A Nation with Confused Motives and a Clear Demise

 

Pakistan: a nation with confused Motives and a Clear Demise

 By Mona Hassan

February 10, 2015

 guernica

When I Googled the above-given painting by Pablo Picasso, in an attempt to understand what it meant, I was led to a publication by Kaitlin Tremblay, entitled “Where Art Belongs: The Interactivity and Politics of Video Games.” Her thoughts on the painting were:

“It’s a very moving painting and through the coloring chaos we feel the tragedy and the confusion of the bombing. Not just the confusion on the part of the civilians, but we, as spectators, can feel this also: the painting doesn’t entirely make sense. It is disorderly, chaotic and senseless – the same feelings we are meant to feel about the bombing and war. This feeling is stirred in us, and we have to be ready to see and accept this.”

To me, her description perfectly fits what the Pakistani nation is going through for decades. Bomb after bomb, tragedy after tragedy; each new government brings a new hope that dies soon after and the nation slowly gets closer to its ever-painful demise.

Just a few days ago, while some were celebrating the Super Bowl with succulent hot wings and guacamole, cheering for the Patriots, a father was stumbling through the rubble of Shikarpur Imam Bargah collecting pieces of his children’s’ bodies. Imagine the agony. He couldn’t leave even a single strand of hair behind; he had to gather the whole of his child, all of his children. Following the incident, our very own Jibran Nasir with a handful of civil society members came out asking the government to stand on their own two feet and do something right, for a change. He, with other protestors, sat in front of the CM house in Karachi for 30 straight hours demanding the government to identify banned organizations and repeal any luxury that those organizations are enjoying, including full protocol and security from Pakistanis’ tax money. The group demanded to take that security and protocol back, declare these organizations as terrorist organizations, arrest them and take them to court for cases that are already registered against them. It is appalling to know that our very own government is feeding and protecting terrorist organizations that have terrorized and killed thousands of its own citizens.

Well that was about the government, crippled and impotent. as always. It’s an old news, not worth wasting anyone’s time and insulting anyone’s intelligence. What about the public? It is true that our general public is very kind. When Shikarpur was flooded with blood and body parts, it was the public who started helping people out and managed to get them to the hospital. I noticed how for thirty hours Jibran kept the update going and kept appealing to the people to come out and sit with them and raise their voice against this terrorism. In his video that’s been circling around he said that it’s easier said than done. A very fiery message that sent chills down my spine, he called upon all the Shias saying it’s easy to call yourself a Hussaini but it’s very hard to become one and do what Hussain did, standing up against the tyranny. This should have been a country-wide protest, not just of a handful of civil society members. All of us saw, with dropped jaws, the amount of people who came out after the Charlie Hebdo incident, including French Muslims.  Not just in France, where the streets were packed with vigils, people showed their solidarity for the killed cartoonists and against Islamic terrorism all over the world.

What if Shikarpur had happened in Palestine or Syria, and the perpetrators were Americans or Jews? Wouldn’t the whole of Pakistan have come out on the streets? Why is it that when their own people are killed and butchered right there in their own backyard by their “own” people who are walking around fearless right around them, it doesn’t make their blood boil? Why do Pakistanis lack care and empathy so much for their own people? The same people who took all the wounded to the hospital in their arms and on their shoulders before ambulances arrived, are now quiet. Why do they feel more for the children who are killed in Palestine, than their own who were killed Peshawar and Shikarpur? Well, there is no explanation other than the idea that they have no humanity left; that, or, the idea that they protest for the dead children of Palestine, not for their sake, but to protest against Israel. The preference is different and so is the motive.

Pakistanis have proven themselves to be a dead nation who has gotten into a habit of asking for everything and not earning it. They are indifferent towards everything, but Skipper’s marriage, which makes them dance and play dholkis in their houses and/or slut-sham his wife for being too “westernized.” But when he makes a bad move and keeps protecting the Taliban, they remain quiet, or even support him. How easy it was to come and gather around Imran Khan’s container every day and night, but so hard to gather around the CM’s house in Karachi demanding the Government to stop protecting the terrorists? It wasn’t hard, if the motivation was there.

It is a fact that our government is supporting terrorism. It is also a fact that Pakistanis as a nation passively supports terrorism. They are harboring terrorists in their mosques and in their jails. They are protecting the idea of killing other people on the basis of religion by calling its critics “Islamophobes,” and “infidels.” Neutrality isn’t a choice in this situation and neither is the fight to protect Islam. Elie Wiesel once said “we must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Silence doesn’t help the victim, but the offender – the terrorists, in this case – because it is one less voice against them.

So when Muslims like Mehdi Hassan say that even though it wasn’t right to kill Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, yet the cartoonists shouldn’t have made cartoons that offended Muslims, they are actually putting the blame on the cartoonists and not the killers. Which side are they on: the cartoonists and their free speech, or those “Muslims” who avenged the insult to their Prophet by slaughtering unarmed men? Well, we don’t know.  Similarly, when we say that the Taliban’s terrorist attacks are in retaliation to the military operation in Waziristan, we are not doing the victims of Shikarpur or Peshawar any favour. We are condoning terrorism by not condemning it, and by not condemning the actors directly or indirectly responsible for this. We are also helping the terrorists by not coming out and raising our voice against them, as well as the government that is protecting those terrorist organizations.  France didn’t stand up behind any Jibran Nasir; Paksitan should consider itself lucky that it has people like him who have taken the most vicious of all in the world head on. He has done it and has shown that fighting consistently against terrorism leads to results and you don’t even have to break a single wind screen for that. It’s called “public power” – something that everyone possesses but only the most courageous, the most honorable ones utilize.

 

 

Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”; Follow her on Twitter

 

The Silent Revolution

By Mona Hassan

January 27, 2015

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Electricity, inflation, water and now (gas) petrol crisis; all of these utilities seem to be an urban legend in Pakistan. In the past few days, I have come across a number of excited posts on my Facebook time line about full tanks of fuels. There is an unignorable euphoria seen when a common man finds fuel.

“Rumors” of fuel being sold in black and the riches getting their hands on it without any difficulty are also circling around. An obvious blame on the government for creating “artificial crisis,” usurping public funds for fancy twenty member delegations overseas, lavish lifestyle of the prime minister and other members of the government isn’t a secret.

Bugs infested swamps and ponds, creating serious health conditions in many parts of the country, and food price hike in open market are a few of the hottest topics of discussion for a while. Meat is a rare commodity. Even grains, sugar and lentils are very expensive for an average Pakistani household. Pakistan has been in this chaotic state for over a few decades now and to top it all Thar keeps facing a high death toll due to famine; 47 deaths only for the current month of January. That is more than two deaths per day in Thar and the food aid that was supposed to be distributed was hoarded by the local feudals of the area. Government has obviously repeatedly failed its people who need help the most.

Pakistan is in the most dilapidated condition at the moment and it didn’t happen overnight. With each passing day the situation is getting worse. Each election year we gather around to listen to absurd speeches, claims and promises by the same few religious or family run political parties and chant for their success. Well actually, we chant for the most disliked parties to lose. Some of us have had other reasons to wait for election years as well.

I have to admit that at one point Professor Naeem Bukhari – because he taught me Constitution during my law school days – used to be the only person during election time for special election edition that would get me hooked on national TV. Come elections and we sit through the rigging allegations, disappointments, conspiracy theories and struggle to make ends meet all over again and next election year, same story. Being a Pakistani, it seems like it is a part of the package that you don’t learn anything from your mistakes and habitually repeat them.

Every now and then Pakistan sees a coup or two. A military officer comes into power, things seem to get better or enough to feed Pakistanis’ wishful thinking and then the vicious cycle starts back all over again.

When we don’t get anything from our feudal and business Politicians we run after an all-rounder cricketer hottie turned social worker turned politician and stand up to make new Pakistan. This new Pakistan gave people a great floor plan. It has great ocean views, beautiful gardens with big healthy luscious trees and flowers, fresh grass to roll on, sweet waterfall and… wait… stop!

I got carried away for a little bit over there just like the people who sat in the sit-in protest for 126 days with their Captain and then poof! Everything back to the same state. Captain got married and Pakistanis focused their attention on her new bride and her past.

There is a very clear and obvious pattern here. People keep looking at the sky and wait for the savior to come down and rescue them, hope for the best and go back on with their same lives struggling between putting food on the table and not getting sick every other day.

The problem here is not the government. It is merely running the show as a master and all Pakistanis are accomplices to this crime of self-destruction. Some people create their own storms and get mad when it rains (unknown). Pakistanis are those very people; victims of their own doing. How do they mitigate that? They blame; they blame anyone from their own government to Jews and India.

These days, after clear disappointment from Captain all eyes are on COAS Raheel Shareef. Although the Army hasn’t taken over the country officially but the Chief is calling all the shots and making all important decisions while Prime Minister visited ailing King of Saudi Arabia. People hope that Chief will make things better by hanging the already imprisoned for life “terrorists”.

Pakistani Army has by far kept the most consistent gold star record in the eyes of the masses than any other department in the country. There is not all bad news though. In fact, it’s quite refreshing to see that Pakistan’s “silent majority” is slowly rising against terrorism and fearlessly telling Taliban and their agents operating incognito in the country that is rallying with #IAmNotAfraid. That is by far the only platform where people have stood together as Pakistanis without the religious, sectarian or financial distinctions and/or discriminations.

Thanks to Jibran Nasir who took the first step and the most dangerous job in the world to stand against terrorists and motivated other Pakistanis to come forward. Right step I’d say at the time when this country is fighting war on many external and internal fronts.

People of Pakistan have much more talent and craftsmanship than any handyman in the world. Who hasn’t heard of truck jingle art? Sialkot is the biggest industry for surgical tools and sporting goods. Every kid on the street is a potential cricketer, every third will show how to dismantle something and tell you what each of those parts are. There is no scarce of talent but putting that talent into good use is the question. At least one person in each household knows how to grow plants and almost everyone knows how to ride a bicycle. As a matter of fact Pakistan has its own home industry of Sohrab Cycle which started in 1953 from a little shop.

Speaking of bicycles, China brought reform in the country by introducing a bicycle culture in 1950s. Recently, after the years of this declining culture and now disturbed by the smog emission and traffic Jams in big cities like Beijing – that used to be called the Kingdom of Bicycles – China has decided to bring it back by introducing a bike share program. What changed? Not the government, but people and their perception, their behavior and thinking.

At one time in China, bicycles were a symbol of poor man’s transport or just school kids’ afternoon out door entertainment like in Pakistan. It is now getting popular to become a cool and hipster transport in China despite the fact that there are still some organizations in cities that do not allow bikes on their property.

Denmark, ranked the happiest country in the world has bicycles as their choice of transport. For over half of Copenhagen population ride their bikes to work albeit being the rainy and snowy city.

Similarly, growing up I have always seen some vegetable and fruit bushes and plants in my house. My late aunt had a small area in backyard where she grew different vegetable including okra, spinach, tomato, chili peppers, eggplant, cucumber, lemon and few others that I am forgetting. She would have enough vegetables to feed five people in her household.

What’s the point of all this growing vegetables and bicycle discussion? The point is these countries and people that changed, they weren’t always like that. They changed their perception and attitude towards things and life. No savior came to rescue them they started their own little revolution to make is a “new” life for themselves. They took the matters into their own hands for their well-being instead of relying helplessly on the leaders repeatedly or waiting for the manna dew to drop from the sky, inflation to end or cleaner environment.

At the moment Pakistanis judge each other by the size of the car they drive, the home they live in and how well they can communicate in a fancy English accent and not how much they themselves can do for any betterment – individual or collective. There is a lot of frustration around resulting into stress and anger within people, hopelessness, and rise in crimes or any other way they can satisfy their own human body and mind. Destructive thinking has taken the place of constructive attitude. No jobs, no utilities, terrorism, no food for so many, people dying from terrorism and hate crimes every day.

So why is that we haven’t been able to bring about any positive change in our country? It’s because we haven’t starting riding bikes like Chinese and Danish people and have stopped growing little food in our back yards. Say what? Well we haven’t changed our thinking, perception and attitude towards people and life. We just keep following the same monotonous routine like a herd of sheep that’s either waiting for food or to be sent to a slaughter house.

Finding petrol after a four-hour wait isn’t an achievement; it’s an admission of failure and defeat. If Pakistanis believe that it’s them who can bring change and not the metro, nuclear weapon or sit-in protests, the change will be seen much more quickly and clearly. As Albert Einstein said “The world as we have created, it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

A bike and a few seeds in the back yard can make new Pakistan. Only the silent majority can bring the Silent Revolution.