My first article of the year in this newspaper is about predictions for the New Year and examination of the predictions for the year that just went by. In my predictions from a year ago I refrained from making any predictions about Pakistani politics. Of the rest, I was wrong about what I thought might happen in the United States (US) midterm elections. I had predicted a Democratic win in the US Senate and a loss in the House of Representatives. It happened the other way around. The Mueller ‘Russia’ probe into President Trump‘s activities during his presidential campaign is going on and many of the president’s associates have been convicted. However the President and his immediate family are still not indicted. I do not believe that President Trump will be impeached whatever the Mueller probe comes up with. Last year I avoided any predictions about Pakistan. So this year let me first come up with a prediction and a mini rant. Before I embark on my rant I want to make an observation. The day the Punjab minister made the announcement about allowing Basant, just a couple of hours later we had an earthquake measuring just above four on the Richter scale with its epicentre pretty close to Lahore (Yes, that is a fact!). Whether this was related to the Basant announcement is hard to say. But in my opinion it was an omen of sorts. Now to the rant. The major objection to Basant is the danger to little children on motorcycles from the floating string. Has anybody ever asked what children are doing sitting in front of the driver, perched on the fuel tank where they are at risk from the floating strings? We have become so inured to gross traffic violations that we think that a small child sitting on top of the fuel tank on a motorbike is quite all right. Some predictions about social and fashion trends. First, the almost enforced ‘Allah Hafiz’ has started to disappear from our TV comperes. I have heard ‘Khuda Hafiz’ much more often and a few ‘Khuda Nigehbaan’ thrown in. I am still waiting for the Punjabi ‘Rab Rakha’. So we are indeed seeing some freeing up of social restrictions over public discourse. I predict that it will become more relaxed this year If that happened in the US, the parent driving the bike would be arrested immediately for child endangerment and the child would be placed in foster care. You stop such child endangerment and most of the danger from the floating strings will disappear especially if all the riders on a motorbike are wearing helmets. Continuing the rant, why can we not stop the manufacture and sale of chemically treated string that causes damage? And as far as the canard that Basant is a recent ‘Hindu’ festival commemorating anti-Muslim sentiment, my advice to purveyors of such nonsense is to read classic Urdu poets like Nazir Akbarabadi who wrote many descriptions of Basant. Nazir lived and wrote a bit more than two hundred years ago. My prediction, no Basant. Some predictions about social and fashion trends. First, the almost enforced ‘Allah Hafiz’ has started to disappear from our TV comperes. I have heard ‘Khuda Hafiz’ much more often and a few ‘Khuda Nigehbaan’ thrown in. I am still waiting for the Punjabi ‘Rab Rakha’. So we are indeed seeing some freeing up of social restrictions over public discourse. I predict that it will become more relaxed this year. My pet-peeve the skinny jeans especially the ones torn here and there are on their way out. In spite of many years of investigation I have not quite figured out how people get into them and out of them. Many decades ago when such ‘tight’ jeans came into fashion, women were advised to put them on and then take a shower and let the jeans dry on them. This gave the perfect fit. My suspicion is that people who put on these jeans never take them off until they get torn beyond fashion acceptability. I predict that the only ones still wearing skinny jeans this year will be those that have unsuccessfully tried to get out of them. My prediction about politics in Pakistan for this year: All the provincial governments and that at the centre will survive. But I do foresee one important political development. All opposition members of the National Assembly (MNAs) that are in jail or are expected to go to jail will become members of the Assembly’s (NA) Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by the incarcerated former chief minister of the Punjab. The chairman will declare that the committee will stay permanently in session so all its members will stay out of jail to attend the committee meetings. In desperation any one jailing such MNAs will be forced to declare the National Assembly building a sub-jail. The idea being that you stay in the NA building for your meetings or else you go to a real jail. I am sure that some interesting scenarios could emerge with such a situation. It might provide almost as much amusement for the ordinary people as would Basant. The anti-corruption movement is going full steam ahead and it can entangle almost every important person in Pakistan. The reason being that almost every ‘success’ story in Pakistan has somewhere along the line involved corrupt practices. At present the senior most leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) are either in jail or absconding. The same might soon be true of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The only big question is whether Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will end up in jail this year. My prediction is that he will not. Now to our two neighbours. Afghanistan is easier to predict. For a country that has not seen peace and has had a low grade or full-fledged civil war going on for as long as I can remember, it is hard to predict anything much different. The US forces will however be ‘drawn down’ and eventually removed but not necessarily during this year. As far as our eastern neighbour is concerned, I predict that Modi will be Prime Minister again but with diminished support. As far as Kashmir is concerned, it shall continue to see violence that will escalate and then die down a bit. But the cycle of violence will continue. The writer is a former editor of the Journal of Association of Pakistani descent Physicians of North America (APPNA) Published in Daily Times, January 4th 2019.