I never thought I will ever say it out aloud, let alone in a column, but lately I have been having dreams about ‘Federalism in Pakistan,’, and that’s a fact of life I now have to deal with.
It all started two days ago, on my way back from Nathiagali to Lahore, when I was returning from a conference about dialogue and democracy, and dozing peacefully in my car with bags of potato chips on my lap and a can of soda on my knees. Suddenly I woke up with a start and realised that I had just been interrupted in a dream about Mao Tse Tung, potted flowers and federalism.
Precisely in that order.
Now what was that all about? I asked myself. I don’t remember the last time I had such a serious dream. Normally my dreams are about me chasing my kids in the garden or vice versa. Now how on earth did this happen to me?
And then I looked at the book in my hand called A Biography of Pakistani Federalism by Mian Raza Rabbani and I said to myself “Oh, it’s all Shamoon Hashmi’s fault.” Now those of you who don’t know Shamoon Hashmi, please Google him and find out for yourself. I assure you, it will be worth the effort. For me he is the most eloquent bureaucrat I know, and an old friend who can quote Ghalib better than Ghalib himself. He is the one who first invited me to a conference, then put me on a panel with Mr Ghazi Salahuddin, one of the most well read intellectuals of contemporary Pakistan, and then eventually gave me a book to read.
Now after one listens to Mr Salahuddin and gets an inferiority complex for one’s own disgraceful lack of knowledge, then what does one do if not be shamed into reading the first book at hand, and start dreaming about it?
Yet, if truth be told, it was not shame alone that contributed to this act. The title might look dry and abstruse, but the content is easy on comprehension and anecdotal in style. Once you start reading the first page, you are pleasantly engaged and not bored even for a minute. Plus I have had my eye on this book ever since early this year when Mr Rabbani visited my workplace for a conference.
Now I never thought I will say it out aloud, let alone in a column, but lately there is another thing that has been happening in my head and that too in broad daylight.
I have been feeling nostalgic about my long lost love for Pakistan People’s Party and thinking “Those were the days my friend.” But that’s all Shamoon Hashmi’s fault as well. First he tried to shame me for converting into a PTI buff, then he put me in the middle of some die hard PPP supporting intellectuals whose love of the written word impressed me and depressed me to no end, and then he made me sit through speeches of people who made me recall my own statement from the last elections “I am voting for PPP because it is the only party with the most educated people and the most liberal ideas.”
I have heard Mr Rabbani before, but what I liked the most about him this time was the way he took questions from the young people present. When a young man from Balochistan asked seven questions instead of one, and the questions were not even remotely easy to answer, Mr. Rabbani quietly told the moderator who wanted to cut him short: “Let him speak.”
It is surprising how sometimes little gestures like a half mumbled “Let him speak” can change perceptions about people and what they stand for, better than long-winded speeches and emotional outbursts.
Now for those of you who might be thinking of me as a complete lota, I am not saying that going to one conference has reconverted me to my old flame – the PPP. It hasn’t. But it has raised a few questions in my mind that I do feel should be addressed at some level.
Like why don’t we see more of the ‘let him speak’ type of people on TV, for instance? Or why doesn’t PPP promote Mr Kundi, the youngest deputy speaker in the history of Pakistan. Now Mr Kundi might be no Imran Khan but he is amicable and cute in his own way. So why do we go gaga over Hina Rabbani Khar being young and good looking and not Mr Deputy Speaker? Gender discrimination, huh?
Now I understand that my questions are not quite academic and I am afraid those who already gave me snooty looks for being a PTI fan will now judge me even more, but hey, as the wise woman often says “If you are an ordinary Pakistani, then you are bound to act like an ordinary Pakistani, right?” No point in pretending to be something you are not.
The most moving talk of the event for me was one given by Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the ANP leader from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His personal tragedy of losing his only son at the hands of militants is known to everyone, but what made his narrative immensely powerful was the dignity with which he told it.
I am sitting at home now and thinking that if Pakistan and its political scene have so many wonderful people, then how did we reach the point that we have? Mr Rabbani said that our long wait is over, and change is just around the corner.
I just hope that it’s true. Not only because I want this change. But more because I found this man believable, and I want to be reassured that I am not a complete fool when it comes to trusting people.
And for my young PTI supporting readers, who must be flexing their fists to write me long e-mails, please rest assured I am the same IK fan as I was before going away, but there is one thing that I must say here. You need to do something about your emotional activism on Twitter. That’s the only area a PTI fan stuck in the middle of dozens of PPP supporting intellectuals really has a tough time defending.
The writer is a teaching fellow at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS. Email: adiahafraz@ gmail.com