Monday, 24 September 2012

A Different Pakistan

By this time most papers have stated the obvious about what went wrong on Friday along with the perceived causes. Subjects dealt with included freedom of speech vs. hate speech, Terry Jones and background of filmmaker Nakoula Bassey Nakoula, provocation and our stupid response, and to top it all off, shock and disgust at the violent nature of protests.

The analysis of what went down and why, at least in most of the English press, confirmed my long standing suspicion. I live in a different Pakistan.

In the Pakistan that I inhabit, violent protests erupted just a few months ago due to loadshedding and people actively hunted for MNAs. It resulted in many deaths along with damage to property. In recent memory mobs have burned people for blasphemy, while earlier the fate of two brothers in Sialkot was even harsher.

Needless to say, if the people catch you while committing a crime, real or perceived, you will be lucky to make it to the cops.

What about the learned people? Those who are above the masses, the ones not only setting standards but also enforcing them?

Our police, one of the most brutal and vicious in the world, kill the odd chap via torture in custody, and are generally very macho. Our lawyers beat down anyone they can get their hands on. Our politicians torture kids. Hell, even our doctors don’t mind a scuffle!

That’s the lighter side of my Pakistan. Wasn’t it pleasant?

The rough side is actually a little disturbing. Insurgencies plague Balochistan and KPK-FATA, terrorism at large, sectarian killings in Gilgit and Quetta. Our right wing political parties are the bad guys, while the three supposedly liberal parties slaughter over a thousand people every year.

My Pakistan is one where violence isn’t widespread; it’s a part of daily life, with or without religion.

Now, can you imagine what would happen if these Pakistanis were invited en masse onto the streets by say, the government of the time? Given a full day off to vent their frustration? And what if the government and the many political/religious leaders who invited these guys to protest didn’t show up themselves?

Piling angry young people onto the streets without anyone to lead them, without any direction, without any indication whatsoever of what exactly are they supposed to do. What would that lead to?

Enough of my Pakistan though.

Let us come back to your Pakistan. I have to say I am as appalled as you are over what happened on Friday. How dare those lovely, peaceful, content people come out, uninvited, on the streets like headless chicken and cause such unheard of mayhem. Not to mention the harm done to our good reputation in front of the whole world.

Viewing these events in isolation from the daily life in Pakistan is intellectually dishonest at worst and lazy at best.

Viewing the reaction of the Muslim world to that video as a whole is just wrong. It was violent in some countries, peaceful in others. How they reacted had to do with the makeup of those particular societies and the guidance received from political, religious leaders and media.

In our society violence has pretty much been institutionalized, it is the rule here and not the exception. It is what we do, it is who we are. The less said about the political and religious leaders the better, and the media feeds off sensationalism and Bahria Town adverts.

Therefore, I could find nothing shocking about Friday. A violent people, with a nasty bout of anti-Americanism and deadly disdain for blasphemy, let loose on the streets. How many ways could that have turned out? Also, the fact that PPP are an incompetent shameless lot of opportunists who find new ways to hurt the country is the least surprising of all things imaginable.

This was not an anomaly. It wasn’t an ugly episode in our otherwise peaceful national life. It was just another day, albeit made worse by a chaotic, utterly useless government.

So the elite should stop reacting with such marvellous shock. And please, please stop mocking the damn mob, on Twitter no less. If you are privileged enough to have a voice, use it to address the larger disease, not selective symptoms.

The ones responsible for law and order and the ones who claim to be our leaders, they are responsible for not just the violence on Friday, but the daily horrors Pakistanis outside the Red Zone have to deal with.

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