A little over five years ago, I needed to talk to someone, anyone. I needed catharsis to find if the doubts, fears and guilt I faced were mine alone, or I was part of a larger group with similar issues.
And I found myself stonewalled at every step.
No one was ready to listen to me. Every one found sanctuary in an age old cultural and social desire of not discussing any issue that questioned the beliefs and norms – of acquiescing to what is happening – something that is so deeply entrenched in us with years of “teaching.” In plain words, one must accept misfortune in silence in the hope that time will heal wounds.
Let’s forget political manifestos for a while and take time out of our busy morning-to-night routine and have a party. Yes, incongruous as it may seem, let’s party!
Did you have a fun Valentine’s Day? Or did you as the streamers on the poles in Islamabad and other cities and burka clad banner carrying rallies suggest, have a “Haya (Modesty) Day?”
Now let me think, where do we want the party to be today, and a midweek party at that?
As we go about life, we come face to face with the stark reality of the disparate class structure around us. This is not only in social interactions but also in the overall confused world view about us.
On 14th August 1947, midnight, the Dominion of India was partitioned into two countries, with a lopsided line drawn on a map called the Radcliff Award. According to my father, who was a government employee in New Delhi at that time, Radcliff worked so secretively that many people thought the Lahore Canal, which today runs through the middle of the city, would be the dividing line.
27 January 2015
“Malala’s Pakistan,” or some such term has been proclaimed in many newspaper op-eds in recent weeks!
Over the years we have seen Pakistan being labeled as someone or the others Pakistan.
The list of whose Pakistan it is, is long and changes with the need of the hour – often overnight – as circumstances set in motion a domino effect; often forced, and accepted; as the antidote for the ills real or perceived by those who threw the stone to set the ripple going!
Between the founding fathers Pakistan to Dr. Qadeer’s Pakistan; snaking through a Pakistan for Islam; a Pakistan of the youth; a Nuclear Pakistan; a Revolutionary Pakistan; a New Pakistan and Sab Sae Pehlay Pakistan. I have lived through a time when we were recognized as “Pakistan Ayub Khan”; stints of Democratic Pakistan; experimenting with a Socialist Pakistan; Roti, Kapra and Makan wala Pakistan; our Pakistan, Their Pakistan; split in two Pakistan; rogue state Pakistan; bankrupt Pakistan; failed state Pakistan; saved Pakistan; 20 crore ka Pakistan; politicians ka Pakistan; phases of fathers or mothers “dream” Pakistan.
And when everything else miscarries, or we are unable to counter the current popular rhetoric, we fall back to Quaid’s Pakistan!
And every so often we hear that it is not “their” (anyone fallen from grace at that moment) Pakistan.
Coming back to Malala’s Pakistan. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize is no small feat. It brings her in a limelight which from 1901 till now (except for twenty times in-between due to war and strife) has shone on 128 individuals and organizations “who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The nomination, selection and award process itself being shrouded in mystery that will only be revealed after fifty years for us to know how her nomination and selection came about!
Questions asked range from, if promoting peace is the criteria how does getting shot for furthering girl’s education promote it? Not that I am trying to take the thunder away from her, but still many continue questioning Malala, the person, a lot!
So how does a person living in the UK get the highest accolade and we claim her as a daughter of Pakistan? While we debate the rationale of dual nationals being law makers in Pakistan? How do those who till last week were questioning the very shooting of Malala get to be pro-Malala overnight?
How does Pakistan become the Pakistan of the scions of a few families when they themselves talk against family politics of other families? Why does “sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose” hold good only in selective arenas; even when we have been tried, tested, and failed these people and remember them for their stage managed histrionics and charisma, not their deeds.
And what about the interludes of military backed rule? Some invited by politicos while others used the so called misdeeds of the politicos as an excuse? Pakistan during their rule was anyone’s but of the Pakistanis. Complete with praise for some and against religions of others; while others answered mid-night calls; Pakistan was their fiefdom; the constitution a mere piece of paper; the population were fools to be manipulated any way they wanted, helped along with the safety valve of the doctrine of necessity!
And now a new Pakistan, a revolutionary Pakistan. A Pakistan where we stand between disobedience, stampede, song and dance, and insinuations of deals done and promises made; coming on the heels of ‘reconciliation” we find us tall on rhetoric and short on facts. The difference between disinformation and misinformation clouded in motives and interests buried deep under veiled understanding with those they speak against!
The politicians seeking only gratuitous spoils and praise where none is due! And the ever present crumb eaters, with their finger either in the pie or on the edge of the plate. And so many more hangers on ready to deliver these very accolades for eager ears, in return for the crumbs.
And all of these claim it is their Pakistan!
And was I as first generation Pakistani growing up in the heyday of molding the country into a headless, directionless, pride less state, born to ask the question where is “My Pakistan?”
November 15, 2014
*** The author is a mentor, freelance management and training professional, peace and anti-extremism activist based in Islamabad.
the title i gave was – Mind (up) set
somehow the editor changed it to this. the picture also is theirs.
Telling tales of a life
With nary a hope of
August 27, 2014
On the Fifth of October 2009, I joined the ranks of the ordinary Pakistani on the street.
The Pakistani lost between debates of Islam, the rationale for Pakistan’s existence, two nation or diverse nationalities, deciding who is a Muslim who not; wondering why people in the power corridors are unconcerned about the blood on the streets.
Gone was the pampered Army brat, a crust of upper society, one rubbing shoulders with gentry. All lost in one all leveling bomb blast.
On this day, at about 12:15 PM, a soldier of the Frontier Constabulary walked into the well secured Country Office of the UN World Food Program in Islamabad. He was a suicide bomber dressed in FC uniform and he blew himself up.
Gul Rukh Tahir, Farzana Barkat, Abid Rehman, Muhammad Wahab, and Botan Ahmed Ali Al-Hayawi lost their life in this attack.
Today, four and a half years on, as Pakistan debates the how and why of the F 8 Courts attack with the usual cacophony of apologetic arguments heard again. A feeling of disquiet, a foreboding, a sense of deja vu for the survivors of this attack, and the families who survive those who fell victim to this act surfaces.
I feel revival and flashbacks to the scene outside the WFP premises when I reached there, looking for my wife. Not knowing that Gul Rukh Tahir was a victim of the suicide attack!
Today, as the acts of terrorism continue unabated, and toll of Suicide Bombing Victims reaches 6,053 dead, 15,880 Injured, and continues to rise, I have a sense of despair. Questions arise in my mind for anyone listening. Questions that I have asked on many forums since 10/5, getting blank stares and incredulous looks in response!
What have we done to deserve this fate at the hands of self-professed reformers and torch bearers of a faith twisted to suit their concept of a Caliphate over the world?
What have we done to see our rulers vacillate at the altar of expediency for continuation of their rule?
What is the deep dark secret that keeps us from taking steps that will eliminate this menace from amidst us?
Why is Islam being bandied about as the decider in the battle against terrorism?
With thousands dead or wounded, and more thousands surviving the loss of a loved one, can we not see our people – my wife, your son, father, daughter, brother, sister, friend, relative, colleague, Pakistani all, losing their life? Not the American or NATO country populations. So how can we still brazenly ask, “Whose war are we fighting?”
As the uncertainty deepens talk of Good Taliban, and Bad Taliban surfaces. Is it to justify the stand that talks solve all issues, even if the other side has one sided dogmatic stance?
That begs the question, are Taliban justified to differentiate between good musalman, and bad musalman, and kill accordingly?
With strong undercurrents of the sixty five year old debate, was Pakistan created for Islam, or for Musalman’s? Are we Muslim Pakistani’s, or are we Pakistani Muslims? What do we stand for? Or are we destined to be shot wherever someone thinks there is a need to have a religious cleansing?
I grew up with a strong sense of Pakistan, my father being an Army man, we never had any doubt that Pakistan was where muslamans lived, not that Muslims make Pakistan. Then as a soldier defending the country pre and post 1971, there never was a question of identity. So why now?
Where did we go wrong?
Why is 1979 touted as the turning point for us, while Afghanistan stood the acid test, and the USSR lost? Why does Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Syria over 2600 km away impact what we do in Pakistan? And why is the US considered the mother of all evils in Pakistan?
So do these musings make thinking Pakistanis bad Musalmans?
If yes, then we should not ask for whom the bell tolls, for surely it tolls for us!
March 08, 2014