Sunday, 11 April 2010

Citizen's Speak: Confrontation by Hamza Shafqaat

For the past decade, I have felt like a helpless spectator watching my country slowly begin to disintegrate. As much as those around me try to ignore the reality of Pakistan’s current environment, I refuse to conform to the unethical practices that run rampant in this country. Hypocrisy and lies know absolutely no limits, whether in the alley behind my house or in the corridors of power. The truth is that Pakistan is more divided than ever, and this time it is an entirely different game.

It’s easy to be misled by the rhetoric presented on the mainstream media, and on the pages of newspapers. Headlines scream chaos, while the man on the street yearns for closure. Two years have passed since the present government took charge, and Pakistanis are beginning to wonder if they placed their thumbs on the right symbol. Pakistan has been fighting the war on terrorism for almost a decade now, and from the very first day President Musharraf stated that this was Pakistan’s war. Unfortunately, that realization has only begun to creep in recently. It took the cries of a young woman being helplessly tortured for Pakistanis to change and wake up. Even then, our success is limited. Dear reader, allow me to be blunt: We have not won this war. In fact, the most crucial aspect of the war is just starting. As the residents of Swat return to their homes, the real test starts. Will the Taliban regain control of the area? If they do, then what is the next step for the government? Another war? Or will they wait once again, for the cries of a helpless woman? I fear the brutality on both sides will be far worse this time around.

Pakistanis are conflicted and torn between two ideas. They want their country to prosper, but wonder if highways and housing colonies built only in cities such as Lahore is prosperity, since those in rural areas suffer from more than 12 hours of load shedding each day.

They try to convince themselves, as have I, that this crisis like all others will soon pass. We try to desperately convince ourselves that there lies a better future ahead, that we are leaving to posterity a sound and vibrant nation.

But as the events unfold, we find ourselves increasingly at odds with our dreams and the reality.
The public is yearning for a messiah, and their choices reveal their desperation. Take, for example, Zaid Hamid. On the surface he seems to be a patriotic, albeit emotional, Pakistani, but listen to his lectures and you will find them laced with hate and discrimination towards other ideologies and other religions. Even though his speeches are prejudiced one wonders why Pakistanis are so quick to assume that since he discriminates against other religions and despises India, he’s on the pay-roll of intelligence agencies?

Before him, they had turned to our beloved cricket hero and philanthropist Imran Khan, chairman of the Tehreek I Insaaf. He mustered up support among young students and received an encouraging response from all over the country. However, his failure to condemn the Taliban proved to be his down-fall. Even as his faithful party workers scrambled to salvage their reputation through ‘clarifications’ it was too late. The operation was about to end, and Imran Khan was still un-decided.

Let us not be fooled by recent campaigns to promote Indo-Pak unity. We have fought three wars since Partition, and are fighting a proxy war constantly. Siachen has been our battleground for decades, and too much blood has been shed to forget the atrocities committed by both sides. If one still believes that friendship between Indians and Pakistanis is possible, then that person need look no further than the Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza fiasco. If we look at it dispassionately then this is a prime case for the thawing of relations between the two countries.

A Pakistani cricket hero marrying an Indian sport heroine is stuff written about in fairy tales. We should be celebrating this incredibly bold step that the couple is willing take, but instead we encroach upon their personal lives, and strive to catch a glimpse of them closing a door, or talking on the phone. The media has been uncaged and they are attacking Shoaib Malik ferociously. The domestic dispute between Shoaib Malik and Ayesha Siddiqui is just that: A domestic dispute between Shoaib Malik and Ayesha Siddiqui. As long as his dispute does not affect his performance on the playing field while he represents Pakistan, who are we to judge?

On December 2 4th 1940, Quaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah stated:

‘The prosperity and advancement of a nation depends upon its intelligentsia…’ The threats before us are limitless. There are some institutions of Pakistan that no longer govern by the consent of the governed. As citizens of society we must not support a government that suppresses any faith, nor should we support any individual who sanctions the taking of an innocent life. As responsible citizens of Pakistan there lies upon us a heavy duty. We owe our allegiance to the Pakistani flag, and we owe our lives to those who sacrificed theirs for our future. Let us together refuse to acquiesce to tyranny. Let us be indolent no longer. Being a Muslim alone isn’t enough to grant you an identity but being a Pakistani does. Let us vow to uphold the ideals and principles upon which every great citizen of Pakistan stands: That of hard work, honesty and equality. Let us be each other’s strength and not weakness. Let us stand together not as Muslims but as concerned Pakistanis. God willing, we shall prosper.