Wali Zahid

Futurist · Disruptor · Visionary

The Sultan Rahi Syndrome: Messed-up Pakistan Series 2

Wali Zahid
Jul 3, 2014
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The Sultan Rahi Syndrome: Messed-up Pakistan Series 2
The Sultan Rahi Syndrome - Messed-up Pakistan Series 2
Gullu Butt
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.

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

PTI's Imran Khan
PTI's Imran Khan

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.

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’.

Below: Not long ago, PML-N’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.

PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif
PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif

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 will prepare bodybag (bori).

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 livable and cool, calm country, Canada.

These leaders are merely representative 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.

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: 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 van 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 happened, we knew no other way to resolve our differences and confrontations. Violence became the only currency acceptable.

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. You must have watched hundreds of live TV talk shows exhibiting this kind of behaviour.

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 Pakistan: A series 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 to 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.

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Wali Zahid

Wali Zahid

Wali Zahid is a longtime China watcher and a Pakistan futurist. An award-winning journalist, he writes on issues of significance to Pakistan and CPEC & BRI.

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