Pakistan’s inhumanity is robbing our children of their innocence
The other day, my son wrote a story about a king and a prisoner who wanted to kill the king. The prisoner made an extraordinary gun and wanted to shoot the king to avenge his imprisonment. After two attempts the captive was successful in murdering the king. When my son finished reading his story out to me, I was literally in a state of panic. I asked him to stop writing stories that mention guns or killings and warned him against sharing them at school. He innocently informed me that he had already shown it to his teacher and that she was okay with it.
My son was born in 2007, when the country was relatively more secure. Or maybe it wasn’t, but our children were not directly at risk in the happenings that took place. Two years later, like any other two-year-old, my son started going to school.
I clearly remember that it was in December when schools in Karachi first began to receive threats, forcing them to be shut down. The elite private schools established email systems and processes for children to do their homework and compensate for missed school days.
From the young age of three, my son was made aware of the fact that school would be closed if there was a rally or strike. I’m sure he didn’t quite understand what a rally or strike was, but for him it was an exciting prospect because it meant a day off from school.
He was then exposed to the horrors of the airport attack, because it put us in a quandary for our trip to Disney World, with me panicking over what would become of our plans.
And then the most traumatic of all events came when the innocent children of the Army Public School were killed and, as a parent, my heart fell to the pit of my stomach in utter empathy and helplessness. I felt dreadful. The attack and the sheer brutality of it is indescribable. I remember being awake till three in the morning, following up on each and every personal account and detail of the young children killed – for no actual reason. All I remember is crying continuously and uncontrollably during that time. There was no consolation, none whatsoever. It was the worst imaginable nightmare for every single mother in Pakistan.
After the APS attack, schools took their own security to a whole different level. Barbed wires were placed around school walls, metal detectors installed at gates and security with guns and rifles were placed outside schools. Resuming the school routine after the APS incident seemed more like returning to a prison rather than an educational institution. Instead of inculcating creativity, schools made eager-to-learn children undergo strict security drills and practise evacuation in case of APS influenced attacks.
It was this background and upbringing that my son took with him when we moved to Adelaide in South Australia. We do consider ourselves fortunate to be able to provide our son with a more positive environment where he can pursue his studies and learn without having to worry about security issues. Atleast, that is what I had thought!
Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that no matter where you go or live, you will always be traced down to your origins, which I am always mindful of. Speaking casually of bomb attacks, guns, killings and murders is not the norm here. Rather, it can raise suspicion and that is the last thing a new migrant would like to arouse. So, I had to very carefully explain to my son that he couldn’t refer to things like bombs and guns in his everyday conversations at school.
My unconfirmed fears turned true when the young boy in the USA was taken away by the FBI for making a clock that looked like a bomb. And once again, I reiterated to my son that he cannot talk about such issues in public.
In the morning when I drive my son to school, I provide him with filtered news updates about Pakistan. I will tell him about the recent rains, a fire that broke out at Gul Plaza and newly opened eating joints. But I consciously omit mentioning the recent spate of kidnappings in Lahore, the horrendous Quetta attack and other similar events. I try as much as possible to mention only the good things happening back home, trying to draw a connection to his home country that is not completely gloomy, but one with hope and happiness.
The point here is, regardless of whether I live in Pakistan or not, my fear is intact regarding the safety of my son and his future. In Pakistan, it was from terrorists and other radical elements and now it is from his origin, his faith and his childhood exposure to elements that were too advanced for his tender age to comprehend.
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