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Scotch The Soda
This will appear in print over the weekend and on Monday, February 18, elections will be held in Pakistan. But will they? Sitting here in the richly upholstered lounge of Karachi’s Sind Club (next to the US consulate and the Metropole Hotel), there is a temptation to give credence to the club wag who shrugs his shoulders and walks in the direction of the bar and the elegant billiards room where members can drink their own liquor. "Will these elections be held?" he winks. Such easy access to liquor (the choicest) in a country which the western media portrays having been all but taken over by religious extremism? In Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, guests can now carry their own wines, whiskys and vodkas, discreetly wrapped in napkins, to some of the fanciest restaurants in the subcontinent. Hotel rooms have notices inviting guests to place their orders for alcoholic beverages on specific telephone extensions. Whether this is compromise with religious principles or liberation depends on which end of the Islamic tunnel one stands.
The authorship for all this change, good or bad, must be credited to Musharraf, just as the burgeoning private TV market, or increased representation to women in the National Assembly are all his doing. But, as Shakespeare said, the evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones. People forget that it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who banned booze and declared Qadianis non-Muslims in the competition for religious radicalism thrust on him by the 1977 elections.
During the 1972 Simla Summit, Piloo Mody, Bhutto’s friend from Bombay’s Cathedral School and Berkeley, called on his old buddy. "Zulfie, I can understand your bringing your own Scotch to Simla, but surely you could have had Indian soda." Bhutto quipped, "Piloo! You’ve forgotten: Scotch tastes best with Schweppes."