CITY NOTES: Bhola, Charya and Anda Fry | Pakistan Today

CITY NOTES: Bhola, Charya and Anda Fry

Well, they finally got around to handing down a verdict in the Baldia Town fire case, in which 100 factory workers were killed after the factory was set on fire, with death sentences given to Abdur Rehman Bhola and Zubair Charya. They committed the gruesome deed because the factory owner refused to give any extortion money to the MQM, which ordered Bhola and Charya to do what they did.

The names reminded me of the MQM before the 1992 operation, and Altaf fleeing to the UK, not just because of the methods, which continued for years afterwards, but because of the nicknames. In the Altaf days, ‘Bhola’ was not a name for the local sector in charge. He would be named after something he was known for. Like the MQM Sector In-charge known as Nadeem Anda Fry, because of his partiality to fried eggs. This was the era when the MQM was apparently establishing a parallel state structure. For example, the sittings of an MQM panjandrum who rejoiced in the name of Javed Langra were a crypto-Supreme Court, because Javed, or perhaps we should say Mr Justice Langra, dispensed justice, and those who had disputes were encouraged to take matters before him, rather than approach the regular courts. Money was extorted even then, which was a sort of proto-taxation system. The political and defence force was the same, the MQM. I wonder who was the MQM’s CBR Chairman. I don’t know what he was called. Somebody Jaibtarash I suppose, for taxmen are all the same.

‘Burger’ was a nickname given to those who liked burgers (and apparently there were quite a few), not those who had attended English-medium schools. That type of ‘burger’ might be in the MQM, but was unlikely to be at the business-end, and rise to the rank of Sector In-Charge. The earlier generation, like Altaf himself and Farooq Sattar and the late Imran Farooq were educated (Altaf qualified as a pharmacist, while the latter two are both doctors). However, sector in-charges, even three decades ago, were unlikely to have done a masters in philosophy, especially with nicknames like Anda Fry.

Zubair Charya might be in the same tradition, and he reminded me of recent US Defense Secretary Mike ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who earned that nickname when commanding a division. I wouldn’t like to find out how Zubair earned his moniker, but I’m sure it was something which made the MQM High Command feel that it made him reliable for arson, for all that he was known as crazy.

The missing element was the police investigation. Luckily for the arson victims, and unluckily for the accused, the CCPO Lahore was not involved. The man who said that the Motorway rape victim was herself responsible for travelling so late without checking her fuel, would have blamed the factory owner for not paying the extortion money. And the workers, who didn’t check that he had paid. But it seems he wasn’t near the investigation. The CCPO Lahore would have soon sorted out the matter if he had been allowed a little quality time with the factory owners.

There has been a fire on the Motorway, meanwhile, on the Lahore-Sialkot stretch, but on the Karachi-Hyderabad one. There was no rape, no robbery, but 13 people were killed when a passenger van caught fire. I wonder who th CCPO Lahore would blame for that? He would probably want to know whether the journey to Hyderabad was at all necessary.

I know he’s got a lot of bad press recently, but if you think about it, he’s the ideal person to enforce a lockdown. Someone who truly believes that people should sit at home, preferably with one light burning, not to see but to scare away thieves, going nowhere, doing nothing, with as many locks bolted as possible. Now with a second wave predicted, maybe at last the police will be allowed to contribute by allowing them to enforce the lockdown. The lockdown has been very hard on the police, as it has been on all businessmen.

The pamdemic has been hard on everyone, what with the USA (the world’s worst affected country) crossing 200,000 deaths before the world crossed a million deaths. India is the world’s second worst affected country with almost 100,000 dead (a milestone it may well have crossed by the time you read these lines. I hope no one is competing.