The dilemma of the Thinking Man, faced by a great straightening allegory of patriotism, is that he has to deal with so many contradictory factors. To start with, there is an involuntary jingoistic righteousness, fortified by collective martial myths, existing alongside a feudal and tribal society with its undisputed sense of cringing loyalty. There is the small chorus of liberals, full of indignation, forced into remission by successive waves of religious intolerance. There is a whole raft of gross inefficiency in both government and privately operated utilities, laced with charges of corruption which evoke the occasional bout of table thumping in the assemblies, with newspapers baying for action. And there are the frightening conspiracy theories, like the one about the Western powers trying to perform a caesarian on Balochistan because the subsoil is supposed to be studded with more diamonds than the Boers have ever seen. And last but not least, there is the threat about Sindh being surgically bisected. All are played up to their stereotypes with commendable sangfroid. Even the privileged are beginning to question the future of our country, though they’ve never had it so good. Recently, a few Patricians got together in maudlin mood and moaned about how bad things had become in our country. They threw up great bundles of emotional dirty laundry and one of them, after focusing bleary eyes on me, fired the inevitable question. “Since you are the resident critic, tell us just how long you think this country will last.” This query, when put by a member of the upper class is usually phrased in third party mode, as if the chap asking the question already has a house in Toronto and a Swiss bank account tucked away under his belt. I always give the same answer. “This country is not going anywhere. It is here to stay. We will always manage to muddle through.” And then, I tell them that droll Balkanisation story about the late Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the three cynics who had serious misgivings about the future of Pakistan. If you haven’t heard it before, read on.
The first critic said that in the event of a war, the big danger would be that Afghanistan would swallow the North West Frontier. The second said that Balochistan would be grabbed by Iran. The third pointed out that the big danger would be that Sindh would be taken over by India. As Punjab appeared to be untouched, three pairs of eyes were focused on the great socialist poet. In his characteristic style he said, “If there was a terrible war, the big danger would not be that the three neighbours would gobble up three of our provinces. The big danger would also ke yeh mobahisa mustaqil aisay hi chalta rahay ga” (this debate would forever carry on like this.)” Conditions are far from ideal, what with violence inhibiting industrial progress and foreign investment, stopping volunteers from vaccinating children against polio and a relentless war against paramilitary personnel. The recent assassination of SP Chaudhry Aslam Khan was an example of this. It was a huge boiling story. But it didn’t resonate with a public that has become totally immune to shock and awe. The press did its bit to pay tribute. Tariq Khoso, in a comment in Dawn, stated that some people write history with their blood and quoted the policeman’s son. “I cried my heart out hearing about the cowardly fatal attack on a policeman, who stood up when the nation was hunkered down, unable to handle the threat from the cancer that continues to bleed our country.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2014.
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