Forbidden love by Tallat azeem

A current soap opera dubbed in Urdu under the title Ishq-e-Mamnoon (Forbidden Love) has really caught the interest and imagination of a whole lot of Pakistani viewers. It suits the story that is the flavour of the week and the talk of the world for the past few days - the romantic liaison or a fatal attraction between an ace American General and his attractive biographer.

The man with a sterling career and immense brilliance, General David Petraeus, who was serving as Director CIA, has resigned from his position after the affair came to light and called it “an error of judgment” on his part. The script has begun to look further unreal and has taken on one more twist as the guy who replaced him is also being investigated for an exchange of “potentially inappropriate” emails with another attractive woman. Perhaps, it is these high-stress jobs that need to be defused with girl friends. It has always been so since times immemorial. Powerful men have had personal lives, which were taken for granted almost. It is a downside of technology that the modern-day does not make that possible anymore and just about everything can be intercepted and traced, leaving no room for secrecy.
It certainly is a strange dichotomy that while the most acceptable notion of spy movies in the West is having a tantalising girlfriend on the side, the expected real-life behaviour in the same context is the exact opposite. The secret web of espionage would be so boring and entirely unmarketable if it only featured straight-laced men, who were married and completely faithful! In real life, on the other hand, they are expected to shun and stay away from these temptations, or at least, not get caught.
The CIA is the biggest undercover operation in the world and its Director has tripped because of the very thing that keeps it ahead - new technology. This enforced resignation and a humbling end to such an illustrious career is tough to reconcile though. Especially for us in Pakistan, where we are still demarcating lines between cultural practices, moral norms and legal bindings. Director CIA’s step-down over his behaviour would be an equivalent to our ‘honour killing’ I suppose.
The Generals are in the news - not just in the US, but also here in Pakistan albeit for different reasons. In America, it is for ‘romance’, but here it is for ‘renunciation’. There is a feeling building up that the military high command is irritated beyond measure at the acceptance of a petition by the Islamabad High Court, which is questioning the extension in service granted to General Kayani two years ago. Stories are rife that anything could happen in the coming days. As a lay person, my advice would be not to take on direct confrontation with the military when elections are so near. We have travelled choppy waters for four years and now let the elections decide who will come into power.
The disagreements between heads of institutions should not take on a personal hue because the institutions they lead matter much more than they do. 2013 will not just be the election year, it is also the year when both the Army Chief and the Chief Justice finish their tenures and retire. One wishes that they are both remembered well by history for taking the tough but right decisions during the most difficult times. As the CJ and COAS do an eye to eye sizing up of one another, it is almost like they were whispering the following verse under their breath:
”Aziz itna hi rakho,
Kai dil behel jai,
Ab iss qadr bhi na cha ho,
Kai dum nikal jai.”
Postscript: The country is, indeed, poorer with the loss of Iqbal Haider, an eminent lawyer and a human rights activist. He was clear-headed, unafraid and always ready to stand up and be counted for any cause that he believed in. He spoke up forcefully for women’s rights and was also the biggest voice against extremism and militancy. In a political world, where people play all sides of the coin to keep everyone happy, Haider never shied away from expressing his feelings about what he felt was right. He believed passionately in Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan and argued his case well at every opportunity. Iqbal Haider will be missed by his friends for the wonderful company he was and by the rest of us as one of the loudest voices for defending human rights in Pakistan.
The month of Muharram is here. One hopes against hope that it will pass without any incident. If the Punjab government can check and contain the dengue virus so well, why can’t the Federal Ministry for Interior prepare in an equally scientific manner to ensure safety of all citizens in this month? Something somewhat more academic than just the banning of motorbikes and mobile phones.
The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad. Email:


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