May 10, 2009
Stra ight Talk
Once again, the sceptre of death and destruction loomed over the 'City of Lights' last week. But despite all the 'gloom and doom' in the city, the brave Sheema Kirmani, a strong advocate for women's rights and the founder and driving force of Tehrik-e-Niswan, gave a big NO message to the Taliban.
She and her group presented a unique and delightful dance drama, 'The song of Mohenjodaro', in which 'the mounds of ancient statues were beautifully and artistically brought back to life through graceful dances'. The 90-minute ballet was staged at the Karachi Arts Council last week to commemorate World Dance Day and to celebrate the troupe's thirtieth anniversary.
A near full house enjoyed an evening of graceful movements and music, which took the audience to the gentle and peaceful days of peace and harmony. Sheema and her young dancers brought the ancient silhouettes of Mohenjadaro to life with classical kathak and folk dances. They enthralled the audience by transferring scenes of simple daily life in a village, into a thing of beauty and grace, through dance and music. Well done Sheema and Tehrik-e-Niswan.
Various groups of concerned citizens, including Women's Action Forum, also sent a message of 'NO', by launching a signature campaign at the Karachi Press Club by sending letters to the President, PM, the CJ of Pakistan and COAS, appealing to them to take appropriate action to halt the March of the Taliban.
The letter states: 'We the citizens of Pakistan are angry and dismayed at the capitulation of the state of Pakistan before the Taliban insurgents in Swat. With one stroke of the pen, Parliament has signed away the prospects of a stable, tolerant and progressive Pakistan'.
The 'NO' message states: 'We believe for making Pakistan a peaceful, tolerant and democratic society - We stand for one constitution and one set of laws for all of Pakistan - The writ of the government must prevail. They also demanded a stop to the harassment and censure of women in the public sphere, enforcement of purdah for women, and a general instilment of fear. 'We believe religion is a private matter and all citizens of Pakistan are equal citizens'.
Amin Khattak of ANP explained why his party to accepted the Nizam-e-Adl agreement, while petite Arundhatia Roy, the Indian writer and citizen's rights activist, stated that 'extremism had gripped the entire SA region and we have to collectively fight against this threat'.
But it was Sheema's NO that held the audience spell bound with her dance and narration of her 'AZADI'' call. Sheema shouted her defiance message, 'Mai aek aurat hoon - Mai aik AZAD insan hoon' across to the valleys and mountains of Swat, as she twisted and twirled round the stage.
I only wish that civil society had joined Sheema's NO when the seeds of Tablinaization were being sown by Gen. Zia twenty years back and pulled the plants of extremism out from their roots. But we had all remained silent spectators, while valiant fighters like Sheema had carried their messages of NO through their Street Theatre in the cities of Pakistan.
The Sindh government has blamed the land and drug mafia, who support the Taliban, for the recent carnage in the city. They have warned us that there are about two thousand unregistered and illegal seminars in Karachi, with 'sleeper cells', ready to spring into action at a moments notice.
But political analysts have blamed the blood letting as a struggle for power to control the city of lights, with the citizens paying dearly for this power-struggle. As one reader has pointed out: 'We all know who the real culprits are and the real cause for this bloody violence. It is the same as the gang wars in Lyrai, the struggle for power. Ruthless, assassins and killers are hired, who will kill for money'.
'They are worse then the Taliban and the suicide bombers, who can be identified as 'The Enemy'. But these killers are citizens, who drive around on motorbikes, spreading carnage in the city, killing innocent citizens. And our 'fragile government' just does not have the political will to stop this violence'.
It has been suggested that the residents of DHA should arm themselves to confront the Taliban, but I totally disagree, as this would be extremely dangerous, as 'violence begets violence' and such an action would trigger a Lyari type 'Gang War' in DHA, with 'No Go' areas.
Let us also not forget that not all our Pakhtoons or Pathans brothers are Taliban and control the cities transport system, including school buses. God forbid, if a 'war of confrontation' started between the two groups and a school bus was hijacked and driven into the hills of Shershah, then all hell would break loose and the 'City of Lights' would go up in flames.
The latest violence in Karachi and the recent 'pya jam', which paralyzed the city, are just a glimpse of things to come. Therefore advising citizens to arm themselves to fight the Taliban and stoking ethnic difference is not the solution. These fires must be doused out quickly to avoid another carnage in the city.
And to remain silent at this time of crisis would be criminal and a betrayal of the future of our next generation and Jinnah's Pakistan. As such, we need to stop this politics of confrontation and violence, which will only bring more bloodshed and grief.
We must take the initiative to stop this slide towards anarchy and form neighbourhood peace committees. Meetings should be held in mosques and homes to stop this Titanic, with its 170 million passengers, from sinking into the dark, cold waters of the Indian Ocean.
If this is not done, then it will be a sad and tragic reminder of the bloody carnage of the mid-80s, when Pathan-Mohajir clashes broke out, with widespread anarchy and rampant crossfire in most part of the city, bringing public transport and economic activity to a halt.
Even US President Barack Obama has now finally admitted that 'Pakistani government is 'extremely fragile', because it has been unable to fulfil the basic needs of its people and provide them basic services, including education, healthcare and effective law and judicial administration. That is why it was unable 'to gain the support and the loyalty of their people'.
Well, we at Helpline Trust have been our mission statement and we have been chanting this mantra for the last ten years. We have repeatedly stated that the only way Pakistan can become a progressive, moderate and tolerant nation is by establishing Good Governance, enforcement of the Rule of Law and a just social order.
But now that 'The Man' has spoken, the government might listen. And the two week 'dead line' by Uncle Sam seems to have worked, as the PM has finally declared an all-out war against the militants and battle for Swat has begun. But this now, also a battle for the survival of Quaid's moderate and tolerant Pakistan, in which 'all citizens are equal, irrespective of their cast, religion or creed'.
May God save Pakistan from the religious and political fanatics of the world.
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