Aug 29, 2011

A Strauss-Kahn in Chakwal by Ayaz Amir

Ayaz Amir Columns
Here I was about to write of Karachi – the title floating in my mind “How Stalin would have resolved the situation”, standing up against a wall the entire Karachi administration and not a few of its political leaders – and here something has occurred in Chakwal to claim my flitting attention.
I have been accused of various things in my time – heresy to personal failings, from homage to Bacchus to philandering (this last vastly exaggerated…often the quietest souls are the most successful in this field while those who strut about or thunder the most are like dogs whose bark is worse than their bite).
During the last elections my embittered opponents, expecting a free run but not getting it, would buy entire pages of the local press to recount my personal failings, culled mostly from my own columns over the years. Which, in a way, was flattering. Who cares about yesterday’s columns? But my opponents, or their local hirelings, would go through them with an avidity I found amusing.
But for all my breaking of the ten commandments and more, never was I accused of rape. Now this defect stands remedied by an application against me by one Ms Tubassam in the court of the local sessions judge. The story is interesting.
On the 17th of August a kidnapping-cum-robbery case is registered against Tabassum, her uncle and aunt, and a few others, in police station Chakwal. The complainant is Tabassum’s mother-in-law, who also happens to be her real aunt.
On the 20th of August, full three days later, Tabassum moves a longish application under Sec 22 (A and B) against members of her own family, accusing her sister-in-law of running her as a demimondaine (French for the oldest profession), but laying stress on a singular circumstance that the local MNA, yours truly, subjected her to criminal assault (the word rape sounds jarring if used too often) in May this year, using force and violence and threatening her with dire consequences should she open her mouth.
This puts me in the distinguished company of Dominique Strauss-Kahn…with some important distinctions. In Strauss-Kahn’s case the scene of the action is New York’s Sofitel Hotel, a suite there putting you back by $3000 a night; the scene of the alleged thriller in my case is my bazaar house in Chakwal, its entrance lined by a row of shops. Enter or leave and you will be noticed by at least a score of people.
The second difference is that whereas Strauss-Kahn’s accuser had contacted the police immediately, my femme fatale is three months late, that too after the registration of a criminal case against her. I am not mentioning a third difference: I wasn’t about to enter the French presidential race. In the French case, there was some medical evidence to go by. In this case, no medical evidence, no witnesses. Just the word of the Mata Hari.
But how could a mere girl bring such an accusation against a sitting MNA? Where there’s smoke there must be a fire, I can hear armchair cynics say. As a permanent member of the club of cynics myself, I can appreciate this line of argument. Except for some telling circumstances, also worthy of consideration.
My opponents, and their number is not small, jump quickly into the fray. Their hirelings in the local press start working overtime to spread word of the MNA’s involvement in such a heinous crime. What is the world coming to?
And the Venus from Langah (her village) finds herself with strong legal help from the local bar. Pushing her application are three leading lawyers: Amin, Shaidy Shah and Amir Butt, all Q League stalwarts, Amin having been additional advocate general Punjab and Shaidy Shah an assistant advocate general when Ch Pervaiz Elahi was chief minister. Amir Butt, an able civil lawyer, was a local nazim, again a pillar of the Q League.
These lawyers don’t touch a piece of paper without commanding hefty fees. They are not known for doing anything pro bono, this just not being their style. And here for nothing, for no money at all, they hasten to the assistance of a young girl whose virtue and honour were violated by the local MNA: very touching. In the local bar these lawyers are known as members of the Z Group. Now what does Z stand for in Urdu? I’ll have to look this one up in the dictionary.
Most of the local press, knowing what is what, and having a fair idea of Ms Tabussam’s background, observes restraint. But a small group of ultra-loyalists to my Q League opponents consider this a heaven-sent opportunity, not to be missed. As that old Turkish proverb goes, you can shut the gates of the mightiest fortress but not the mouths of your enemies.
Still, there should be no hard feelings on this score. Politics is not a game for the delicate or the timid. When frustrated opponents get a chance they will be sure to exploit it. The analogy is far-fetched, and I am not making any pompous comparisons, but when Clinton was accused of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, the Republican hard-core just wanted to bring him down. Rats will be rats and your opponents will do what they can.
Even from Ms Tabussam’s point of view this strategy is ingenious for it distracts attention from her own case and focuses it on the MNA’s exploits.
And Fauzia Behram reserved-seat MPA from the PPP, affectionately called ‘Phuppi’ (auntie) in local PPP circles, and famous for her wrestling prowess in the Punjab Assembly (she was again in the news recently for felling a woman member from the other side to the ground…I wouldn’t want to be on her wrong side) rushes to Langah, promises Ms Tabassum something from the Bait-ul-Maal, and shouts that no one is above the law. I await with trepidation her next move.
Last time Auntie got angry with me she accused me at a public meeting in Thaneel Kamal (this was a year ago) of having an affair with a 23 year old girl. Her niece, Palwasha Khan, reserved-seat PPP MNA, said I should be flattered. I said let me at least have the girl’s telephone number. She gave a half smile and walked away. Palwasha is pretty and intelligent, beauty and brains. But I suppose there is no choosing one’s aunts.
An affair with a 23 year old indeed…I’d be a happy soul, counting my blessings, if a tenth of these charges were true. I know my own worth in this field. A mirror does not lie. One cannot fake being a Casanova or a ladies’ man: one is or one isn’t. I wouldn’t mind all the slander in the world provided I could convince myself – I am not interested in convincing others – that there was something to all this after all.
I would then not “…all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate…Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope…” I would have a wicked glint in my eyes.
In this particular case my frustration stems from something else. The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has been accused of an affair with the 17-year old Moroccan girl known as Ruby, very tempting and very exciting. From the photos I have seen of Ms Tabussam, my curiosity aroused after her application, not even her fiercest friends would accuse her of resembling Berlusconi’s Moroccan flame. This is what rankles.
If I am even remotely guilty of criminally assaulting Ms Tabassum, or anyone like her, then there should be no hope for me, and no clemency. For I would be guilty not only of a criminal offence, a serious matter in itself, but of something far worse in the eyes of the initiated: an appalling and unforgivable lack of taste.
A violation of the law, and a serious one at that, is only worth it if the prize be sufficiently tempting. Far be it from me to run down a lady, any lady, especially one from the demi-monde – I never do that, having always considered the oldest profession to be a necessary adjunct to the human condition – but rape, and on Ms Tabussam?
This is to paint me as a desperate man, bereft of choices. I feel insulted.

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