Masters as we are of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, we have always ensured that we fall in love with the wrong causes. The art of belittling excellence, not aspiring for it, has become our recent obsession. Anyone who dares to excel in any field is loathed, often excommunicated, ambushed or abandoned. That’s how open-hearted we have become. From Dr Abdus Salam to Malala, there is a long list of heroes who became our victims and eventually our enemies. How dumb can you be to do something so stupid? Evidently dumb.
But then there is the legacy of pain and hate. That pain begets hate or hate gives birth to pain, is anybody’s guess. There is no gainsaying that we are a nation born in pain, brought up in misery. And yes, we live in a rough neighborhood that makes us more susceptible to paranoia but how long will we deny that most of our demons are of our own inventions? Like an insolent child, we can refuse to accept our fault, find excuses for everything that we have done, but that will change nothing.
We sowed seeds of pain, expecting love and happiness as a produce, and now the harvest of hate is ready for reaping. Amazingly, while we always had some taste for conspiracy theories, fuelled by our desire to reconcile ignorance with some thirst for knowledge, the last decade has done more to poison our minds and souls than the rest together.
Dictators know the knack of gathering around them a deadly coterie of sycophants. When the dictators go, this coterie, just in order to survive, uses its former glory to blind people and deceive them. And their gift of creating discord is amazing. They divide and penetrate the ranks of every division and lead the flanks to Lilliputian wars of egos. And hence, the chances of a democratic and intellectual recovery are lost for decades.
Just close your eyes for a second and place yourself in the shoes of Malala. Try living through the fear of a young girl ambushed on her way back from the school. Try imagining her pain after being shot by a grown-up criminal. And ask yourself which idiot would spew hate against her after this ultimate sacrifice. Had she been in India and done this much for their country, a temple would have already been built in her honour.
They now say Malala is a conspiracy hatched by the West to propagate against the peace-loving citizens of this country and our culture. Sirs, if you notice, it is no Western message. Your state has been telling the world how much we have sacrificed in the war on terror and that while we are facing the unending scourge of terrorism, we are resilient. Malala, then, is an embodiment of our message.
Then why do they accuse of her of bringing a bad name to the country? That is because somewhere in our hearts and minds, we have not stopped owning the Taliban. Had we disowned them, we would have realised that Malala is on our side and they are killing us all with impunity. Forty thousand and counting and yet, we cannot stand up with one symbol that defines us all. What a pity.
This sad realisation brings back bad personal memories. Almost two decades ago, I came to Islamabad to study further, a simple Pakistani and a simple Muslim. Arriving in this city, I was informed that that is not my identity and that my ethnicity, my mother tongue and sect defined who I was, not my nationhood. I have fought this reductionism all my life. But I have repeatedly been defeated. Today, I stand here a beaten, defeated man.
The tragedy of this state is that it fears change. It has no realisation that what it calls its world view and view of itself is not objective reality but just an infection. It tries to shoot down anyone who tries to administer medicine. Like it or not, we have made up our mind. We have chosen our assassins over our rescuers. Now, they will sow more seeds for posterity. More hate in return.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.
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