To put Pakistan’s year in a nutshell might be a difficult ask, but not for those who slayed 2021 with their charm and scared it with their talent. There were historical events that never happened before, there were new partnerships that sealed the show and there were inventions that even inventors didn’t know of. If January was remembered for the countrywide blackout, it was August that brought in strategic light on Pakistan’s western border. The year 2021 was a first of many firsts—making one wonder if 2022 will be our happily ever after.
Talent that scared many
Tired with inflation in Pakistan, it was now time for some musical magic to capture the horrors of tabdeeli (change). And how. Twelve-year-old Ali Haider lyrically destroyed the farce of a corruption-free New Pakistan when Prime Minister Imran Khan was in cahoots with the corrupt.
“Sadda PM Tareen ji da chota pai ae (our PM is the younger brother of Tareen)”, Haider sang, exposing the fault lines of the tabdeeli project – the sugar scandal involving PM’s close aide Jahangir Tareen and how own ‘chors’ are hidden while only opponents are pursued. The Pandora Papers in its investigation highlighted how Prime Minister Imran Khan “promised ‘new Pakistan’ but members of his inner circle secretly moved millions offshore.” Haider also sang about the PM’s sister Aleema Khan who claimed to have become a millionaire with a sewing machine, a claim that also won Pakistan an entry to 9gag.
“Baji Aleema bhaiya kahe hain tumne nahin ghabrana, lootay ge mil ke, khaey ge mil ke, Imran ka hai tarana (we will loot and plunder together, is Imran’s anthem)”.
Ali Haider is the ‘chhoti packing mein bada bomb’ – he started off with a viral video in front of Minar-e-Pakistan and now he has a studio version of his tabdeeli song.
Not to forget “Sabun mehenga ho jaey to aap ne lagana nahin, aap ne ghabrana nahin (Stop using soap when prices increase, don’t worry)” – Pakistani artiste Saad Alavi’s scathing commentary on the troubles of our times.
Never heard of Indian rapper and YouTuber Om Prakash Mishra? Not to worry Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry has got you covered. In the scariest revelation, he told us that Om Prakash Mishra, who sang ‘Bol Na Aunty’, was responsible for the New Zealand cricket team leaving Pakistan on the pretext of security in September. The mastermind Mishra scared New Zealanders not with his potent singing but by making email addresses. Email IDs with local slurs were behind the threat to foreign cricketers, an investigation found. That this mystery was solved within hours gives hope in a country that is yet to find out the masterminds of a couple of its assassinated prime ministers.
Then there was the talent of TV show hosts. One wondered about the “Formula” of a Formula 1 car, how many people could sit in it and if it runs on petrol. Or another TV host laughing when a panellist said the bananas of Sindh didn’t measure up to the bananas of Mumbai and Dhaka.
If you in Pakistan thought that the meaning of ‘being on the same page’ meant the army chief and the prime minister were BFFs, you were wrong. In 2021 we found out that Imran Khan was General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s boss and not his best friend. Heartbroken? Don’t be. Never forget the good General stood in a queue to get his “egg omelette”, on his own plate, which he ate with his own fork. Heartbreakingly charming indeed.
End of December also marks a year of US President Joe Biden ghosting PM Imran Khan. We still don’t know why. Repeated tries, tricks and trends later, there is still no phone call from POTUS – from ‘Biden Mujhe Call Karo’, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor complaining of no calls from the White House, the PMO putting up posters of calls from others, to the PM being asked in every interview, ‘Yo, why did Biden not call you?’, with him replying, “he’s a busy man”.
Of course, it resulted in Pakistan deciding not to show up at Biden’s Summit for Democracy.
“Absolutely not” were the magic words of the year. And call or no call, no one could stop Imran Khan from being the leader of the not-so-free world. All because of the charm offensive. The win of the Taliban in Afghanistan has been thrown at us like a win of Pakistan. You know how we love winning. ‘Don’t worry everything will be okay’ is the deal even if the ground realities in Afghanistan are stark. Khan has been convincing the world how good the Afghan Taliban are even if that requires moulding the history of the Haqqanis, smearing the Pashtuns as xenophobes, and saying that girls not getting education in Afghanistan is just part of the culture. From the United Nations to Organisation of Islamic Countries, Pakistan remains Afghan Taliban’s mouthpiece. Predict that will continue in 2022.
First-ever to whatever
This year Pakistan went higher and higher with its first-ever bhang policy. Bhang is now being seen as what once ‘murginomics’ was with desi chicken, eggs, sheep, goats — a game-changer. As luck would have it, the new policy will take off with promises of billions of dollars and a sovereign foreign policy. You just wait and watch. Along with bhang comes Pakistan’s first-ever National Security Policy, and the promise of focusing on geoeconomics rather than geopolitics. Now when garlic can be adrak (ginger), international pornstars can do films for the Kashmir cause and Shalwar Kameez banking can bring e-revolution, then 2022 will be whatever in first-ever.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.