Peace in our times

How shocked and surprised would be an optimistic Pakistani of the 60's should he be resurrected today?

Intezar Hussain May 15, 2011
I read two columns on the trot this morning – one by Ataul Haq Qasmi and the other by Nazir Naji – and ended up sadder than I already was. The fact is I try my best but there are times when what is happening around you just cannot be ignored. Such are the days we live in. The stunning incidents in Karachi have cast a pall of gloom and all kinds of apprehensions assail the people.

Only the other day we saw Lt Yasir Abbas, a handsome youth, being lowered into a grave with military honours at a barren and desolate graveyard. The tragedy apart, I was struck by how the armed forces people seem to ignore death in their planning and development of great residential settlements. Graveyards apparently get no attention.

And the grief of the bereaved parents: the tears rolled down but there was also the pride that their son had made a glorious sacrifice for the nation. I prayed that the sacrifice should not have been in vain and that the pride should live on. The circumstances warrant the prayer.

Politicians, laments Nazir Naji, support the terrorists blowing innocents’ bodies apart in our cities. Qasmi wonders whether the people who advocate striking down US drones over attacks in Pakistan have figured out how long it will take US forces to cripple our air defences given that four trained youth proved a handful for hundreds of our soldiers. I was reminded of Ghalib’s admiration for the naivette evident in their willingness to fight without any preparation.

Preparations aside, nations sometimes find themselves in a bind. Bahadur Shah Zafar, who found himself leading a battle for independence at a time when the fabled Mughal might had been exhausted, said it best. Heroic fighters for freedom were laying down their lives around him but the old king saw the writing on the wall. The vigour, he wrote, is lacking behind the ramparts; it is time to focus on survival, not the fight.

Those laying down their lives were sincere in their effort, the insincerity lay elsewhere. Time servers had their own game plans.

Qasmi says he belongs to the generation that remembers a beautiful image of Pakistan of the 1960s. Watching the degenerate image of 2011, he says, is torture. But that is the way the world is: sometimes you see what pleases you, other times you must see what you abhor. As for me, I remember the decade before the ‘60s. Pakistan had just come into existence. In material terms there was nothing much but idealism and dreams about what the country could become abounded. One wonders now what went wrong then and how it all disappeared. Those who passed away and did not have to see the Pakistan in 2011 may have been fortunate.

How shocked and surprised would be an optimistic Pakistani of those days should he be resurrected today: at the things people say on TV channels, at the statements issued by those who wield power, at the misery the life is for the masses, at how the terrorists have it easy, at how politicians explain all this. Damn the revolving skies, may he not say, and the changes they have wrought?

And despite all this there are those still standing their ground, those still fighting the calamities, those cheerfully laying down their lives. Like fireflies in the dark. Like Yasir Abbas. There is still hope.

*Translated from Urdu

Published in The Express Tribune.
Intezar Hussain An eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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