Aasia freed, nation seized

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  • Country at a standstill as landmark decision opposed

After nearly a decade of misery and wretchedness, Aasia Bibi’s death sentence has been overturned by the apex court due to lack of sufficient evidence. However, the decision has resulted in a new spate of violent events, once again deadlocking the country already struggling to bring some progress.

In view of the sensitivity of the issue, I have been suggested and requested by my well-wishers not to comment on Aasia Bibi’s decision or the case. The emotions are still soaring, whether of supporters or those of against, I’m told. If the zealots refuse to accept a Supreme Court decision and are bent to prove a right into wrong, how would they digest even the minutest of criticism, I’m warned.

So although a flood of emotions and storm of expressions attempt to overtake me, I will not comment on Aasia.

However, I would write about the ordeal faced by thousands of commuters on the streets, major highways and interchanges. I have a first-hand account of the helplessness felt by them, since my better half also remained stranded on a motorway for 14 hours while on a business trip. There was no way forward nor a U-turn. If no major food supplies accompanied the passengers, the only respite was random visits by street hawkers carrying snacks and water and drinks of mostly doubtful quality. For 14 hours, there was no chance of medical aid in case of an emergency, except if provided by the motorway helpline. For 14 hours, communication was limited since phone batteries needed to be saved to be used in case of an extremity. Each increasing hour brought upon a rising fear of impatience and frustration, resulting in riots. For 14 hours, commuters had to manage the slight evening chill not unusual in Punjab these days. The anguish, painstakingly long wait came to an end in the dead of the night, when protestors were dispersed by security forces.

I would write about the loss our country’s younger generation incurred in the face of closed educational institutions, which are already plagued by too many breaks and holidays. Like other children, mine also rejoiced at news of an unexpected holiday. What they don’t realise is the uncertainty and questions such situations raise: what is the future of our children and their education? While nearly half of the school going age population of Pakistan remains uneducated, those privileged to be able to go to such institutions are forced to sit back at home and receive education in sporadic episodes, unable to fully comprehend the process.

I would like to write about the plight of daily wage workers, small shop owners and those hawkers dependent on their outdoor trips every day, which ensure a meagre supply of food for their family, house rent and utility expense. Frequent shutdowns bring their lives to a standstill. For them, nothing is more important than the basic necessities of life as survival of the fittest best explains their situation.

I would also write about the commendable speech made by our prime minister, Imran Khan, hours before he left for an official visit to China

I would comment on the self-censorship practice by electronic media, which in the later hours of the day preferred to discuss Supreme Court hearings on a case against two federal ministers over their recent statements on the transfer of a senior police official. And, of course, offer of cooperation by leader of a prominent opposition party was also the highlight of the day, as well as leader of opposition’s grilling questions on NRO. The prime minister’s speech came as a saving grace, through which the TV channels could touch lightly on the SC decision on Aasia Bibi’s case. However, there was no coverage of protests, mainly to avoid any inciting or giving undue highlight to the agitators, although the plight of the suffering citizens also remained off the screen.

I would also write about the commendable speech made by our prime minister, Imran Khan, hours before he left for an official visit to China. It was perhaps, for the first time in the history of the nation, that one of its leaders openly condemned those who in their zeal, bring hurdles to a smooth and efficient running of our country, let alone its progress. The prime minister showed exceptional courage as he questioned the audacity by some of refusing to accept a Supreme Court decision and issuing fatwas of murder against top statesmen and officials of the country. He also warned of an action by the state, which was indeed started in the wee hours of the night to end blockades of roads, as commentators on TV channels proposed a ‘peaceful’ solution.

I cannot help but write about the glorious examples of forgiveness set by our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). When Muhammad (PBUH) went to Taif to spread the message of Islam, the natives threw rocks and stones on him until his body bled. The angel Gabriel descended from the heavens and asked the Holy Prophet (PBUH) whether he should punish the offenders, but the Prophet (PBUH) instead prayed for them and himself. An old lady in Mecca would daily throw garbage on him when he would pass by her house. One day, when she was resting inside, the Prophet (PBUH), instead of breathing a sigh of relief, inquired after her health. When he conquered Mecca, Muhammad (PBUH) forgave the staunchest of his opponents, many of whom embraced Islam. These were the standards set by Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), the last of the messengers, which won the hearts of non-believers.

These are some of my thoughts which I feel and hope, would still be acceptable. Their release also brings a little rest to my throbbing mind, full to the brim on observance of the chaos underway in our country.

So I would not write about Aasia, for now. May we see more peaceful and tolerant times in the days to come.