Pakistani Mandelas on Twitter – by Kunwar Khuldune Shahid


Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

And their French Revolution against gastronomic apartheid

Pakistan happens to be a country where a French restaurant not allowing Pakistanis inside because it serves haraam food is dubbed ‘apartheid’, while a document discriminating on the basis of religion and sidelining the minorities is called ‘constitution’. And hence, with apartheid in Pakistan defined by culinary discrimination, Pakistani Mandelas’ anti-apartheid revolution also functioned accordingly.

The Background

La Maison, a French restaurant in Islamabad wouldn’t allow Pakistanis inside, which according to the owner Philippe Lafforgue, is “…not a discrimination thing. It’s a culturally sensitive thing. How can I serve pork and booze to Pakistanis without getting into trouble? So I have a rule: no locals getting in.”

While not letting Pakistanis inside in a restaurant located in Pakistan is of course pretty ridiculous, the fuming reaction inside the hub of grass-root revolution that Twitter is, basically defined how this country perceives the term apartheid. This in turn earmarked the Pakistani Mandelas and their revolution against this gastronomic apartheid.

Food Order, Priority Order

You see Pakistan proudly displays all kinds of discrimination in its showcase. We have the gaping gender gap and caste-based subjugation. Then we have the Shia genocide and the fact that an Ahmadi is barred from using Islamic titles or reading from Islamic scriptures.

We have the jirga system that promotes honour killing, quite often dubbed a ‘cultural’ matter; a caste-system that tells ‘touchables’ to not share food and utensils with the ‘untouchables’; a provincial government that believes only non-Muslims should be recruited as sweepers; a constitution that excommunicates a sect and an ordinance that decides who can and can’t read the Quran in this country. However, what stimulated the Twitter revolutionaries, the Pakistani Mandelas, is the fact that a French restaurant refused to serve haraam food to Muslims. And so began the movement for the food order, while no one paid much heed to the priority order.

Mandela or Mangal Panday?

Fighting against anyone barring locals from entering inside a restaurant is a pretty noble movement. It’s similar to the fight against the British ‘Dogs and Indians Not Allowed’ policy and hence the revolutionary can pretend to be both Mandela and Mangal Panday at the same time. However, the only reason one of the Pakistani Mandelas initiated this anti-apartheid revolution against French colonialism was because he himself was denied entry into the restaurant for being a Pakistani.

Does ‘No Pakistanis allowed’ reek of ‘Dogs and Indians Not Allowed’? Indeed.

But what does a journalist screaming bloody murder just because this act of discrimination affected him personally, reek of?

What does getting worked up about being asked for your passport, applying for which Pakistanis have to collectively declare Ahmadis non-Muslims, reek of?

Oopsy daisy.

The French Revolution

After mustering Mandela’s anti-apartheid revolution and Mangal Panday’s War of Independence, the Twitterati decided to collectively dub their fight for justice as the French Revolution. Just like the original French Revolution was instigated to safeguard every French citizen’s right to have access to bread, this version was supposed to safeguard every Pakistani citizen’s right to spend Rs 5,000 per head on pork and French wine. And similarly, like the original French Revolution the journalists played an integral part in this latest French Revolution, which eventually led to La Maison being shut down.

The journalists who wouldn’t publish the term ‘Ahmadi Muslim’ in their publications and the editors who refuse to use the term Shia, when Shia killers, murder a Shia for being a Shia, ‘moved mountains’ by orchestrating the shutdown of the French restaurant through their Twitter revolution.

The spirits of Nelson Mandela, Mangal Panday and Jean-Paul Marat, all received a collective tribute.


While La Maison was actually shut down owing to the fact that it had ‘unlicensed alcohol’ and not owing to this latest French Revolution, the Pakistani Mandelas on Twitter still basked in glory. Their anti-apartheid revolution achieved what it aimed for. It shattered the status quo in Pakistan. It did indeed move mountains.

Meanwhile as the French Revolution was unraveling, a British doctor adhering to the Ahmadi sect was rotting in jail for the ‘appalling crime’ of reading the Quran. However, the Pakistani Mandelas continue to plan hiking trips for regular picnics on this particular mountain.

The writer is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email: Twitter: @khuldune

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