It all depends on how you look at it. Last week was Ashura, and though there were blasts in Rawalpindi and Dera Ismail Khan, and a lot of men and bombs captured elsewhere, Ashura itself passed off peacefully. For that, the Federal Cabinet, at the meeting where it approved the National Anti-Terrorism Authority Bill, congratulated Rehman Malik on this. That presumably means that it also approves of both his ban on pillion riding and of his turning off of mobile phones for two days. That seems now to be the standard police response: banning mobile phones and pillion riding. Oh yes, and increasing pickets.

But I think the Cabinet was thanking Rehman Malik for the wrong thing. It should have thanked him for the black velvet cloth-cap he wore during Ashura, presumably to give a befitting reply to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, whose trademark is his black hat. Which is almost as bad as his Christian name, and with which he tried to dominate the D-8 Summit before Ashura, That blessed hat was impressive enough to make Rehman Malik bring out his cloth cap, though it dose not seem to have impressed the Boko Haram guerillas in Nigeria, who are busy indeed these days. Perhaps it will give Rehman Malik the title of his autobiography: Fighting Terror in A Velvet Cloth Cap.

And we must not forget that he is the Sole Warrior on Terror, so the keeping of the peace on Ashura was either part of the War on Terror, or was a needless distraction. We must not forget the War on Terror is meant to make the world safe for Americans, and we need to look at Ashura in that light.

But while we were looking, the first rains of the winter fell, and didn’t caused puddles, but it was enough to clear the air and also to put an end to the sniffles that were going around among children. Now you either have the flu, or you don’t. None of that betwixt and between stage any more.

Speaking of children, we’d be lucky if all they had were winter sniffles. Not having their face bitten off by rats, as one unfortunate experienced. The medical staff was suspended, but that won’t bring back the face. And besides, going by past precedent, those suspended will be restored.

And someone or the other is going to argue the superiority of private hospitals because of this. And you know what? They’d be right. The rats at government hospitals are huge and well-fed. Caesar seems to have had them in mind when he said (according to the Shakspearean play) ‘Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;/ He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.’ Let me have men about me/That are fat;/ Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep of nights.’ There are no rats in private hospitals. Or if there are, they don’t stroll around as if they’re the medical superintendent. Well, more than the medical superintendent, because no medical superintendent has the proprietary attitude towards patients’ food that rats have. And their faces.

Another reason not to go to government hospitals should be evident from the deaths that were blamed on a cough syrup. There is a ban on alcoholic drinks in force, but cough syrups have an alcoholic content. Now it seems alcoholics can’t even trust cough syrups. Anyone who thinks that they will pay much attention to the lab finding that the cough syrup is not to blame, has obviously never had even a friendly discussion with a drunkard. Something tells me that aficionados will now turn to fruits and be readier to opt for desi sharab. Some will prefer the cough syrup to be fatal, such is the depth of the gloom which drives them to drink. We spend our entire lives hearing about the number of people killed, with a further number blinded, by drinking local alcohol. That is because the manufacturer laced the liquor with industrial alcohol, which is ethyl alcohol (which makes people drunk, and is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, including both cough syrup and desi sharab) with an admixture of methyl alcohol, which attacks the brain through its sight centre. Methyl alcohol first makes people blind, and if enough is ingested, kills them. You put a little in industrial alcohol because you want alcohol used in manufacture, not because you want the workforce to be staggering around the factory.

No one has paid any attention to how genuine cough syrup drinkers are supposed to react. After all, with the onset of winter, their number will go up, as the cold congests chests and turns mornings noisy. One has two problems. First, you have all of those winos without a cough. And you have all of those teetotalers with hacking coughs. Both those who make and sell either alcohol-free cough syrup, and cough syrup-free alcohol should see a spike in sales.