“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate
The gruesome events of the last few days brought to my mind these famous words written by William Butler Yeats nearly a century ago. The incessant bloodletting in various parts of Pakistan is a cruel reminder of how a nation can go adrift when the state lacks conviction and direction.
If the state had conviction, would it allow its citizens to be dragged out of buses and butchered on the road because they belong to a different religious sect? Would the state allow the targeted killing of hundreds of people in Karachi month after month? Would the state allow its military bases to be attacked and uniformed men executed by ideologically drunk fanatics?
Of all the crises gnawing at our flesh, the absolute worst - unarguably - is the state failure to ensure physical safety and protection of its citizens. It is this failure that has contributed the most to decapitating the credibility of the state as the overarching entity that is supposed to look after the populace.
This bloodletting is not new. This sectarian butchery is not new. Neither is extremist savagery and murderous ethnic mayhem. The killer can now kill whomever, wherever, whenever, and yet live to kill another day. Last week three back-to-back punches into our national solar plexus brought home this point with painful clarity: attack on PAF base Kamra, execution of bus passengers near Gilgit, and yet another round of ‘target killings’ in Karachi. While the state was successful in saving its own PAF base, it could not save its citizens in Gilgit and Karachi.
Sadly, the national discourse is as confused as the state itself. Denial is our default mode. We don’t even agree on who the bad guy is. Neither can we figure out what the problem is – and why. Intolerance? That is such a neutered word to describe the savagery we are inflicting on ourselves. Bigoted, murderous fanaticism might be closer to the truth. Even in our use of words, we exude a confused state of societal consciousness.
This confusion originates from within the state itself and permeates down into the deepest bowels of society. Peripheral issues take centre stage and the centre cannot hold. Things begin to fall apart.
What then is the state? Better still, who is the state? In the context of the present discussion, the state has names, and faces. There is a group of people in today’s Pakistan that is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the people of Pakistan. This security is ensured through clear-headed policy and its efficient implementation. The people in this group - entrusted by you and me to save us from murderers, fanatics and death-merchants - have the money, the resources, the powers and the tools to fulfil their responsibilities. These people enjoy the fruits of power; they bathe themselves in undeserved adoration of their minions; and they themselves float above the confines of law. But on their watch, things are falling apart. On their watch, the centre cannot hold.
It cannot hold because they cannot hold it. Let’s name names of those who we have entrusted with the responsibility of keeping us safe:
Interior Minister Rehman Malik and all heads of his federal security institutions, including FC, Rangers, FIA, IB. The Chief Ministers of the provinces and their Inspector Generals of Police. The Army Chief and his Corps Commanders and Intelligence Chiefs. The Chiefs of Air Force and Navy and their Field Commanders and Intelligence units.
This is a power-packed list, indeed! We the people have given these people on the list everything we can offer them: money, weapons, power, privilege, and prestige.
In return, they have given us failure. And dead bodies.
The social contract has been torn asunder. The reason is horrifyingly simple: we the people are fulfilling our part of the deal. They are not.
So every time a killer fells a body in Karachi; every time a fanatic cuts down an innocent on a bus; every time a terrorist blows up humanity in the middle of a crowded bazaar, shame should rain down on the people straddling this list. They are the state, and the state is on its knees.
But when you look at these power-wielders, do you see red faces dripping with remorse? What you see instead is them swaggering around this blood-drenched land of ours, wearing their failure as a badge of honour.
These ministers and IGs, DGs, Secretaries, General, Admirals, Marshals – all these men with fancy titles, fancier uniforms, big cars and bigger egos – all of them are what they are because we the people have give them our money and our trust. Yes, we the Sunnis and Shias, and Ahmadis, we the Baloch and Hazaras, we the Pathans, Sindhis, Punjabis, Urdu-Speakers, we the Muslims and Christians and Hindus – yes, all of us who together make this country that Mr Jinnah gave us. We are all - and will always remain so - the citizens of Pakistan, equal in the eyes of law and the state regardless of what we look like, sound like or feel like.
That was the contract that the Quaid gave us. But somewhere, somehow the state and its minions rewrote it.
This rewrite is unacceptable to us, just like it would have been unacceptable to the Quaid. In Quaid’s Pakistan, the Ministers, Secretaries, IGs, DGs, Generals, Admirals and Marshals would not have strutted around like peacocks across a land littered with dead and dying Pakistanis, butchered because these men of power were powerless in front of a murderous barbarian. In Quaid’s Pakistan, these men of power with feet of clay would have recognised the ironies they have saddled on the nation: we have nuclear weapons, but cannot protect our citizens from rampant killings.
Something somewhere went horribly wrong. Things are falling apart. The centre cannot hold. And the mighty state is on its knees, quivering like a frightened child but holding on to its toys.
The writer is the host of “Tonight with Fahd” on Waqt News. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @fahdhusain