A nation’s rendezvous with shame

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Feeding on poisonous morsels of ‘honour’, an unstoppable decline into the pit

 

 

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

My mind is numb. I feel nauseated. I am lost for words. It is so sickening, so repulsive. I can’t describe the bestiality that was so gruesomely exhibited in Lahore only the other day in broad daylight, in the vicinity of the city courts, and in the presence of shamefully insensitive people.

According to media reports, Farzana Parveen, a 25-year old woman from Nankana Sahib, was in Lahore to appear before a magistrate regarding an abduction case that her family had registered against her husband. On the fateful day, she was to appear in the court to give a statement in favour of her husband. As she left her counsel’s office to go to the court, she was assaulted by her father, brothers and some family members with bricks. She kept pleading for help from the passersby who all stood nonchalantly, watching the gory spectacle, but no one dared rescue her. The police also stood by as silent spectators. She was bludgeoned to death. Worse still, the woman was three-months pregnant.

This is not an odd case. Hundreds of honour killings take place across the length and breadth of the country every year with practically no one getting punished for the heinous crime. They all manage to escape unscathed because the (woman’s) family is either too afraid to pursue the case, or they simply forgive the offenders because there is enormous peer pressure. Consequently, the number of honour killings has been on the increase and there appears little remedy that could control the scourge.

The brutality has elicited international comment. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the killing and urged the government to take “urgent and strong measures to put an end to the so-called honour killings in the country”.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called the murder “barbaric”. In a statement, he said: “I am shocked and appalled by the death of Farzana Parveen: both for the appalling manner of her death, and the unspeakable cruelty and injustice of murdering a woman for exercising her basic right to choose who to love and marry.” He went on to say: “There is absolutely no honour in honour killings and I urge the government of Pakistan to do all in its power to eradicate this barbaric practice.”

The United States has also condemned the heinous act and has urged the government to punish the killers and take urgent steps to eliminate the scourge of the so-called honour killings.

I have often written about the deeply degenerative trends that have engulfed the society because there is no writ that would take charge, no system that would stop the offenders from pursuing their heinous crimes, no powerful voice of the civil society that would disseminate the rightful message, no futuristic direction that would instil respect for the supremacy of the just and the noble and no law that would punish the wicked and the transgressors. It is a society that has been effectively taken over by the criminal mafias who are routinely patronised by the rulers. The gory spectacles are disturbing and distressing.

The civil society organisations of the country have unanimously condemned the brutal killing and have resolved to take unified action to bring the perpetrators to justice. There have already been some demonstrations in this regard and more are being planned to ensure that the killers don’t go unpunished. This is so in the background of such killings having gone unpunished in the past and the fear that the same may well be the fate of the present atrocity also.

Apparently, the case is simple. A woman was brutally murdered in broad daylight and in the presence of dozens of witnesses including the police personnel. Conviction should, therefore, not be a problem. But, no, there would be no conviction. In all probability, the case would not even be pursued by the girl’s husband’s family for fear of more violence, more deaths. Does this reflect a lack of courage, lack of conviction, or lack of belief in the way the system works to the benefit of the murderers, the usurpers, the thugs, the extortionists, the rapists, the fraudsters, and the more powerful? Whatever the system may ordain, whatever the difficulties that may impede the way, whatever the threats hurled, whatever the cost in the end, does it behove a human being not to pursue a case as monstrous as this and allow the criminals to escape the dragnet of justice?

 

“Nothing can be more contrary to nature, to reason, to religion than cruelty. Hence, as inhuman man is generally considered as a monster. Such monsters, however, have existed and the heart almost bleeds at the recital of the cruel acts such have been guilty of. It teaches us that human nature, when left to itself, is not only treacherous, but desperately wicked.”

 –Charles Buck

I have often written about the deeply degenerative trends that have engulfed the society because there is no writ that would take charge, no system that would stop the offenders from pursuing their heinous crimes, no powerful voice of the civil society that would disseminate the rightful message, no futuristic direction that would instil respect for the supremacy of the just and the noble and no law that would punish the wicked and the transgressors. It is a society that has been effectively taken over by the criminal mafias who are routinely patronised by the rulers. The gory spectacles are disturbing and distressing. Every morning, one gets up to sickening pictures of the indescribable brutality committed in the name of ‘honour’. There are also brigades of the extortionists, looters and plunderers on the loose with intentions to keep a whole nation hostage to their evil designs.

Farzana is not an individual. She reflects the face of a society that has degenerated beyond where curative implements and strategies could make a difference. It has not happened overnight. It has come as a natural consequence of the hatred that is being preached from the pulpit morning, afternoon and evening: hatred against people belonging to differing sects, cultures, ethnic identities, castes and creeds, virtually everyone who dares disagree with a certain pontiff’s world view. Total, unquestioned subservience is the only way that may provide you the luxury to continue breathing. Even the slightest disagreement is your license to a bloodied death.

Farzana is not an individual. She reflects the face of a society that has degenerated beyond where curative implements and strategies could make a difference. It has not happened overnight. It has come as a natural consequence of the hatred that is being preached from the pulpit morning, afternoon and evening: hatred against people belonging to differing sects, cultures, ethnic identities, castes and creeds, virtually everyone who dares disagree with a certain pontiff’s world view. Total, unquestioned subservience is the only way that may provide you the luxury to continue breathing. Even the slightest disagreement is your license to a bloodied death.

It is also a land where the law enforcers are in cahoots with the criminals. After the gory public spectacle where Farzana was bludgeoned to death with bricks, the police have started trying to manipulate the occurrence to save its own skin and that of its traditional allies and patrons: the criminal mafias of Pakistan. It has started digging out stories about Farzana’s husband and that he had ‘killed’ his previous wife. That may well be, but what has it got to do with the current heinous crime? It has also claimed that the crime did not take place ‘in front’ of the city courts, but ‘several hundred feet away from the Lahore High Court doors’ where ‘there is no police deployment’. Consequently, the police or its personnel were not witness to the crime. That is the traditional first step to absolve itself of any responsibility and put it on those it may want to punish to settle an old score.

History is not the story of heroes entirely. It is often the story of cruelty and injustice and short-sightedness. There are monsters, there is evil, there is betrayal. That’s why people should read Shakespeare and Dickens as well as history. They will find the best, the worst, the height of noble attainment and the depths of depravity.

–David C McCullough

Where do we rest today as a nation: aloft the heights of noble attainment, or plunged to the depths of depravity? And, is there a way to extricate ourselves from the putridity and re-claim a measure of respectability, or is this the fait-accompli and we are condemned to live with it ad nauseam?

 

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I’ll show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I’ll show you fear in a handful of dust.

–T. S. Eliot, Burial of the Dead

The continuing sickness grows out of the blatantly discriminatory laws that have been enacted including the Qissas and Diyat Law, the Blasphemy Law and the Hadood Ordinance. The leaders will take routine notice of the crime, expressing their indignation and resolving to get the killers punished. But, in actual effect, nothing of the kind will happen as the murderers will escape the dragnet of justice making use of the caveats in the law. In the current case, the father will plead guilty to the crime and he’ll be ‘forgiven’ by his own son under the Qissas and Diyat Law. This is a bizarre mockery of the norms of justice.

We have regressed to only giving lip service to serious issues with potential to impact our survival as part of the civilised world. We try to address terrorism by talking to the terrorists. We allow the seminaries to continue injecting hate and venom into the veins of the young and the impressionable. The minorities are a perpetual victim of the Blasphemy Law and mostly personal scores are being settled by dubbing the opponents as blasphemers. The survival of the minority communities has been greatly jeopardised and they are being forced to leave the country in desperation. Their girls are being raped and their male offspring murdered as the government and its criminal administration watch as complicit bystanders.

We have regressed to only giving lip service to serious issues with potential to impact our survival as part of the civilised world. We try to address terrorism by talking to the terrorists. We allow the seminaries to continue injecting hate and venom into the veins of the young and the impressionable. The minorities are a perpetual victim of the Blasphemy Law and mostly personal scores are being settled by dubbing the opponents as blasphemers. The survival of the minority communities has been greatly jeopardised and they are being forced to leave the country in desperation. Their girls are being raped and their male offspring murdered as the government and its criminal administration watch as complicit bystanders.

It has gone on for an excruciatingly long time. People have endured the pain and suffering. They carry indelible scars of shame and helplessness. There appears no remedy, no cure on the horizon. On the contrary, the tentacles of regression and degeneration only appear to be digging deeper with the criminal mafias marshalling the spate of unending crime in the country with the support and connivance of their political patrons. This is part of a self-destruct pursuit to encapsulate the entire society in the clutches of fear that is not likely to lift any time soon:

 

This is the dead land

This is the cactus land

Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man’s hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star

–T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

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