In recent days, The New York Times, as well as this newspaper, expressed concern about the steady expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Of much more concern at this point in time, however, is the steady and frighteningly swift expansion of intolerance, bigotry and mindlessness, all of which are common to both parliament and the streets.
The expansion of the nuclear arsenal is, of course, in itself mindless, if not downright wicked, as the nation sinks under massive debt, criminal governmental expenditure, an economic meltdown due to a state of non-governance and the selfishness of the mighty army, forever thirsting for more toys for the boys.
We have known, for long, of the fecklessness, the corruption and the damage that can be done by various leaderships, mostly because of their cowardice in the face of religious extremism or, in the case of Ziaul Haq, of his religiosity. Since Pakistan was broken in 1971, we have had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto surrender to the religious right and successive so-called democratic governments uphold laws and practices that have brought upon Pakistan international opprobrium.
What is happening now is probably a logical progression, but it is horrid and it is highly worrisome to a few pessimists who fail to spot any optimism — even in the blossoming fashion show industry. Following the governmental unzipping line, the honourable Senate exhibited the true calibre of its members when, under the craven leadership of its chairman, it was prevented from acknowledging the murder of the governor of the largest and most powerful province. What a bunch of lily-livered funks, all of them, other than the gutsy Nilofar Bakhtiar who, some time ago, showed that she has spunk. And the same description applies to the rest of what passes for parliament and government.
Ably supported by politicians of all hues, the religious right has now claimed the streets as their own. United, the religious parties, banned and un-banned, marched and screamed, presumably with governmental blessings, first in Karachi and then in Lahore, where they were joined by several of our mainstream ‘democratic’ political parties who cheered them on. The ‘demand’ involved the blasphemy laws over which the government has bent backwards to assure everyone that they will not be touched, despite their propensity to support murder, terrorism, unlawfulness and downright bigotry. That this country has spawned such laws is a disgrace and that they are supported by various leaderships is a quadruple-disgrace.
These people, who claim to be men of the book, are unable to substantiate the punitive aspects of the blasphemy laws with citations from the Holy Quran. They march mindlessly, grasping at all and any straws, and in Lahore there were even anti-Shia chants, despite the fact that a Shia organisation marched with them. Brought in as an extra during the Lahore demo of January 30 was the issue of the American cowboy responsible for a shooting incident a few days previously, and, of all people, it was a representative of the party of Imran Khan who ‘demanded’ that he be hanged publicly. Just where is this nation going? And how has it come to pass that it finds itself in a situation where many normal educated citizens are in such a state of fright that they are unable to even dispassionately discuss any matter pertaining to religion as it is practiced and preached in the Islamic Republic?
And why are the street warriors silent on the regular bombing, murder and maiming of the citizens of Pakistan?
The US and the world have good reason to be worried about the expanding nuclear arsenal — if it ever falls into the hands of our government’s favoured allies, heaven help us all.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2011.