Kids Corner




If The Shoe Fits ...



We once again present to you a column from Fakir Aijazauddin. Since he lives and writes his wonderfully insightful columns from Lahore, a city not only dear to Sikhdom but also central to much of the goings-on in the world today, we hope to bring his "Letter from Lahore" on a regular basis.


Fakir Syed Aijazuddin, OBE, FCA, was educated at Aitchison College, Lahore, and at Berkhamsted School, England. He is a Chartered Accountant by qualification and has had a varied career in the textile, automotive, fertilizer, insurance and investment banking sectors in Pakistan, and in the oil and gas industry in the United Arab Emirates.

His previous books include a catalogue of Sikh and Pahari Miniature Paintings in the Lahore Museum Collection (1977), and a biographical study of Sikh Portraits in the Lahore Fort (1979). He is widely respected as a scholar in, inter alia, the area of Sikh art and history.

More recently, he has published an account of Dr. Henry Kissinger's secret visit via Pakistan to Beijing in July 1971, and a compilation of 209 secret declassified documents of Richard Nixon's presidency, titled The White House & Pakistan, Secret Declassified Documents 1969-1974.

Fakir Aijazuddin is also a direct descendant of the esteemed Fakir brothers who adorned Maharajah Ranjit Singh's court as three of his top ministers, advisers and confidants, and who remained loyal to Sikh interests through thick and thin during the tumultuous post-Ranjit Singh period.

Fakir Aijazuddin currently lives, teaches and writes in Lahore. At the end of December 2008, he will take over as Principal of Aitchison College, Lahore.


If only President George W. Bush had consulted a fairy godmother before he had embarked on his unfortunate final visit to Iraq. He might have been warned that instead of losing a glass slipper, he would be receiving instead a used, size 10 men's shoe.

In many respects, the presidency of any country - especially so that of the United States of America - contains all the ingredients of a fairy tale.

The central figure is supposed to overcome all odds and adversities, to battle on behalf of righteousness, to destroy demons and vanquish ogres, restore order in the world, provide reassurance that nothing untoward will ever happen again (until the next fairy tale, that is), and then to retire and live happily ever after.

That is what Aesop and the Grimm Brothers and, more recently, J.K. Rowlings have always led us to believe. We as children and, in turn, our own children have grown up in a magical world of their making, in which right always prevails over wrong, in which conflicts and wars are justifiable only because they restore social order and a natural equilibrium.

One wonders therefore which bedtime fairy tales Mrs. Barbara Bush must have read to her son - the boy who grew up to become President George W. Bush. Whatever those stories may have been, it is obvious that at some time during the night, somewhere in the laboratory of his fermenting mind, the experiment went horribly awry. As a result, today, we Iraqis and non-Iraqis alike, between the Bosphorus and Indus, are being made to suffer the consequences. 

Five years ago, President Bush blundered into Iraq, relying on intelligence that as he now claims was "flawed." Unlike President John F. Kennedy, who lost his innocence over the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba and then wept for having relied upon his errant military advisers, Bush has not found the time to waste a tear either on his misadventure or over the damage caused by it.  

Ordinarily, persons with blood on their hands rarely revisit the scene of their crimes. Did President Bush seriously imagine that his recent visit to Iraq would be welcomed as a last hurrah, lauded as a final victory lap, an opportunity for an avuncular valedictory address by a victorious Caesar to an audience that had been cowed into grinning submission? 

Had he forgotten that the Iraqis had celebrated the fall of Saddam Hussein and the demolition of his statue in Firdos Square by U.S. marines in April 2003 by beating it, once it was safely down, with shoes?

Did he really believe that millions of Iraqis would feel grateful that in place of Saddam Hussein and his iron-brained militia, they now have the steel frame of 150,000 U.S. troops underwriting their fledgling democracy?

Had he been deluded by his own propaganda?

In April 2003, President Bush told his troops while standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

Five years later, he professed the same optimism, with diminished conviction: "The war is not over, but it is decisively on its way to being won."

Bush could have done worse than to have read Winston Churchill's wartime speeches before he left for Iraq. He might have understood why many Iraqis find less comfort in his own fading reassurances words than they do in the defiant words of Winston Churchill.

Harassed by German onslaughts and a wavering French government, Churchill addressed the Canadian Parliament in the winter of 1941. He quoted the advice given to the then French prime minister by his timorous generals, that "in three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken." Churchill added laconically: "Some chicken; some neck."

Iraq's neck has been stretched for over five years already, and may well be elongated for as long a period again. Whatever may be the crucial determinants that hasten the end of a war, they are not visible at the moment. Human casualties, for sure, are not a factor. Over 4,200 American lives have already been lost. No one has the time to calculate how many Iraqis have been misplaced - a hundred thousand? Many hundreds of thousand? A million? More than million?

The cost of the war is also not the tourniquet. More than $570 billion has been spent already, and no one knows when or where that figure will finally stop. With the U.S. economy in a state of recession, the last jobs President-eject Bush and President-elect Obama will want to touch will be those of America's Military Inc.

That might explain why Obama has chosen to include key components of Bush's national security team into his own administration. These include Robert Gates as Obama's defense secretary, and retired Gen. Jim Jones, who supported John McCain (Obama's opponent in the race for the presidency) as his national security adviser.  To many - and they are not all necessarily Iraqis - who had hoped to witness with the election of Obama a change in US policies, continuity of the same faces signals instead a linear persistence. Old ammunition is simply being re-issued in new casings. They will however be no less lethal. Carnage is a permanent resident on every front page.

For the 170 million surviving here in Pakistan, life has never been a fairy tale. Our frogs do not transform into coachmen, our rodents do not become footmen, and our undersized pumpkins do not balloon into golden coaches. Most importantly, our fairy godmother has changed gender. Our former fairy godfather is paying more attention to our step-sisters than to us.

Living in a world of one's making is challenge enough; living in a world of someone else's making is even more difficult.  Living in a world of our own make-believe is unforgivable.

Gradually, as the juggernaut of the war against terrorism moves inexorably towards and across our frontiers, we need to remind ourselves that fairy-tales are the product of peace-time tranquility.

War spawns its own stories, in which the footwear is not a glass slipper, not even a size 10 shoe, but a hob-nailed boot.


[Courtesy: The Dawn]

December 21, 2008


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