After watching the tumultuous events of the past couple of years, and knowing that 12 months ago the idea of Asif Ali Zardari becoming president figured nowhere on my list of  scenarios, I’ve learned to hedge.

“It will probably get worse before it gets better” always seems like a safe response in Pakistan, as it seldom seems to get better for long.

More imaginative Pakistanis however compiled their vision of the future in 2020 with a mock-up front page of Dawn that’s been circulated through e-mail.

The headlines were, of course, humorous, though there is probably an uneasy feeling among many people that perhaps the jokes could come true.

Working from the top down:
    Petrol Prices Hiked – 440Rs/Ltr
    President Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has removed his uniform
    President Ashfaq to visit neighbouring country Balochland
    Seminar on the 9th Death anniversary of Sharif Brothers &
    Pakistan Rupee hits record low, crosses 178 per dollar
    Geo TV is back after 12 year ban
    Will Osama be captured?
    Pakistan Lost The Series against Hong Kong
    Shoaib completed his 12 year ban
    Imran still not satisfied
    Meera’s 25th Birthday

Okay, well you have to be Pakistani, or Indian, to understand some of those jokes.

But, I think anyone can grasp the biggest fears underlying this naughty piece of black humour, namely; the return of the military, the break-up of the country, the economic decline, the refusal of the war on terrorism to go away, and the national cricket team being as hapless as ever in 12 years time.

Loose talk of a failed state breaking apart has been bouncing around now for almost a decade. But clearly things have got worse.

I was put in mind of this by a couple of articles by New York Times writers that appeared over the weekend.

Redrawn map makes Pakistan uneasy” by Jane Perlez led off on a particularly extreme conspiracy theory, “based on a map first circulated in a theoretical exercise in some U.S. neo-conservative circles” that the United States has a secret agenda to break up Pakistan.

And “The Pakistan Test” by Nicholas D. Kristof. It’s not about cricket. Kristof reckons Pakistan will be “Barack Obama’s most difficult international test in the next year”. You have to wonder why he’s says “next year”?

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, in an interview with Associated Press of Pakistan over the weekend, also said 2009 was a crucial year for Pakistan.

What’s going to happen?

Every December I ask myself what nightmares the coming year could bring. Assassinations and something to do with Osama bin Laden usually make the list. But maybe 2009 will surprise us with something good — a great leap forward in the Indo-Pak peace process, maybe. Maybe not.

There are clearly plenty of scenarios out there that I’ve missed. What can they be? This is not a joke.


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‘a great leap forward in the Indo-Pak peace process,’
— there are no ‘leap’ to be taken, only a sincere & pragmatic approach by Pakistan will suffice..or else most of the ‘humour’ seems to be at the next turn, no need of 2020,

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

The biggest issue with Pakistan was they mixed religion with Government. Ideally you need great leaders for a functioning democracy, it could have been the best country in the world if they had stripped Bigot Islam from their books.They should have allowed only civilian government to have ruled them in the past 60 years, the military has hoodwinked them for their personal ambitions & pecuniary benefits.Atleast now they got to work in a collaborative fashion with India which has no territorial ambitions. They need to be fair in budget allocation,giving representations to every province in decision making create structures where punjabi dominance & impropriety is not shown to their citizen but they speak language of one country viz pakistan.I am not very sure if their leaders deliver on their promise abroad or at home.Who knows may be people would benefit if it is split also, there may be massive development in such a case with foreign investors aggressively investing for boosting the economy of respective provinces.Their talent will be picked up by every muslim country in the gulf rich countries. Hopefully if they build trust,strip extremism,ignore corruption it’s ingredients for a prosperous provinces. In its present form not sure if they can do all these things properly.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

Humour does make unbearable things bearable at times. Although the sad plight of a people and a slide down hill of a nation is no laughing matter.

I think a small quotation in a muesum can offer the best advice to such Pakistanis as are aware of the dangers ahead. It goes as under :-

Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC:
Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC:
Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC:
Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC:
Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

Posted by Jitendra Kaushal | Report as abusive

It is true that cultural, religious and political lines can be easily and harmlessly crossed through jokes. A tense situation can be made lighter by jokes, but the present situation in Pak is no joke. This involves the lives and livelihood of 150 million people and its repercussion across the sub-continent.

Religious bigotry spread from the days of Zia can’t be undone in matter of few years. I believe the country of Pakistan is divided into Islamist radicals & Educated moderates. The country shall go done the line of radicals before it can re-emerge as a Modern Islamic state as envisioned by its founding fathers. Able leaders and enlightened policies can help Pakistan whilst there is a scarcity. I see modern education, reconciliation, democracy and consensus as the way forward.

Whenever the country was in a mess the people of Pakistan have looked up to the military to help them out. If the present stimulus package from IMF and the policies of Mr. Zardari on US and Taliban couldn’t deliver for Pakistan, 2009 may see another stint of military rule in Pak.

In 2009, the present status quo of one step forward and two steps backward in Indo-Pak relations shall remain with the deep mistrust between the two. Mr. Obama’s policy on Afghanistan could be a double edged sword for Pakistan and the Pusthon population on either side of the border shall determine the outcome.

Redrawing the map of Pakistan can localize the Taliban issue to FATA & NWFP but the larger threat of religious extremism shall still be widespread across the region. Many Pakistanis havent reconciled with the dismemberment of East Pakistan in 1971, while further balkanization shall hurt the minds & lives many Pakistanis and further destabilize a region already in deep trouble.

In 2009 we hope for the best of Pakistan and the world alike while preparing for the worst.

Posted by Srinivasan | Report as abusive

To put it bluntly.
If the biggest TERRORISTS in the world the USA and it’s pathetic little side kick the UK went home, everything would be fine.

Posted by Rabbani | Report as abusive

I think this guy rabbani mirrors what any average pakistani is like – to be in a state of self denial at all times. they do not want to accept reality and always turn to God for solace. but they dont realise that God can help if they help themselves first. They always look for a free lunch. thats why everyone in their eyes are terrorists and they are the picture of piety and purity.

Posted by aarvey | Report as abusive

US and Israel together with the UK have security issues therefore they fear the world but sorry for them it’s a new world rising and finally people now stand up together… No one will be bullied.

Posted by Alfaarooq | Report as abusive


Why can’t i do whatever i like without beleiving any religion or beleiving my own religion. If god wanted him to be worshipped only by that name as you say in the booklet,he would have fixed this issue long time back? Will he punish me if i don’t call Allah & he will reward me if he calls me that. I think i don’t force anyone to study religiion this is their choice & their self discovery.

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive

Rabbani: “.. if USA and it’s pathetic little side kick the UK went home, everything would be fine.”

Then, Pak (and their side, back & front kicks) can open the last frontier, the only obstacle to the Muslim world domination. The Pak Army in disguise will then concentrate on the biggest NON-Muslim (and economically successful to boast) country, that is, China. Pak will start the export of Muslim terrorism and mayhem to eventually make the Chinese Han (who mistakenly think that they are superior to Islam) bow down to Islam, i.e. become Muslim.

It would be the day to watch China’s own exports of Nuclear know-how and Missiles to Pak being returned in kind – not quite what the Chinese strategized !

Posted by Abrahm | Report as abusive

I’ll ask again, is there anybody out there who has some cogent view on what the next year and beyond might hold in store for Pakistan?

Posted by Simon Cameron-Moore | Report as abusive

These all jokes can well be said for indians … They have so much hatred for Pakistan that they think, reason for all their problems lies with Pakistan …how stupid.
Indians …PAKISTAN will be there for ever but we dont know about India with so much riots and bombs going out there, you did not believed in 1947 …and dont want to believe now.

Posted by kam | Report as abusive

Ya Kam, we do believe in 1947. And we also believe in 1971 when half of pakistan became bangladesh. And then there are more bombs blowing in pakistan, some falling from sky, some being carried on the truck.

And yes, it will be wrong to think that all our problems is because of pakistan. And we don’t think like that but this is true that pakistan is one of the biggest problem for this world including India.

Posted by Sushant | Report as abusive

Mr. Vijay you sound highly misguided and ignorant without having even a surface knowledge of Islam. Islam is a complete code of life and teaches the followers the optimum princioples to lead a life full of peace, prosperity and social justice. The problem with us Muslim is that they have failed to adopt Islamic principle in its real form. I don;t deny the scores of issues the Islamic societies especially the Pakistani have to face, But it’s stupidity to attribute these shortcomings to Islam. I think the real problem here in pakistan is not because of Islam but it’s due to the typical Hindu traditions we are still unable to cast away. In socieites where Islam is practiced in its real form you can appreciate yourself the kind of tranquility and social peace and prosperity.

Posted by Shayan | Report as abusive

This is the time when India and Pakistan join hands and embrace each others as long-lost brothers, and forget about all past differences for a new dawn and for the betterment of next generation. Religion is not going to solve any problems of people living within the boundaries of these two nations. These nations were created by zealots disappeared long time ago from the face of this earth, and left others to suffer. Good Luck!!!

Posted by maddev | Report as abusive