CITY NOTES: With a pinch of kala namak

Two flags have this year flown in buildings they never flew over before

I wonder if anyone has noticed that the prime minister has had repeated meetings with the chief of army staff and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general at Prime Minister’s House. I suppose that Imran could easily receive the two in a drawing room, but he prefers to receive them on the lawn, where they are photographed with the PM on an armchair, and the two generals on sofas flanking him. No one knows what they talk about, the lawns being free from bugging, unless somebody was to use a multidirectional microphone. However, it seems that they can safely discuss international affairs, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) movement or any other weighty national or international matter. However, I would suspect that as soon as the photographer had taken his snap and disappeared, liveried waiters turn up, bearing trays of kinnows, which the PM and the generals then proceed to consume, basking in the winter sun, which is particularly welcome in Islamabad these days. Teachers all over the country, from primary to postgraduate, have invented a refinement. They get their students to take their chairs to the roof of the institution, which is where they consume their kinnows. Female pedagogues take along their knitting. While Imran and the generals do not indulge in knitting, I am sure they too take liberal doses of kala namak with their kinnows.
Well, at least they were not taken over. I wonder if they talked about the takeover of the Red Fort by protesting farmers. The COAS might have an interest, because some Bajwas might have been involved, but I doubt if he knew any of them, for they might all belong to the same caste, they were all Sikhs, which he is not. But the ISI DG might have claiming credit, for the ISI was blamed enough during the 1980s Khalistan movement for backing it. The conflation of the farmers’ protest with the Khalistan Movement with the farmers’ protest gained strength when farmers taking over the Red Fort waved the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag, over the Red Fort.
It is interesting that two flags have this year flown in buildings they never flew over before. On January 6, the Stars’n’Bars flew in the US Capitol when protesters tried to stop the certification of the election result which would throw their man Trump out of office. The Confederate flag had never before made it to the Capitol, though getting there was an ambition of the Confederacy throughout its brief existence.
Now the Nishan Sahib has made over the Red Fort. It would once have been a sign of the old Sikh rhyme ‘Aap Guru da khlasa Baqi rahe no ko, Dilli takhat tay bahegi tay barhi karegi mauj (There will be none left but the Khalisa of the Guru, It will sit on the throne of Delhi and will greatly enjoy itself). Khalisa’ has a dual meaning here. It means both the followers of the Guru, and the Army of the Sikhs. Sikhs were martial, and had an animus against the Mughal Emperors. But though they established a state in Punjab, they never occupied Delhi. Until this January 23. But was it the Khalisa? It was certainly not the Army. Or was it farmers?
I wonder if in the midst of peeling kinnows and asking each other to pass the kala namak, the Big Three paid any attention to how Transparency International had dropped Pakistan three places in the corruption index. One explanation, favoured by the opposition, is that previous rulers were not corrupt. Another, favoured by the government, is that Nawaz Sharif went abroad specifically so that he could bribe Transparency International to show that result. Some PTI circles are said to have promised to generate a new NGO, which would present the true picture, with Pakistan at the top of the ‘purity index’ and India at the bottom.
But maybe the talk also included the TikTokkers arrested at Lahore Railway Station. As was stressed by the Railways Police, defence installations could have been photographed. The COAS must have expressed relief at their safety. Imran must have kept quiet, fighting off the impulse to defend the youth vote in its desire for a nice video.

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