Holes in the road

City Notes

Well, the decision in the Avenfield flats reference has come through, but I’m not sure what PTI workers were celebrating on Friday. There was hardly any doubt about the result, but the court lost a historic opportunity by not declaring that Imran Khan was immediately Prime Minister of Pakistan. That will have to wait until the 25th, and Imran will have to go through the rigmarole of elections to be crowned.

One of the most noteworthy things about the whole episode is how PML-N diehards did not behave as if their mothers had died. Nobody indulged in self-immolation either. You might remember that when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged, six PPP workers set themselves on fire. Someone had failed to make the necessary arrangements. Mian Nawaz escapes blame not so much because he was in London, as why: his wife’s unconsciousness and being placed on a ventilator. So Mian Shehbaz gets the blame. Not only is he the younger brother, but also Mian Nawaz’s successor as PML-N President.

However, Mian Shehbaz had problems of his own. Like escaping the blame for the great big hole in The Mall because of the rain, over the Metro station. The fear over the threat to heritage sites, it seems, was misplaced. Well, the rain, which was the worst in July ever, breaking the record set in 1980, at least showed up the flaws in the Orange Line. We could look on the bright side. At least there were no more collapses. And at least the Orange Line had not been inaugurated. Imagine if there had been a collapse after it had been inaugurated, and on top of a train. Scores would have been killed, and even more would have been trapped under the rubble.

Well, Mian Shehbaz, contrary to the narrative the PTI wished was in place, was not seen taking a sledge hammer to The Mall above the Orange Line, and nor did anyone blame him for the rain. I don’t know if Mian Shehbaz’s explanation, that the caretaker government did not make proper arrangements, had much more impact. Certainly, the image of Hasan Askari Rizvi standing in Wellington boots in some vast puddle, does not give much confidence.

Still, in mitigation of the sins of whoever was responsible for the Orange Line collapse, let it be remembered that the rains were such that an overhead bridge collapsed in Mumbai. It wasn’t a railway bridge, being an ordinary road bridge connecting the west and east of Andheri, a large neighbourhood in Mumbai, but as it was over the railway station, it brought all rail traffic crashing to a halt. It was restored, but it was the responsibility of the BJP, which holds office in the centre as well as Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the biggest city. We’re lucky here in Lahore, as not only have all our overhead bridges survived the rains, but nobody got hurt on The Mall– five people were injured enough in Mumbai to need hospitalisation. Fractures.

Perhaps the monsoon was the right time for the Supreme Court to open an account and call for donations to build the Bhasha and Diamer Dams. Not to mention the promise that all money recovered from written-off loans would go to dam building. No one is building the Kalabagh Dam though. The Sindh and KPK sections of the Supreme Court Bar Association would be among the first to protest.

Nobody seems to be protesting the Arrest of Mian Nawaz’s former Secretary, Fawad Hassan Fawad. The first bureaucrat arrested was Ahad Cheema. The net seems to be tightening around Mian Shehbaz. Surely somebody’s nerve will snap, and he will decide to turn state’s evidence. Just in case Mian Shehbaz has a majority behind him after the general election, you need to be able to get him disqualified, and for that you need an approver. And who better than a bureaucrat? I’m not just remembering Bhutto because of the self-immolations after his hanging, but because of Masood Mufti, the approver on whose evidence he was convicted of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan’s murder, and hanged. One difference is that Fawad is a DMG officer, Mufti a PSP. Another is that Mufti didn’t have a takhallus. A takhallus doesn’t mean one writes poetry, nor does not having one mean that one doesn’t turn out the odd ghazal or dash off the occasional nasri nazm, but it is indicative.

Another example would be Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has been elected as President of Mexico. Though elected at the beginning of the month, he has to wait until December 1 for his inauguration. He will serve a six-year term, and cannot be re-elected. He’s a socialist, but he’s been compared to Donald Trump. Imran Khan would like him, for he lost in 2006 and 2012, and claims that both times the election was rigged. Well, Imran claims the last two elections were also rigged.

Imran might well claim the World Cup was rigged. Look, Brazil was knocked out of the World Cup, and it’s going to be the first time that the semifinals won’t have Brazil, Germany or Argentina. And thus, for the first time ever, it’s an all-European semifinal. But the hosts, Russia, has been knocked out. As a matter of fact, the only time France or the UK have won World Cups has been when they were hosts, so this was Russia’s best chance. Well, there’s one sportsman left with a chance of being a winner at home, and that’s Imran. If he doesn’t win this time, then when will he?