The Sultan Rahi Syndrome: Messed-up Pakistan Series 2

Gullu Butt

Gullu Butt: You saw this character in a recent police-mob clash in Lahore. And if you watched TV, you also saw him making sounds when he was on the windscreen-breaking spree. Thanks to TV and Twitter, he has become Pakistan’s new symbol of street violence.

Also: A tale of two laws

Let’s go back into some recent political hotshots using a Gullu-Butt type language:


Above: Emerging popular political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s chairman Imran Khan, announcing this at their Bahawalpur jalsa: that he will personally hang the policemen who will fire shots at his workers.

Also: Pakistanis celebrate political Father’s Day on Twitter

Only a week before this, we saw this tweet, below, by a religious leader, TUQ:


Above: This is a tweet by an allegedly popular moderate-Islamic party, Minhaj-ul-Quran Int (MQI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT)’s Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri on the day he was arriving in Pakistan for a ‘green revolution’.

Also: Tahirul Qadri: flying to Brazil for green revolution

Below: Not long ago, PMLN’s leader and Punjab’s ironman, Shehbaz Sharif, had announced about his political opponent PPP leader Asif Zardari that he will drag Zardari on Lahore roads.


Below: This is a legendary statement by Altaf Hussain, London-based self-exiled leader of Karachi and Hyderabad’s ‘owner’ party, Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Translation: You measure your size, we’ll prepare bodybag (bori).

Altaf bloody statement

See also: Taaq raat and 19 suspended MQM leaders

What is common among these slogans and statements? A language of violence and threat.

In no way, I am blaming these leaders for using this type of language, not even when Altaf Hussain lives in the world’s most civilised capital, London, and Imran Khan has graduated from Oxford, with 10 centuries of teaching civility to its student body, and Tahirul Qadri was coming from the most liveable and cool, calm country, Canada.

These leaders are merely representatives of an illiterate, aggressive, violent, crude population of 200 million (yes, you can subtract about 1,000 civilised people including yourself from this number).

The question is who inspired these leaders and the Gullu Butts of Pakistan.

The answer is: Sultan Rahi

Which brings us to second curse of Messed-up Pakistan Series: The Sultan Rahi Syndrome

The first being: Fraudulent Claims

If you do not know Sultan Rahi, google him or find wikipedia on him.

zulfiqar mirza

Through his 1970’s popular but violent Punjabi movies (Wehshi Jatt, Basheera, Maula Jatt, Jeera Saieen), what Sultan Rahi symbolised was that answer to all confrontational situations was: just one Oye bharak (loud verbal attack). And if that didn’t work, use gandasa (an axe) or use bandooq (gunfire).

Many people ask me what happened to Pakistan which was such a polite, civil and social place in the 1960’s.

My answer is: Sultan Rahi happened.

These 1970’s violent Punjabi movies played by Sultan Rahi created a culture of violence, made the threat language acceptable at all levels of society.

Soon, you would see people fighting everywhere in the country using the same language.

Common street sights in Pakistan:

  • A passenger in a public van threatening the conductor or driver on charging one rupee above the approved bus fare.
  • A shopkeeper fighting with a customer on disagreements on the cigarette price.
  • Two motorbike riders fighting with each other during a rush-hour blockage on why one took the other’s turn.
  • Several people in a queue threatening each other if someone breaks the queue.
  • A motorist threatening a traffic constable on why he was stopped.
  • A group of goons threatening someone who has not paid back a loan.

Since Sultan Rahi, we knew no other way to resolve our differences and confrontations. Violence became the only currency acceptable.

sultan rahi maula jatt

Sultan Rahi Syndrome entered our domestic lives, our work lives, our trading lives, our social lives, our family lives, our political lives. It took roots in our civil-military relations.

It affected media anchors and lawyers, expected to be most civilised and most law-abiding of us.

It penetrated the social media – see any Twitter fights, or LinkedIn disagreements, or discussion on Facebook pages. You will see Sultan Rahi all around you.

Can we do something about The Sultan Rahi Syndrome in #Pakistan2050?

This is Part 2 of How we messed up: A series this Ramadan by Wali. The Part 1 is here. The Series looks only at events and patterns that impacted Pakistan in the past. No present assessment. No solutions suggested. That’s elsewhere on this blog.

Will appreciate your comments. Stay tuned for Part 3.

PS: Since Sultan Rahi has already left this world, we are only using this on-screen name to represent a syndrome. There’s no personal bias. Many actors before him and along with him will fall into the same category: Saawan, Sudhir, Iqbal Hassan, Mustafa Qureshi, Badar Munir were as much Sultan Rahi as the late actor was.

Wali Zahid is founder of two reform movements – Tehreek-e-Adl aimed at social and political reform in Pakistan, and #HumanizeMedical, aimed at global medical education reform ( A social media strategist, he can be reached at TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google Plus.

Do not miss our Understanding Pakistan Series

Wali on The Pakistan 2050 Opportunity

Wali on Pakistan of future

A miracle: Pakistan score in Long Term Orientation goes from Zero to 50

Pakistani culture through 6-D Model

Native languages in Pakistan

How future oriented are we?

How we messed up Pakistan: A series by Wali

Pakistan’s two value crimes no one talks about

What Pakistan needs is not education but a Project Ignorance


  1. Spot on Wali.

    This is indeed a syndrome that could be seen in our politics, sports, industry and even in education. Just think about the Sultan Rahi brand teachers in our villages who not only shout at the top of their throat but also use “gandasa” whenever needed or whenever hey wish to.

    The ones raising slogans of hoisting flag on “Lal Qilla” are no different for me.

  2. Sir Wali you are SO genius!

    I am impressed of your skills, your analysis, your curiosity, your campaigns for humanity, your ideas, your writing skills, you write so confidently, its amazing.

    You are always on the go…

    kon log hain aap? 🙂

  3. I totally agree with you Sir our whole country is gripped with the Sultan Rahi Syndrome. Really enjoyed reading it.

  4. The syndrome that you talked about is there in many societies, thats part of human nature. The understanding of the difference btw good and bad, being respectful and disrespectful and the power of self control dies when we blame a fictional character in movies to have been inspiring us since 1970’s. Dear God, no im not responsible for my actions its Sultan Rahi whos framed my thinking? with due respect, I believe we are ashraful makhlooqaat for a reason which seems to die with this blame game.

  5. Good piece of writing on a subject, which is generally not focused due to paranoid mindset of Pakistani nation.

  6. Think of Sultan rahi as a HAARI jo MALIK/CH. sahb ki hr tarah ki ziadti sehta hai but can’t do anything , so usay jab is tarah k characters milain ge to us ki WISHES us me nazar ajati hain usay!
    so meray khayal me is sb ki basic waja ‘can’t do anything’ wala attitude hai , logo k paas itni awareness nai k decide kr sakain ksi mushkil c kaisay nikalna , na COURT c help milti na POLICe c , so end result GANDASA he bachta logo k paas. log yehi krna chahtay , yehi dekhna chahtay!

  7. A good article, message that can be captured is our leaders love to present themselves as either Al capon or at times Robin hod saving the weak supposidly and giving message to the mighty ………..and our nation in general love such masala dosas. ……

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