Picture this: An angry middle-aged man sitting and wagging his finger at a decked-up young lady sitting across the table and nodding in utter agreement and a bit of awe.
One can find such a scene on a lot of local TV channels. A trend of sorts started by Zaid Hamid in 2006 and then followed by the likes of Hassan Nisar.
Though Mr Hamid was always extremely serious in forcefully relating his desire to invade India and impose a modern-day Caliphate in the region (if not the entire world), one just couldn’t help but snicker at the sight of a right-wing Che Guevara whose entire guerrilla campaign takes place in TV studios and on jazzy websites.
He would mouth off diabolic and very ‘radical’ sounding narratives to young women who most probably believe the Taliban are just like Shah Rukh Khan’s character in My Name is Khan, but only with a lot more facial hair.
Of course, the cynical ones immediately saw through the, well, cynicism of the two TV channels that hosted him.
Gunning for high ratings (and patronage from the usual backdoor powers), the channels willingly fitted the establishment’s ‘revolutionary’ mouthpiece into prime-time slots.
He was a guy who, albeit lucidly, expressed some of the most haggard and worn-out establishmentarian narratives about patriotism, faith and the military with the help of idioms and hyperbolic lingo that were once associated with fiery Marxists.
But the channels knew this wasn’t all that was making a number of young urban middle-class men to tune-in. Most were tuning in to look at the obediently nodding ladies as well.
And maybe that’s why when Hamid finally called his growing TV audiences to join him for a ‘million march’ in Lahore (in 2009), only (and literally) 16 men turned up!
Maybe he should’ve allowed one of the many rotating young ladies of his show to have handed out the invites.
Well, that was unintentional parody of a spectacle that was already silly, in spite of the fact that it was highlighted as being some truly radical, highly emotive and informative outlet (mainly for young urban preppies) to discover patriotism and ideological identity.
Well, Hamid’s bubble went bust, but all kinds of angry middle-aged men can still be seen wagging fingers at the mannequins on TV.
But as I said, this is unintentional comedy. There are now men on TV who claim to be writing and acting out political satire intended to generate laughs.
The problem is, it is the mere spoofing of politicians that is being peddled as political satire.
For example, a show like Hum Sub Umeed Se Hain by Dr Younis Butt is certainly able to leave a number of urbanites chuckling at the sight of politicians dancing to tweaked Bollywood tunes, or shown looting the ‘common man’, or being subservient to US dictates, but political satire this is not.
Political satire is never populist. In fact it usually satirises populism. That’s why this kind of satire (apart from offering some chuckles), can also leave a number of its audience fuming.
People fume because most of them are suckers for populist sloganeering. And that is what political satire mocks.
What Hum Sab… does is to dip into populist narratives about political corruption, US-related policies and patriotism and then use these to carve out jokes about politicians.
Also, unlike political satire that tends to usually go after sacred cows of society and those elements that seem scary enough not to be touched, Hum Sab… however, goes after those who do not bite back.
So, episode after episode the show’s writer Younis Butt poses to be a patriot jester to whom Pakistan’s economic, political, social and moral problems are simply the outcome of civilian politicians making a meal out of the figurative common man.
One does wonder that if Mr Butt has enough political knowledge and insight to call himself a political satirist.
For example, in one of the episodes he makes a snazzy female host of his show ask that if the US is planning a drone campaign in Yemen (or was it Nigeria?), then is the US expecting a Yemani/ Nigerian Zardari there?
By the way, what’s with these modern right-wingers and snazzy women?
Anyway, Zardari’s regime maybe incompetent and full of nincompoops, but does Mr Butt actually believe that civilian regimes and heads of state in Pakistan have anything at all to do with foreign policy or anything in which the country’s ubiquitous military is involved?
Of course, any rhetorical wisecracks against Zaradri are bound to get equally rhetorical laughter, but how ignorant (or even dishonest) of a political satirist to forget mentioning maybe a Yemeni/Nigerian Kiyani, or Pasha, no?
Butt and many like him across the channels keep flogging the politicians and yet, their satire refuses to venture out and tackle the other main players in the swampy arena of Pakistani politics: The military, the intelligence agencies, the religious extremists …