ISLAMABAD: “The pen is mightier than the sword” is a universal truth which has been drummed into every school-going child in Pakistan. Therefore, as extremists persist in disrupting the nation through bombings, the less-militarily-armed amongst us use words to combat them. However, surprisingly, one impediment which stands in our way often happens to be our very own parents who taught us to raise our voices against wrongdoings. Let me cite an example. A fresh graduate decided to apply for a PhD in the field of Anthropology. Her topic of interest was the marginalisation of a particular religious minority group within Pakistan. That is, she hoped to draw links between the powerless position of the religious minority in today’s Pakistan and the similar situation which was experienced by Muslims in pre-Partition India. Anthropology, at its core, is a study of different cultures. Through the scrutiny of different ways of life, anthropology allows one to understand other ways of being. By employing anthropology in studying the community experiencing discrimination, the graduate hoped that she could make individuals remove the ill-founded barriers which had been constructed between this group and the rest of Pakistan; that recognising them as fellow human beings would reduce the prejudice against them. However, her foresighted father predicted that if her thesis got published, then her life in Pakistan would be at risk and like the religious minority she wrote about, she, too, would become a hunted individual in the country and so, he forbade her to pursue the thesis.
While I agree with the father’s concerns, in my opinion, the alternative, which is silence on the matter, is even more dangerous. Today’s atrocities in Pakistan are the result of years of silence by those who had the ability to make a difference. The decision of the parents in question only perpetuates the decades of hush that has prevailed over Pakistan and led it to the condition it stands in today. The low levels of education are a sad reality of Pakistan. However, what is more depressing is the fact that those of us who are privileged enough to get an education do not, for one reason or another, use it in a way to improve our country. Not all remain silent, however. Social media has contributed immensely in highlighting the transgressions committed against minorities. And, in recent times, whenever an attack has taken place against them, it has been met with outcry. Although positives exist, they are small and few, compared to the negatives which continue to bombard us. One hopes that as time passes, we shall rise to the challenge of protecting our fellow beings — regardless of what it costs us.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2015.