Language by its very nature is meant to serve purposes far more profound and even sinister than communication. This remains particularly true for countries as beguiling as Pakistan. In theory, this is our home. But the word home, and one owned collectively, often connotes something where there is a semblance of securityor at least perceived security. What we often cannot say to the rest of the world, we can often say or talk about at home. That, sadly, is a luxury that is seemingly no longer available to us.
For many, Pakistan is not what a home is meant to be. It is more like a hall of residence where violent brats reign supreme. This violence is not limited to arms and ammunition alone. It can be understood more like the violence caused by a husband who beats his wife blue and doesnt utter a word later: letting her accept the brutal reality that things just are a certain way. The violent brats reigning supreme hang tags outside certain rooms and the occupants of the tagged rooms are, seemingly, destined to live out a less fulfilling existence than the brats.
Our laws use the word citizen without capturing the layers of inequality that pervade the lives of this countrys so-called citizens. What many go through in this so-called home is worse than racism; this in no way is meant to trivialise the harm that racism has done to societies and individuals. But even racism focuses on the apparent; the colour of your skin. Things are worse in Pakistan because people here are now suffering, paying a price and being killed because of what they believe in the sacred recesses of their hearts. Faith and opinions are now the basis of indictment. We own God is what this society seems to be saying to its minorities. Mr. Bhatti was the latest casualty in the senseless attacks waged on those who dare to speak out against the existence and implementation of the multitude of unjust laws present on our statute books.
Candle-light vigils and protest marches featuring a few hundred occur regularly now after heinous killings of brave men and women in our country. However such actions, to me, are an attempt by those who remain to salvage their conscience. No real change will be brought about by these but such actions do keep a flickering hope alive and that alone makes them worth it. At the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that the enthusiastic slogans at these marches and the somber silences at vigils have been drowned out by years of collective inaction. In that respect we are all guilty. Silence can cause violence, in fact it in itself is a form of violence in the context of Pakistan and yet that is what is now being advised to many. To me each, each candle-light vigil is nothing less than a funeral where we mourn the collective loss of our innocence as a society. The immunization against violence is now nearly complete. Disgust and fleeting moments of mourning are the last few remaining signs of our humanity. Lets hold on to these desperately.
No one wants to take responsibility and maybe it cannot be attributed to just one segment of our society alone. At the same time the mullah-military nexus needs to step up and claim the gold medal on the victory stand titled, the demise of Pakistan. Our financial and social elite along with many of our young minds eye politicians with disgust. This represents more a failure to understand the real cause of all that is wrong with our society and its structures rather than any nuanced analysis. Politicians, the world over, will seek to make political mileage out of each event and occurrence that can hurt an opponent or enhance their standingthat is how politics works. Blaming the party in government for failing to protect its ministers will not do. The PPP is surely not desirous of getting its ministers or governors martyred. And if any of its spokespersons follow it up with accusations against the government of a particular province then that needs to be seen as immaturity on the part of politicians rather than an argument against democracy. Corrupt or inept politicians have never been and should never be the reason to abandon democracy as a system of government. Democracy always provides hope for change, unlike dictatorship.
What will make this home of ours progressively less homely for our minorities is an acceptance by us, the privileged first among equals, that things just are a certain way. And this depressing reality needs to be confronted and challenged. It requires all of us to make unpopular arguments and maybe even risk relationships and social gatherings where we were previously welcome. We may not feel it every day but we are bleeding at an alarming rate. With our collective failures enhanced by each life taken around us, the lifelessness of our souls is approaching fast.
The writer is a Barrister of Lincolns Inn and practices in Lahore. He has a special interest in Anti-trust / Competition law. He can be reached at [email protected]