Have you noticed that whenever an issue is to be ducked or avoided, it is soft-peddled into oblivion and the peddler mouths ‘this is not about you it’s just the way things are’?
Ever thought that if it were about you, perhaps things wouldn’t just be the way they are? There is so much that is right with Pakistan and there is so much more that can be right. All we need is for everyone to decide that it’s time to stop ducking and to crawl out of that dark place they are hiding in and get on with it. The framework is there and, as we go along, it can be improved. Implementation involves two essential ingredients — a thinking mind and a body that can move.
Surely its time we started thinking before we speak. I read the following statement by Raja Riaz, the PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Punjab Assembly, in this paper a few days ago: “I say send a Mumtaz Qadri to the US to deal with Florida’s Wayne Sapp, who has desecrated the Holy Quran”.
This didn’t shock or surprise me, not that I didn’t expect Raja Riaz to come up with something better in his war of witlessness with Rana Sanaullah. But it made me realise that when people say it’s not about Salmaan Taseer what they are saying is that it’s not about you, me, us. Time to wake up and smell the charred flesh, desecrated bibles and churches from Gojra. It’s all about us and the country we are building, not just for the next generation of Pakistanis to live in but for those that survive this pogrom.
No Raja Riaz, we do not need to create any more Mumtaz Qadris, and we certainly do not need to send them anywhere. This creating of Frankensteins and exporting them to do ‘jihad’ for us has created the nightmare we all, including you, live in today. The ‘jihad’ has turned inwards and seeks to exterminate all of us, even those who, in a desperate attempt to survive, spout meaningless words and make conciliatory gestures. What citizens of this great country need and want are all those things you keep promising them in your manifesto.
Today, Pakistan is suffering an education emergency. In a country where there has been no census in decades, data collection can be a nightmare. But a recent report on education says that at least 25 million children, ages 6–16, are being denied their constitutional right to an education. This does not account for the hundreds of millions before them who have been denied a similar right and who are now adults, like Mumtaz Qadri and Raja Riaz. Fifty per cent of all children cannot read a sentence. Girls are particularly disadvantaged. The story goes on and on and is so horrific it appears to have paralysed all those who should and could do something about it. Most Pakistani children will never go to school and, as state paralysis sets in, the situation just gets worse.
It all goes back to thinking. Even if we say something because that is just how it came out, we need to take a step back and look at those words and realise that actually words do mean something and they tell others about us and how we think. So if we are able to revisit and review our own words we may, with a little introspection, realise the consequences of what we say and say them differently next time.
All this requires time and investment, both we claim to have precious little of. I would argue that we either prioritise and decide that we have both, or resign ourselves to the fate we create though inaction. What amazes me is the way we are so ready to resign to fate, to cede territory so quickly and to then shrug the proverbial shoulder and bury the head back into the sand. These short gasps of air will no longer be enough. There needs to be sustained breathing above the surface if we are going to face and deal with the many-headed Hydra.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2011.