Its official: the ostrich is no longer safe in Pakistan. On the upside,it can now feel like everybody else here. Demonstrating a sweeping misreading of the concepts of both evolution and prioritising,the Punjab assembly recently declared to our country and the world that the ostrich is not actually a bird,but an animal. Thats right. We debated and then officially voted what is actually the biggest bird on the planet into another species,because thats just how we roll.
I would like to briefly delve into the logic of this. Despite the fact that it has feathers and lays eggs not just any eggs,but the biggest ones on earth we decided to reclassify the creature into something it is not based largely,I suspect,on someones adventurous appetite. But there is a method to the madness: the change in the animals (I am now legally obligated to use the term) status now makes it easier for it to be shipped in,chopped up and made into a curry. Because thats what the Punjabis actually need: another meat dish. Forget energy,health services,public education sectors and taxation; overlook that our monuments need restoration and that our manuscripts are wilting; ignore politics and the politicians; leave all of that aside because the truth is its the birds that really need to be dealt with.
I wasnt even aware we had ostriches in Pakistan. Its not a creature one usually associates running up and down the rivers of the Punjab,bird or otherwise. Of course there is a symbolic elegance to a government body debating the fate of a flightless bird,much like if the people of Atlantis had debated global warming. But the move really is as perverse as it is banal,and Im having a hard time figuring out why. Why an ostrich? Why now? Why at all?
Horrified as I was that the assembly couldnt find anything else to legislate other than avian existential angst,part of me rationalised it by remembering it was a provincial elected assembly,that perhaps some low-ranking member wants to have a really big omelette and thought he would set things in place. Surely,I thought,this is an anomaly. That reasoning did not last long.
Later,the Supreme Court of Pakistan,the highest judicial authority in all the land,decided that its legal expertise would be best served deliberating upon whether to set the price of a samosa in the Punjab or not. I do realise that the samosa is an important appetiser for many people and one that,on occasion,can inspire legislation. Consider Somalia: that country banned the samosa last year for fear that it may remind too many people of the Star of David,something they consider a Bad Thing. (Honestly though,when did a good defence ever begin with the words,Well,look at Somalia?) But why stop at one samosa? If the SC really has gone into the nitty gritty of fried hors doeuvres,why not decide now on the difference between vegetable and meat samosa prices? What about different kinds of pastry? Fat content? Why stop at food at all? Lets reclassify our Himalayan Snow Leopards as goats and have a truly expensive lunch.
Its Ramzan here now,the month of fasting when the samosa is in again,so I can imagine the legislation to be a sort of connect-with-the-masses move for the SC,and effort to show the bench is concerned with the average citizens. (Ramzan is also probably why most of these cases have to do with food. When fasting,the mind wanders.) Why they would not think of electricity,energy or education is,as ever,a mystery.
Personally,I think the courts time would have been much better served choosing alternate costumes for the Pakistan Olympics team. Patriotic as the green and white salwar kameezes were,the team ended up looking like Nawaz Sharif and I dont think that was what they were going for. Dont laugh too hard,India. At least we didnt let a housewife gatecrash our Olympic parade on opening night (still one of the funniest things to happen in the five-ring circus. Well,that and womens weightlifting.)
The Olympics are actually a wonderful distraction; assuming we arent going to talk about politics or the government or Swiss bank accounts,we can always sublimate our frustration into sports. Heres hoping there is enough electricity to see it the whole way through. Speaking of: I hear that 600 million people in north India were without power. Our condolences. Believe me when I say we know how you feel; everyone not in Karachi can sympathise with you (they privatised their energy thereby making everyone else look bad). Since it seems that only one of our countries can have power at any given time,I suggest a time-share of sorts. Lets temporarily combine our energy resources,then well both get to see the Olympics in a cross-border,free-love party at Wagah.
Well bring the ostriches if you bring the samosas. Promise.
Aijazuddin is a writer and artist based in Lahore