BY M.A. NIAZI

The thing we must keep in mind is that it is still cold, and there has been rain in Lahore. Perhaps we should have kept an eye out for the arrival of Mansoor Ijaz, who was supposed to testify in the Memogate affair, but didn’t. No one pointed out to him that he shouldn’t take threats from Rehman Malik seriously, for two reasons. First, because he is the Sole Warrior on Terrorism, and there is so much work to be done, and so little time to do it in, that he doesn’t have time to arrange for Mansoor Ijaz to be assassinated. Second, ever since Dr Malik (as he prefers to be called) got his degree, he decided to devote himself to academic pursuits, and there can hardly be anything more unacademic than killing anyone, and it is even more unacademic, even less worthy of a doctor (and a PhD doctor, not a mere MBBS like Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan), to arrange for the assassination of Mansoor Ijaz.

Mansoor Ijaz must really have some hot stuff up his sleeve for the government to want him not to testify in the Memogate affair. I think the objection is to Mansoor Ijaz, not testifying, because the government has made no move to have him appear before the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which is also conducting a probe into the affair. Well, one presumes that, what with the built-in PPP majority, it isn’t conducting a probe so much as a whitewash of the President. The Memogate affair was as shocking to me as to any Pakistani, but it only became intriguing after the investigation started. Like everyone else, I wanted to know if the President was involved. Presidents are serious people, with frowning brows, like Ayub Khan, or really seriously shaggy eyebrows, like Yahya Khan’s. Everybody after that, whether Bhutto, Fzal Elahi Chaudhry, Ziaul Haq, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Farooq Leghari, Rafiq Tarar or Pervez Musharraf, has tried to live up to them. Only Ghulam Ishaq succeeded even to a little extent. And the only way Asif Zardari can succeed is if he was to let his locks flow in his ears. He should look to Ghulam Ishaq, who was a success as President because of his luxuriant ear-hair. But then, what price Yahya Khan’s nosehair? President Zardari should think before accepting any barber’s offers, which are inevitably ones of trimming, trimming and more trimming. Maybe he should ask Rahman Malik about this, just as he seems to ask him about everything else. Hirsuteness seems to contribute to success in the Presidency, though it does seem that nosehair does not stop secessions.

But President Zardari was in Burma, eyebrows and nosehair and all, calling on Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been struggling since 1990 to have the election results of that year acknowledged, to present her the Benazir Bhutto medal. 1990 was the first time the President’s late wife, after whom the medal is named, was first thrown out of power, and the President in jail (no, that was the second time, in 1996, when the charges were first laid which the Swiss courts have not dealt with). The President also met the President of Burma, and visited the tomb of the last Mughal

Emperor. If he was moved to declaim verse, no one mentioned it. And if he renamed the Benazir award the BBeennaazziirr Bbhhuuttoo Award in honour of the recipient, no one mentioned that either. The first proved that he was no poet-President, unlike the Emperor whose tomb he visited, who must be the only monarch to have also been a poet. Perhaps it’s lucky that monarchs are not poets, for otherwise the kingdom would probably go to rack and ruin. Imagine, if Asif had been a poet, he would have tried to resolve the Memogate affair with a ghazal, and he would have written a nazm on the judiciary. And worse, Dr Babar Awan would have tried to write poetry too, though he would have been as contemptuous in verse as in prose, and instead of Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan giving a Cabinet briefing, we would have got an epic. The defiance of the Supreme Court would have continued, but it would have been educated. Imagine the Attorney General spouting blank verse. The renaming would only have proved what must have been painfully obvious on this visit: that the President didn’t know Burmese.

And then, President Zardari met his Burmese counterpart, Thein Sein. A retired general, someone like the man Zardari succeeded.  Of Burma is not a poet. In fact, military men usually aren’t. One reason might be that poets are allergic to haircuts, which military men are addicted to. And President Thein’s eyebrows and nosehair are unexceptional, no inspiration for President Zardari, even though he was a military man.

However, military men or not, everyone is suffering from the flyover being built on the Ferozepur Road at the Canal crossing. This is apparently to follow up on the Flyover at Kalima Chowk. One of the earliest flyovers was probably the Sherpao Bridge, named after the assassinated elder brother of former NWFP Chief Minister Aftab Sherpao, Hayat Muhammad. Perhaps the prospect of having a flyover named after them will inspire jialas to sacrifice themselves for the President. But whether they do or not, building the underpass will mean traffic jams.