The Americans saw their rights violated when the Bush and the Obama administrations monitored and stored their entire online communications. Some Americans were even killed by the Obama administration without the due process of law. In doing so, protecting the homeland was always the preferred go-to excuse.
Some deeply upsetting things have been happening in Pakistan especially since early 2022. While Pakistan does face serious security challenges from its neighbours, violations against individual rights are not happening under the guise of securing Pakistan. Instead, they are happening to benefit only a few individuals.
While the Americans surrendered their rights out of fear, Pakistanis are doing the same out of hunger. Americans feared the Jihadist enemy coming for them and their tall buildings, the Pakistanis are fighting to survive one day at a time — ensuring there is food on the table, bills being paid, and transport vehicles have fuel. It is survival mode for the vast majority. A person trying to survive from one paycheck to the next loses the sense of everything else that may not be directly related to ensuring their basic needs.
A hungry man does not worry about privacy rights or the right to free speech. A hungry Pakistani does not dare fight for any social issues after watching the most popular man being unable to even make a formal police report following an assassination attempt in broad daylight viewed by millions. The hungry Pakistani is better off as a fool and alive, rather than smart but buried. He asks a simple question: if the most popular man couldn’t do it, do I really stand a chance? Steve Jobs once quoted someone he admired, “stay hungry, stay foolish.” Who would have known someday all Pakistanis would believe in this.
One of the main reasons behind the massive number of Pakistanis fleeing the country is the loss of hope. Yes, they are leaving in search of jobs and opportunities but there is a little nuance here that needs to be understood and lamented over. Before it used to be the ones that did not excel in education or succeed in securing a job that strove to go abroad for opportunities. Today, it is the educated and the talented that are fleeing the country because they have realised, and rightly so, that there are no opportunities for those with talent without being connected with someone important or powerful. While for the country it is brain drain, for the citizens of Pakistan it is the loss of hope; and there is nothing more dangerous than that.
Ask yourselves a simple question: Can you go to a court, any court for that matter, and get justice? Let me rephrase the question: can you go to a court and get justice as well as VIP treatment if you happen to know someone in power? Don’t answer me. Just whisper it to yourself. I was trying to consult a doctor in Islamabad at his private clinic. The appointment was not available before my flight back to the US. Then I was informed that a friend’s friend can make a phone call and I will be given an earlier appointment. That is a private doctor at a private clinic. I am not asking a public servant for some unfair and illegal work and the doctor is not using public funds and other resources to do something immoral either. But what people do not realise is that this has become the national mindset. Everything must happen using some unfair means, some backdoor channel, out of the public sight.
When we fail to see this as a problem, when we fail to detect the smell because of being in the filth for a while, then our senses are dimmed. The filth is still around. I am convinced that the filth is not going away. But we must.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2023.
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