The large, oblong, solid wood table, is littered with the detritus of various breakfasts strung out over the past few hours as people have dropped in and out of a friend’s comfortable room where conversational chaos competes with the gas fire for heat. No one, it appears, agrees on anything on this cold Islamabad morning except, that is, that Pakistan is dying on its tottering feet and that this is happening because, quite simply, we have, all of us, allowed it to happen.
It is further agreed that no one gives a damn about anything except consumerism and cash….or…in the case of a banker, well invested cash which will bring a rapid and large return. The fact that cash invested in land will not double in the anticipated year if – as it well could – the country implodes on various levels, is poo-pooed as impossible which is a prime example of the ‘double bind’ the country is in.
This double bind is exemplified by, on the one hand, the nation negligently ignoring the fact that, over the years, one by one, our rights are being firstly eroded. And then, slowly or sometimes swiftly, these rights are completely taken away and, on the other hand, having opted not to object or just to grieve in private – such as during extended breakfasts like this – to a blind denial of reality.
Until that is, it is way too late, the horse has bolted and silently closing the gate with yet another freedom lost and gone, does nothing to bring it back. The nation then, at some undecipherable point in future time, shrugs its collective shoulders and goes, largely silently, with the flow. A nation of lemmings no less.
As a nation we pay far more serious attention to, for example, the price of a pair of shoddy, ‘slave made’ Chinese sandals than to the fact that people decked the neck of an admitted murderer – Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, one of the Elite Police personal guards of then Punjab Governor, Mr. Salman Tasser who shot and killed him because of his outspoken objections to blasphemy laws, at Khosar Market, Islamabad on January 2011. People decked him with rose garlands and showered him with rose petals, hailing a self confessed murderer as a hero, when he was being taken to the Anti-Terrorist court in Rawalpindi. There he was sentenced to death despite the fact that cheering this assassin on, was to cheer on a ‘brand’ of Islam which could very well – and is in the process of – bringing the country to its knees.
The rights and blatant wrongs of the aforementioned case did little more than raise the eyebrows of those who have since expressed shock, mostly only momentarily. Meanwhile Christians have been burnt out of their homes, usually with accusations of blasphemy fanning the flames, by voracious land grabbers. This is despite the fact that – Christians are ‘People of the Book’ – according to our Founding Fathers, and have as much right to follow their religion here in Pakistan as do the Muslims for which the country was created. Yes, when such things, atrocities occur – the horrendous murder of Shia’s being another – not only Hazara Shia’s in Quetta but Shia’s elsewhere in Pakistan too - there is a hue and cry but only momentary and nothing is done other than a repeat performance when the same, or something similar, happens again.
Society simply, except for a small minority, does not care and is not about to stand up, right out there in public, and take a permanent stance against atrocities – these are legions and take many shapes and forms - but simply standby and let ‘it’ happen and will continue doing so until their own turn comes and it is their own, personal, back against the wall. And when this time comes – followed by a short, sharp, bang – it is already way too late and this is the ‘crossroads’ the country stands at right now.
I write ‘crossroads’ because whilst, in some respects it is already too late, in other respects it is not. If society will open its eyes, realize the double bind, self-denial they exist in and find the courage to act and act now, then the country can, in time and with tremendous hard work all round, still be saved – saved from itself!
It is stupid to point fingers, no matter how briefly, in the direction of ‘others’ for the ‘shrinkage’ of freedoms that we are, daily now, allowing to not just occur but to become so firmly entrenched that, in no time at all, they are taken as ‘written’ and therefore must be observed.
Blaming rapidly declining educational standards for all of the daily ills of life is not the way – although ignorance and shortage of forward thinking are a basic part of the problem. This is necessary to prevent this so-called ‘Land of the Pure’ from, – ultimately and maybe not as far in to the realms of future as people, many of who should know better, prefer to believe, – going the way of countries such as Iraq, Syria. And, this goes without saying, for our northern neighbour Afghanistan which is, yet again, teetering on the brink. And no, the writer is not ‘scare mongering’ – but simply asking people to see the double bind for what it is: To look in the mirror and see not a self perceived image but the stark reality of truth.
The writer has authored two books titled The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War, The Parwan Wind - Dust Motes and lives in Bhurban.