Have you seen the flags all around Islamabad? The flags that fly bold and strong, the flags that are not national but political. The flags that raise eye brows but no questions. Of course in our secret thoughts we wonder why one political party would claim its rights over the arteries and veins of the nation’s capital. Many feel dejected over how each political party must have a show of power. But here is the million dollar question: Why are we, the general public, silent?
Did you witness over half a dozen fires on the Margalla hills that mysteriously appear and disappear? The fires that usually follow a pattern, a line, as if clearing the hills for roads or some other construction fiasco. The fires that have raped the city’s monumental prize, its identity, its prestige. If you have, what have you done about it?
Here is the thought of the week. What is wrong with us that we do not raise our voice over the smallest or the largest of crimes, unless our hands are held by a foreign dictated media? Why is it that we do not rise to protect our own identity? Is it because we are afraid that any criticism of the government will land us in jail? Or because we have given up hope of anyone listening to whatever we have to say? At what point did we stop trying to make a difference? And if we have stopped trying to make a difference, is it the beginning of the end?
Quite frankly, the flags do not bother me as much as I’d like to think, it’s the silence, the fear, the apathy that concerns me. Similarly, while the fire rages in my heart as it does on the hills, I’m more appalled by the silence of the citizens that the hills have watched over, sheltered and entertained for many decades.
Of the many paranoid conspiracy theory, my favorite and most believable, is the one which states that foreign elements are responsible for creating the fires and frequent building collapses (which have been more frequent in the past 5 years than the previous sixty) to raise the level of alarm in the nation, scare them and then immune them to the fatalities, disasters and tragedies. To deprive them of their willingness to protect and rebuild by tiring them emotionally. This is my favourite because this is true. At least about our growing unwillingness to want to protect and rebuild.
Many people have refused to write to newspapers because they feel that their letters would be ignored, not published. But then, you have to choose the papers carefully as well, those known for their credibility or impartialness. More than that, what if the letters came in tens and hundreds; and not trickling in one by one by one. What if we were all one collective force, rather than individual elements trying to make our point? Perhaps then, perhaps then, we might win, we might be heard, we might create change. Perhaps then, we will no longer be dead or dying.
Like always, I will end with a note of hope. I am writing this and sharing this on a site developed collectively. It is not one person’s pursuit for recognition but a collective attempt to affect change. Youth is gathering in small units, through theatre groups or merely through students hanging out at a coffee shop discussing, inspiring and more importantly, waking up. There is still hope, albeit a tiny, flickering one. We have to capture the moment and keep trying. Not give up.
This is beyond parties and flags (although had these been Pakistan flags flying over the capital, the nationalism it would have invoked in our people at this time of crisis would have been historical and moving). This is beyond fires that one Development Authority is trying desperately to control. This is about the people of the country, their innate patriotism and passion, which is dying gradually, unless we decide, today, to change.
I am writing this blog at a time when the new Cyber Crime Act is in place. Where criticism of certain people of consequence is no longer allowed. Now, frankly, I’ve never been a fan of emails and videos that ridicule or scandalize our leaders, true or not. I truly believe that our nation must begin to rise above petty personal criticisms, and focus on policy debates. Personally I have little interest in the Governor Punjab’s family, or how this or the previous head of state spend their evenings. What I do have interest in, is the right of the people to make constructive criticism, rather than living in fear.
What we need is a change in our national outlook, the same that encourages us to judge a person by their clothes, the same that stigmatizes a woman in jeans as a slut, or a well dressed gentleman as gay. It is the passing of judgment over the other, of feeling superior than the other, that I dislike, but this change does not come from being imposed upon by the government, striving to protect itself rather than the people This act will probably have a result similar to that of a child who insists on poking fingers in electric sockets especially when told not to. What we need now, from within us and from the government is a sense of security and pride with who we are, and what we have; and a desire to protect it – be it our forests, our identity and our freedom.