A letter to Mrs Priyantha Kumara from an ashamed Pakistani
Dear Mrs Priyantha Kumara,
As I write these lines, you would be receiving the remains of your husband. The husband you knew as a loving and living human being, your life partner, with whom you must have shared a lifetime of beautiful memories. Father of your children... children who would still be wondering and will always wonder as to what really happened. Son of a mother…mother who still doesn’t know about his death.
I am writing to you as an ashamed and embarrassed citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. As a member of a violent and extreme society. My head is hung in shame, and I can’t stop thinking about Priyantha.
I wish I could say to you “I know how you feel”. But I won’t. Because I don’t. How does anyone feel seeing their loved ones beaten to death? I try to imagine myself as Priyantha and I wonder about his thoughts. I wonder and I cry thinking how he must be praying to see you and the kids one last time. How he must be asking himself what did he really do to deserve the wrath of the mob?
I will tell you the truth, that I have imagined myself and my loved ones in this situation so many times. Do you wonder why? Because I live in this country, and I am scared that someday someone will decide my fate like this. Someday someone will announce that I or my loved ones no longer fit in the mould of their beliefs. I have imagined this. The thought of it alone sends shivers down my spine. So I can’t tell you 'I know how you feel' because I can’t. Because no one can.
I wish to tell you about Malik Adnan. The only human in the sea of beasts who tried to save your husband. I wish I could tell you that Adnan is the real Pakistan and not the angry mob. But I can’t. Because I am done pretending and lying. The truth is that Adnan is a rare species. People like him either don’t exist in our society or they hide with their thoughts and ideas. Adnan is brave. Adnan is courageous. Adnan had the power to stand in front of a crowd and defend your husband.
I wish I could tell you that our prime minister, ministers and religious leaders are as brave as Adnan. But I can’t, because that’s not true. If our governments (past and present) were half as brave as Adnan, your husband would still be alive. If they were half as courageous as Adnan, we wouldn’t be thinking about leaving this country for good. But they have to get the popular vote. They have to have the power. They can’t anger the mob. They can’t stand it. They are cowards. They make 'peace' deals with terrorist organisations. They are the real face of Pakistan.
I wish I could tell you that this was a lone 'incident'. One that will never happen again. One that has never happened before. But I can’t, because it’s not true. It happened in 2012 in Chunni Goth, it happened in 2012 in Goth Seeta, it happened in 2014 in Kot Radha Kishan, it happened in 2017 in Mardan. These are only the famous blasphemy lynching cases. In the very city of Sialkot, not too long ago, two young brothers were brutally lunched by the mob on suspicion of robbery.
I wish I could tell you that, as our prime minister promised, the culprits of your husband’s murder will be brought to justice. But I can’t because it’s not true. In the four 'incidents' I mentioned, not a single one of the culprits was given the death sentence. Most of them simply got away. Some served some sentence and are already out or about to get out. So I will tell you not to get your hopes too high. You will be disappointed.
I wish I could tell you that this heinous murder does not depict the true Pakistan. But I can’t because it’s not true. It is the true picture of Pakistan. Most of us won’t go out and murder people but secretly we would admire them. We would condemn the killing but follow it with a “but” and “if”. We hail murderers as heroes and attend their funerals in big numbers.
I wish I could tell you that love is powerful and it changes everything. But I can’t because it’s not true. Hate is a much more powerful weapon. It takes over the people, their beliefs, their faith, their lives. It blinds them. It tells them that human life means nothing. We have slowly nurtured the seeds of hatred in our society. Now they have become big giant trees overpowering everything sane we knew. Hate, I tell you, is much more powerful than love.
Mrs Priyantha! I am sorry. I have nothing to say that would make you feel better. I confess that I have nothing but shame. I confess that our government will have nothing but hollow words. I confess that we have already died. Our souls have left. We walk around in these barren bodies deprived of love, sanity and humanity. I confess that we, Pakistanis, will forget your husband in a few days just like we forgot the Army Public School (APS) massacre, Mughees and Muneeb Butt, Shama and Shahzad, Mashal Khan and 80,000 other Pakistanis who lost their lives for nothing.
I am sorry,
An ashamed Pakistani