After hiding behind a family wedding, much like the proverbial ostrich, for the better part of two weeks, I really don’t want to face reality anymore. I do not want to hear about the worker of a sugar mill, who was so depressed after being beaten up by the mill owner’s goons on demanding his four months’ salary that he decided to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. His bereft family consists of a wife, six children - two with special needs - and old parents. It is, actually, like a real life take on Aamir Khan’s movie, Peepli Live. It takes the suicide of the bread earner of a family for basic necessities of life to reach them. It is ok watching it in a movie, but to know that we live in a society where this is an everyday occurrence is deeply disturbing. It is even more disturbing when we find out that the person who committed suicide was a diehard supporter and worker of the PPP (if this is how own party workers are treated, I shudder to think of the treatment meted out to non-supporters) and that the mill owner was none other than the spouse of the Speaker of the National Assembly.
As we struggle with all our societal demons, there is news that America, in its own election year, has decided to tighten the screws on Pakistan. It has become apparent that saner voices like that of Cameron Munter’s are to be side-lined to be replaced by hardliners chosen by the duo of Petraeus and Panetta. It could be a catchy and quizzy headline almost - P & P to teach P a lesson! The military is quiet and taking the route of least interested, as things get hotter in the country on all fronts. They seem to be saying like Heer, when she was forced to marry a guy other than Ranjha “mai nahi jaana kherrian dai naal!” - kherrian, in this case, being a takeover. Not taking over is an excellent idea, but the pressure from behind seems to be missing too! The ship of state seems to be floating along quite clueless of where it is heading. The well-to-do will manage under all circumstances with their private guards and generators and so on; it is the middle and low income Pakistanis whose lot will worsen with every passing day unless the rot is arrested, somehow. In the middle of it all, the news channels on TV proclaimed on one of the days last week that that particular day was designated as ‘The International Laughter Day’! We are coming to a pass, sorrowfully, when we will only be able to laugh and that too in a forced manner when a day for laughter is announced, as good cheer and happiness ebbs from our souls.
Postscript: There was one piece of good news though. It came from the Indian Supreme Court two days ago and that was permission for the ailing and ageing Pakistani scientist, Dr Khalil Chishty, to return to Pakistan after 20 years in India. He was convicted of a murder case in 1992 and is now 81 years old. This too reminds me of an Indian movie called Veer Zara where the leading pair catches up with each other after more than 20 years. Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction. Everybody shares the happiness of Dr Chishty’s family, as they prepare to receive him back in their midst after such a long, forced separation.
Another interesting news was that the Khawjasirahs, who now have the right to register as voters after getting their national ID cards have, as a community, decided to vote for PTI. They make this fact known in no uncertain terms when questioned about their electoral preferences! I am sure they are found in abundance in other cities too, but we seem to have quite a few in Islamabad, found asking for money in all sorts of places. They are hard to resist, as they make up they give the nicest duas - like “apni ankhan da sadqa dai ja meri modern shazadi!” They seem to understand intuitively that we so badly need cheering up!
n The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.