Who’s wearing bangles?


Hope is dying in Jinnahs increasingly apologetic Pakistan

When Imran Khans cornered tigers won the World Cup 19 years ago, I had a strong hunch we would long remember him and his leadership. The subsequent years proved how Thar-like the yearning has been (save for a T20 bash in the English summer of 2009 but even that was an aberration). The sepia tones of Khan holding aloft the Waterford crystal trophy are now all that we have to rekindle the aspirations of this nation.

In much similar fashion are millions of hapless Pakistanis, who are now left to poignantly reminisce an uncluttered life when their country was quite a place to be in where despite a constitutionally-underwritten religious identity, everyone could breathe free and not have to look over their shoulders for bigoted killers.

Many swear to a decidedly secular existence where women could mix with men in half-sleeved sarees, roam like free birds and have a good meal and drink without inviting attention let alone the wrath of vigilantes who pervade the land these days from Khyber to Karachi yes, even Karachi.

I met two friends recently, one of whom had occasion to see an exhibit in the city of lights now more extinguished than ever thanks to less energy in more ways than one where pictures of the 70s brought tears to his eyes and a one-time student, who had gone back for a visit to Karachi University only to return and describe the suffocating air in the midst of burgeoning conservatism of speech, thought and action.

How and what led to this state of affairs has been well documented in both lay and intellectual terms over the years, so no point repeating. However, what begs mention is the ever widening schism that now exists in this Godforsaken land. In this, the state is culpable with its spectacular failure to arrest the great slide back into anarchy at the altar of unruly fundamentalists.

The states abdication of its constitutional responsibility (ensuring security and preserving the live-and-let-live order) has meant that the minority of self-righteous fundos are dictating the moderate majority on how they should lead their lives. Their disregard for the law is akin to Ziaul Haqs, who once described the constitution as a piece of paper, which I can tear up at any time.

This minority is no longer content to coerce the majority with just word. Their mojo, of late, has been to eliminate dissent physically. Even the likes of Javed Ghamdi are forced in exile, which on reflection, is like a dagger drawn into the soul of Pakistan.

But nothing compares to the broad daylight murder of Salmaan Taseer in the seat of the federation as a manifestation of this vigilante barbarity and subjugation of the state in its face.

That todays Pakistan is devoid of leadership is not a matter of opinion any longer. WikiLeaks was enough to prick the bubble if at all there was any doubt. But to its eternal shame, even the secular Pakistan Peoples Party, the only force betraying national reckoning, has abandoned the ship at the altar of political expediency.

Worse still, it is cowering before self-appointed guardians of our morality when it has faced greater odds with resoluteness and equanimity, historically. Even before and right after Taseers murder, the PPP openly disassociated itself from even amending, what to talk of repealing the blasphemy law.

In other words, it left Taseer to die given the present and clear danger to his life after taking a bold stand reflective of the partys erstwhile moorings and others like Sherry Rehman to ride their luck.

But in a manifestation of where this ostrich like approach was taking this country to, the so-called representatives of the great Pakistani nation failed to even honour Taseers memory by refusing to offer a prayer a ritual otherwise so typical of the two Houses!

One after the other it merits mentioning the names here: Leader of the Opposition PML(Q)s Wasim Sajjad, PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani and MQMs Dr Abdul Khaliq Pirzada refused to lead the dua for Taseers soul.

That Jamaat-e-Islamis Professor Ibrahim and others from FATA declined and those from political gymnast Fazlur Rehmans JUI(F) actually sneaked out of the House was hardly surprising.

It was left to braveheart Senator Nilofer Bakhtiar to raise her hands and lead the prayer a first for a woman in the history of Jinnahs increasingly apologetic Pakistan.

On reflection, perhaps, it was just as well. Days earlier, in the National Assembly, too, it took the likes of PML(Q)s Marvi Memon, PPPs Fauzia Wahab and Dr Azra Fazal and ANPs Bushra Gohar to lead the tributes for the slain governor apart from Minority Affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti while their male counterparts left their macho-ism for another day.

Is it any wonder hope is dying?

The writer is a newspaper editor and can be reached at [email protected]