No jokes about President Asif Ali Zardari, not here

Freedom of speech has taken another hit in Pakistan. It's now illegal to use the Internet or electronic Zardaridevices to distribute jokes about President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistanis who send jokes about Asif Zardari by text message, email or blog risk being arrested and given a 14-year prison sentence.

The country's interior minister, Rehman Malik, announced the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been asked to trace electronically transmitted jokes that "slander the political leadership of the country" under the new Cyber Crimes Act.  …

Mr Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, has long courted controversy.

During his wife's two tenures he earned the nickname of "Mr 10 per cent" on account of his alleged penchant for demanding kickbacks on government contracts. [Telegraph]

The Telegraph offers a few examples of Zardari jokes, including these:

  • "Terrorists have kidnapped our beloved Zardari and are demanding $5,000,000 or they will burn him with petrol. Please donate what you can. I have donated five litres."

  • Robber: "Give me all your money!"

          Zardari: "Don't you know who I am? I am Asif Ali Zardari."

          Robber: "OK. Give me all my money"

Amardeep Singh and Amitava Kumarare eliciting Zardari jokes from their blog readers. But I'm too afraid to do that. I don't want to be sentenced to 14 years in prison or have my blog banned in Pakistan.

Instead I'll just tell a story:

A wealthy farmer with five beautiful daughters lived near the president’s house in Islamabad. One day, a procession of cars stopped at the farmer’s house. President Zardari stepped out of a Mercedes and was greeted by the farmer and his daughters.

“I want you to send me 10 percent of your money,” Zardari said. “Consider it a fee for the privilege of living near me.”

Then, with a wink at the farmer, he added: “As you know, I am a widower. So make sure you send me someone to keep me warm at night also.”

That evening, a box van arrived at the president’s house. Zardari opened it with excitement. Inside were seven bags of cash totaling Rs. 2 lakhs and one large female goat.

Zardari was outraged. The next morning, he visited the farmer and yelled: “How dare you insult the President of Pakistan? I know you have more than Rs. 20 lakhs!”

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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