If some snippets of muddled news reports are to be believed, there is a certain segment from our justice crusaders who have put forth a declaration of discrimination against the Ahmedi community by issuing an exile of fruit drinks manufactured by Shezan, a name owned by a minority borne out of hate – ours. Not only is it staggering and morally offensive that such loathsome decrees can be issued within the four walls of an institution actualised to ensure that all people be treated fairly and impartially under the auspices of the law, it is crushing that we have gradually accepted this corrosion of our propensity for exacting equality without even a passing whiff of surprise alerting us social creatures to the still present merits of our humanity. When credible media sources relayed news of this ‘ban’, the public may have been outraged but it was not surprised; it may have been offended but the move was not unforeseen. And herein lies the problem.
Our midnight gospels, bearded evangelicals, minarets and methodologies, sermons and grindstones, tallies and strategies, voices and venom, curricula and primetimes all reek of one soulless attribute: hate. The Pakistani new wave is growing up on a steady stream of deliberate demonisation of entire sects of humans. We are taught that just because an individual ventures out of neatly defined red lines, he or she is asking for trouble. Just because their belief is not the same as ours, we feel we may have crossed some imagined borders of censure. When elected representatives can amend the constitution and declare a section of society as undeserving of the care and preservation of ethics, law and honour, where official travel documents have whetted and sealed the fate of an entire group of people by ostracising them in completion and where masked militias can enter their ‘places of worship’ and gun them down as though they were a fair game, one can’t really be expected to stand up and decry the frivolity of a juice ban, or can we?
The supposed ban on Shezan products within the premises of Lahore’s most ‘virtuous’ courts is a textbook presentation of ‘the sum of all parts’. Clawing away at our antiquated inclination towards the spiritual (as opposed to the self-righteous) and deeply ingrained, almost surreal, instinct for destabilising malice with mortification, the schematic dogma with which our peddlers of perception have changed the course of the crescent upon the green is tragic indeed. It starts off with a cheeky remark over how men and women have adopted ‘western’ norms, slowly inches towards denial of education and gender inequality, creeps up behind the campaigners of free enterprise and suddenly whiplashes an entire group out of its comfort zone and into a no man’s land of carcasses and controls.
It is the small parts of this craftily caustic contrivance that has made us what we are today: a nation barely shocked by the cruel, complacent in this wicked deciphering of who gets to stay Muslim and who gets kicked to the curb, and strangely jaded when it comes to hoping for change. Something is wrong somewhere and the only ones who benefit are the hate-mongers who made society as a whole this way in the first place. With the little things adding up to make us a colourless, violent society where the law is being practiced by black-tailed bigots, the picture is one clearly viewed only when one steps out of the frame and actually sees how the dots have been connected.
This Shezan ban is nothing sort of hurried gibberish. It is nothing quicker than a slam-dunk at 15 minutes of fame by a group of lawyers desperate to get their names and black suits known and appraised by other like-minded fools. It is a rebellion by the harried ‘champions’ of a mass movement that gave us our first heroes and saviours in generations. Obviously liberalism and enlightenment are not their strong points – neither are they their selling points.
It is mighty easy and corruptibly simple to strike blows on a dead pound of flesh – one we extracted from the Ahmeddiya many years ago. This cherry-picked discrimination will never go far. The lawyers who have advocated this ban ought to banish a few more items from their retinue of self-service. The mobile phones they can’t seem to live a moment without, the ties and suits they wear, the cars they drive, all innovations sold to us by the ‘blasphemous disbeliever’ – the scientist, the thinker, the non-Muslim. Even the entire justice system ought to be abolished as it is modelled after the system set up and practiced by our colonial masters. But it wouldn’t do to literally defecate where you eat now, would it, rendering one and all unemployed? Shezan is a Pakistani institution much like Pakola. It is a part of the sum and it cannot be denied.
The writer is an editor and participant of the Salzburg Trilogue. She can be reached at [email protected]