“It was just a bomb blast and not the end of the world,” this incisive observation was reportedly made by the Khyber-Pakthunkhwa (K-P) information minister while commenting on the suicide blast on a Shia imambargah, which killed at least 15 people this past Friday. Well, Minister, for those 15 people, it was the “end of the world”. The apocalyptic phrase was impossible to banish this past Friday for another reason. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto would have been 60 on Friday, had she been alive. She is not alive and that was the end of the world for many; in any case, it seems to be the end of a particular world. Shaheed BB is always missed, but we are in a different world now. In a world where TTP terrorists attack buses filled with girl medical students and funerals, while members of parliament from the revolutionary party find it to be a reaction to drone attacks. It was a shame that the Interior Minister, having taken the trouble of travelling all the way to Balochistan, could not fit the attending of the funeral or even condoling with the families of the girls killed in the blast in his schedule. An enlightened member of parliament recently expressed his views on how society can probably do without co-education, if the TTP so desires. The good doctor was gracious enough to stop short of prohibiting all education for women. This is why Shaheed BB is missed. The world of moral heroism that she brought us has ended.
The K-P Finance Minister apparently has said that all citizens from the ages of 18 to 35 should be given military training to be prepared for “Jihad” and the K-P government might be willing to pay for it. I do not want to continue with this trope too much, however another not so honourable member of the National Assembly has recently said that Mumtaz Qadri should be released immediately. Individual opinion, we are told. Sure, so given the precedent of compelling Makhdum Javed Hashmi to retract his statement on Mian Nawaz Sharif being his leader, would the offending MNA be told to do the same? If he does not, will action be taken by the party? If that doesn’t happen, it is hard to believe that it was “individual” opinion, particularly when the party and its coalition partners seem to have a rather large number of “individual” opinions, which by some coincidence are uniformly dispiriting and aligned. In the interest of fairness, the PML-N opinion on militancy and terrorism is exactly the same as that of the PTI. It is a reaction to the “war on terror” drones, etc. The false moral equivalence is getting nauseating. It reminds of something that I heard someone say a while back: “These are the sort of people who, discovering a viper in the bed of their child would place the first call to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.” Anyone who dares to draw a correlation between the Shias being killed and drone attacks should be treated with contempt. It is cruel and ignorant of history. There were sectarian murderous outfits before September 11, 2001 and not to acknowledge that is either ignorant or malicious.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) continues its murderous spree with impunity. The Hazaras killed in Balochistan are everyone’s concern. The PML-N federal government cannot shrug its shoulders and claim that it is a provincial matter. Firstly, murder in the name of sect and religion is a challenge for everyone. Secondly, the LeJ has its headquarters in Punjab. The PML-N ran a non ideological campaign, promising better roads, the unironically named “bullet train” flyovers, etc. That model served it quite all right in elections. However, it cannot run a “non-ideological” government. It is impossible to remain non-ideological in this country. Underpasses and ring roads will not make the challenge of militancy go away and will become irrelevant in the long run if that challenge is not eliminated. The TTP and the LeJ and their friends have already made their choice for us and we can either surrender or fight. BB would have fought, she went down fighting. The PML-N has gotten off on the wrong foot in the fight. It seems too preoccupied with giving provincial governments deadlines. Perhaps, it is time for it to realise it is no longer in opposition and for the next five years, all long marches lead to Lahore.
The Pakistan without Shaheed BB is a sad place, a dismal place. If BB was in parliament she would have given a befitting and unequivocal response to the idiotic statements made in it. How we have travelled from a government where the leader of the House was a woman to a government where the only two women members are “junior” ministers. While the toe curling, embarrassing and cowardly display of figuring out how to shower flowers and sweet talk with the militants killing our children continues, it would be refreshing and emancipating to have BB. And to have her say once more, “Mazhab kay jo byoparee hain, woh sab se baree bemaari hain”, something Javed Hashmi and his party seem to have glossed over in their baaghi frenzy.
BB, and one would assume the current Prime Minister would agree, was arguably the best leader this country has seen. She was the epitome of courage and grace, of poise, humanity and selflessness. Let us hope that the new and improved Mian Sahib is up to the task. For after her sacrifice, a shambolic return to the politics of the nineties, with political victimisation, slander and uber-religiosity would be the ultimate insult to our Daughter of the East.
Happy Birthday BB.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2013.