Mad, mad, mad world


GIVEN the state of turmoil through which much of the world seems currently to be passing, the news is inclined towards the grim. It isn’t often that consumers receive anything that even remotely resembles an invitation to smile.

Some might have been tempted, though, to do precisely that when it was reported recently that villagers in the Pathankot district in India nabbed an entity they thought needed to be investigated for spying, and duly informed the authorities.

The district police got down to investigating, and the Intelligence Bureau and the Border Security Force were informed. While initial checking and a body scan brought no evidence to light, apparently there are strong grounds to believe that the suspect is from, and working for, Pakistan: its body bears the words ‘Shakargarh’ and ‘Narowal’, both on this side of the border. That the creature in question is a pigeon can be discounted as a trivial detail; after all, cross-border infiltration is a real risk.

This can be borne out by the experience of dozens of villagers and fishermen from both sides of the border who have, over the years, strayed into enemy territory or territorial waters by accident.

That said, though, it must be conceded that there is singular charm in the idea that in this era of cybercrime and surveillance by satellite, there is still scope for the authorities to suspect that the old-fashioned messenger pigeon might be a tool in the spymasters’ arsenal.

It reminds one of a distant time when the term ‘cloak and dagger’ raised visions of the sort of ‘Spy vs Spy’ situations that made famous the Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias, who was known for his political satire and worked in the US at the height of the Cold War.

Much of the world may have moved into a zone of far greater technological subtleties, but the paranoia across both sides of the Pakistan-India border seems to have survived intact. Alfred E. Neuman would be proud. –Dawn

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