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187 3 PakistanandUncleSam’sColdWar An acerbic critic of progressive follies and the statist fatuities of both subcontinental nations, Manto reserved some of his finest barbs for their respective international patrons—­ the Soviet Union and the United States of America. He ridiculed the two superpowers for wanting to outdo each other in their quest for world dominance, even if it meant riding roughshod over other countries in the process. His humorous piece “Imaan-­ o-­ Iqaan” (Peace and Certainty), written in the form of radio announcements and included in the anthology Talkh, Tursh aur Shireen (Bitter, Acrimonious, and Sweet), opens with the United Nations announcing the resolution of the dispute between the superpowers from its headquarters at Lake Success. Instead of persisting with the Cold War, the two rivals have agreed to enter into a contest to prove their military superiority. After duly swearing an oath on uranium and plutonium, each side opts to send a nuclear bomb from its arsenal across to the other’s territory so that its lethal potential can be gauged directly. With the UN Security Council in continuous session during the crisis, and much to-­ ing and 188 III Histories fro-­ ing of the weapons in the air, along with clashing radio broadcasts, the Americans and the Soviets decide to redirect the bombs to some other part of the world. The doomed region where the bombs are headed is none other than the now-­ divided subcontinent. Both the Indian and Pakistani governments are at their wits’ end to decide what to do about the “burning stars” descending on them from the sky. While enlisting the services of their respective clerics for elaborate prayers and entreaties to the heavens, both governments also make extensive arrangements for digging underground cellars and trenches in case the balls of fire come too close for comfort. The piece concludes with Radio Seventh Heaven acknowledging the prayers from the two earthly domains but questioning the faith of the supplicants, who, while lifting one hand solemnly toward heaven, are using the other to dig deep holes and tunnels into the earth.54 A humanist and a pacifist who deplored religious hypocrisy with a passion, Manto had come a long way from the days when he imagined driving the British out of India with homemade bombs. He questioned the ethics of possessing weapons of mass destruction—­ indeed, of militarization itself—­ when the lives of millions were precarious owing to the lack of access to food, potable water, and other basic amenities of life. He could not stop asking questions. As the elders used to say, questions that arose in the mind could find answers there. This was not true of the question of hunger. It was futile telling starving people about likely improvements in food availability sometime in the future and the heavenly delights awaiting them after death. Hunger required an immediate solution. Insofar as all accepted this as an incontrovertible fact, Manto failed to understand why, instead of bread, the 189 Pakistan and Uncle Sam’s Cold War stick was being used to tackle the problem of hunger.55 Times were strange and newly independent Pakistan stranger still. The gap between the rulers and the ruled was growing by leaps and bounds, making for a disconcerting rift between stated national objectives and actual accomplishments. Except for the graffitied walls, where a surreal freedom of expression was very much in evidence, Pakistan’s careworn and gagged citizenry was reduced to watching from the margins the machinations of those in the corridors of power.56 Unable to partake of the plunder that came in the wake of partition or qualify for allotments of properties, the poor and unconnected could not even begin to hope for government employment, owing to the outright nepotism that Manto exposed in his witty essay “Zaroorat Hae” (Wanted).57 Charged with obscenity by the postcolonial government and debarred by the “progressive writers” from publishing in their journals, Manto could not be silenced as long as he knew how to wield the pen to feed himself and his family. Always on the lookout for curious and interesting happenings, he never lacked for subjects to write on. During the height of the Cold War, when the Americans were considering harnessing the Pakistani military in pursuit of their policy to contain the spread of communism, Manto had the brainwave of writing a series of fictitious letters to Uncle Sam, posing as his Pakistani nephew. He could see that the proposed alliance ran against the grain...


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