|Illustration by Fahad Naveed|
We Punjabis, trendsetters that we are, took the lead in changing the country’s name to Al-Bakistan when we began affixing car registration plates with this name in Arabic script. But one must give credit to the Sindhis, shrewd chaps, who took another step that began a trend leading to a whole new world and to a possible name change for the country.
It all started years ago, when paranoia rode high in Karachi (when has it ever ridden low anywhere in Pakistan since its inception?) that a large number of shipping containers had to be moved to the posh Clifton area to block one track of the double road in front of a Zardar (gold owner) home. We were told the stacked containers were to keep at bay houri-seeking, young suicide bombers in explosive-laden jalopies. The bound-for-paradise bombers could blow up all they wished, but all they would be able to do was make scrap of some rotting containers while the gold diggers in the mansion remained safe.
When I first saw this arrangement, I jokingly remarked to a friend that this was not Clifton but Containerpur. Little did I know that a trend had started. When the Knave of Hats arrived on the polluted Ravi shores of Lahore this June, the city all of a sudden mushroomed with shipping containers blocking its roads. No ordinary law-abiding or even ordinary law-breaking (as most of us are) citizen could get anywhere in Lahore without lengthy detours.
The worst was getting into or out of Lahore. For a couple of weeks, exit and entry points to the city were blocked by containers. If you wanted out, whether to the south or in the opposite direction, you were not permitted. But if you somehow managed to sneak out, you were locked out and could not get back in. Indeed, even getting from one place to the other, within the city, was quite impossible.
I know school kids who were terribly unhappy about all this: They rued that this great lockdown was taking place during their summer vacations. If only the tamasha could have been held after schools reopened, they would have enjoyed a few more holidays. But when the great revolution and the great tsunami resolved on the eve of Independence Day to move north to the capital, the containers moved as well. Aside: Independence Day was such a damp squib this year. We had none of the excitement we had so got used to — neither silencer-less motorcycles roaring across town from dawn until well after midnight, nor dozens of young wheelie-doers dying after spilling their brains on the footpaths. Not even one!
But back to the containers. Some disgruntled manufacturers carried on about how their shipments were being delayed because of the game of containers, but no one really knows what the tin trunks contained — except for two, and these contained, other than double beds and thunder boxes (now renamed porta-potties), an infinite load of hot air. Once in Islamabad, the hot air was expended freely until climate change set in and we had a deluge that even Islamabad was not accustomed to.
Meanwhile, the road-blocking containers lay around uselessly because they failed to stop the revolutionaries and renewers of Pakistan (remember, they want to have a Naya Pakistan) from going ahead to attend to the call of nature in the lawns of the Parliament House. Given the amount of excrement piled up where 20,000 of them had camped, they simply needed a change of air.
The numberless and useless shipping containers in the capital led to the (under) privileged motion in the parliament that the country be henceforth renamed Containeristan. As you read this, the motion is going in for voting. And sooner than you know, the country will have new currency notes featuring, no, not Mr Jinnah, but shipping containers and the Urdu phrase ‘Bank Daulat Containeristan’.