Death is one of the great realities of life, one mystery about which all of us are personally involved. It is also one mystery about which none of us know anything, for though all kinds of experience has been shared, no one who has ever died has shared his experience with the living. Well, some claim they have been told, but that implies they talk to ghosts. However, we the living have speculated a lot about death, perhaps precisely because we know that we will experience it one day. Whether we believe that there will be a life after Death, or whether we believe that there is nothing, that we will be snuffed out like candles, all know that death will inevitably come, whether in the next moment, or years from now.
At the most basic level, therefore, Major General Sanaullah Khan and the sisters in Mailsi both suffered the same fate, but their experiences were very different. General Sanaullah, as well as Colonel Tauseef and L/Nk Irfan Sattar, were killed while doing what they had been trained for, which was fighting for their country. The sisters in Mailsi killed themselves by jumping into Mailsi Siphon, because they were not being married. No one can accuse General Sanaullah and his brothers-in-arms of despair. On the other hand, the act of the Mailsi sisters was virtually the quintessential act of despair.
The suicide by the Mailsi sisters was a reflection of the Hindu values that still prevail in our Muslim society. Their fault was that they were five, and thus perhaps too much for their parents to bear. It should be noted that girls do not cost more to bring up than boys. They don’t eat more. In fact, they probably eat less, though it is true they want more clothes. But I don’t think parents bother about the cost incurred by kids until their weddings. Then parents find out that daughters need dowries, and dowries are expensive. And since it seems that weddings are not between a man and a woman, but a job and a dowry, daughters cost more than sons, for sons obtain jobs depending on their education. Education costs have been rising in recent years, but they are spread out. It must be noted that while boys have an input, through the jobs they have got, into the wife (sorry, dowry) they get, girls have no input into the dowries they get. Yet they are judged by something over which they have no control. Their in-laws may even kill them if they feel the dowry was not enough. That dowry is a direct product of their father’s wealth. When a labourer has five daughters, he cannot save for a dowry. The result may well be the tragedy at Mailsi.
But what about the tragedy at Sundar? It might seem a copycat crime, not of Mailsi, but of the earlier Lahore tragedy, where a little girl was assaulted, then thrown at a hospital emergency. She has been under treatment for several days, and the assailant, a suitably Neanderthal type, has had a picture circulated. He could either go underground, or he could wander the city with his face hidden in a shawl.
And apart from Lahore and Sundar, there was a girl assaulted in Kasur. So if a little girl escapes criminal assault, she grows up to commit suicide because she didn’t have a dowry.
The weather is probably not cold enough for shawls though. The monsoon is officially over, but still rains are expected, though it seems that the next rains should take us into autumn. So you should watch out for anyone bundled up. If he also seems Neanderthal, complete with beetling brows over narrow forehead, he’s probably our man. You might do your civic duty by telling the police.
You should also do your civic duty by joining the fight against the dengue mosquito. The hectic, even frenetic, efforts in Punjab against aedes aegypti may have resulted in barring a repeat of last year’s epidemic, but Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa has been badly affected. And somehow, I don’t think the aedes aegypti mosquito is bright enough to join in any conspiracy against Imran Khan. Well, dengue was bound to strike somewhere, and next year, it might go even further north. Well, at least it hasn’t gone into India, which seems ripe for an epidemic. The darker epidemic of rape seems to have struck there too, with the Delhi gang-rapists having been given the death sentence, but the problem still remaining there.
And the aedes aegypti operated in Swat, but it was not needed in Peshawar, where two bomb blasts killed so many people. That city has been subjected to a lot of terrorism, not least being the killing of Senior Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour. But this is the first time its Christian community has been targeted.I’m sure the Christians there would prefer dowry problems.
I mean, the BJP has picked Narender Modi as its candidate in next year’s election. Congress has yet to respond, with incumbent Manmohan Singh perhaps too old to carry on. Whoever replaces him will probably not have been responsible for the deaths of as many Muslims as Modi, whose terms as Gujerat chief minister include the 2002 massacre of 794 Muslims (an official figure). Supposedly selected because of the wonders he has done in Gujerat, actually, the BJP values him for massacring Muslims. If he is elected PM, the Muzaffarnagar riots, instead of being seen as a horrible massacre of Muslims, will be seen merely as a precursor, as the Sangh Parivar assumes Modi as PM would allow it freedom of action.
And what solution does the government have for this brutality, for Lahore, Sundar and Kasur? It released Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar. Of course, he didn’t carry out any of the assaults. Will he instead help catch the perpetrators? Or will the Karzai regime, which was so emphatic on his release? Or will the Americans, who back the Karzai regime? Mian Nawaz must realize that governance is not as easy as making trips to Turkey or the UN General Assembly. Trips come to an end, but those who committed criminal assault must still be arrested.