Corpses of canaries | Pakistan Today

Corpses of canaries

  • Revisiting stifled, bruised and precarious lives of our children

Let us revisit what happened two years back. It created a lot of media attention. The public at large was scared. The parents were afraid of what lies in store for their young kids. The society was questioning everything it stood for. The mass hysteria was all pervasive.

Some were three years old, some were four, others seven or twelve or older. They all had one thing in common: a similar fate. They were physically and sexually abused before being cruelly murdered. This is the pall of fear that has wrapped itself around our children. From Mardan to Kasur and beyond, we’ve been burying our innocent canaries. And the only thing that gets our attention is an exceptional amount of noise. It is noise, unceasing noise, deafening noise that wakes us up.

Once awake, we feel depressed and nauseated. The despair settles in. Some shed tears, others show solidarity. All of us air grievances. We condemn politicians, we abuse police, and we forcefully demand that the culprit be publicly hanged. The frenzy, slowly and steadily, fizzles out. The Zainabs and Asmas get busy playing in the Elysian Fields. We get back to living our lives as the ‘most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.’ We are the beings that the King from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels thought of us. It may or may not drain all the empty optimism from our existences but it sure does ring true right now. The misanthrope is justified to condemn mankind in entirety for the bad ones among us commit horrendous deeds while the good ones remain indifferent.

Our piety doesn’t allow us to teach our kids when to reach out for help. We shy away from telling them when they are being touched inappropriately. We shield them, feed them, provide them with toys, educate them, and place our head inside sand and pray that they be safe from the predators.

There is no place for certain forbidden words, damned and banished, in our scheme of things because they clash with every belief we hold in reverence.

Our piety doesn’t allow us to teach our kids when to reach out for help. We shy away from telling them when they are being touched inappropriately. We shield them, feed them, provide them with toys, educate them, and place our head inside sand and pray that they be safe from the predators.

‘Sex Education’ falls in that category. In our unabashed and wholesome hatred of all things west, except for cars, films, iPhones, F-16s, massive loans, no-strings attached aid and citizenship, the very topic of sex education has been relegated to the cupboard of Taboos and placed right next to things it aims to deter i.e. harassment, sexual assault and physical abuse.

The deeper malice of backwardness coupled with a society in perpetual state of transition, fluctuating between confusion and resentment, gripes for anything that offers even an iota of hope or retribution.

Take for example the case of Zainab. Reactive as it may, the Punjab government and police immediately jolted into action. The DNA tests of more than thousand individuals, the speedy investigation, and the media frenzy ultimately led to the capture of the suspect. But the Asma Murder Case, an incident of equal hideousness that reared its head in Mardan ‘Naya KP’, remains unresolved. The Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the incident and in a rare show of solidarity the KP Police sought expertise of Punjab Forensic Lab.

However, the most harrowing response was by none other than the chairman PTI Imran Khan. When asked about the response and progress made by KP government about the Asma case, Khan Sahab, showing an excellent example of ad homine and attacked the organization the reporter hailed from and reiterated his conviction to put his employee behind bars.

Canaries are small, colorful cousins of sparrows who are famous for singing melodiously. In the tough old days the miners used to carry them in tunnels as their death served as a warning sign of presence of lethal gases in mines. The death of these little birds ensured the lives of many.

In the aftermath of recent events, I trust you to figure out who amongst us is the deadly coal mine, who are the clever miners and is there anything we can do to save the many canaries in the future.

And please, dearest sirs and ma’ams, don’t use the words like ‘darinda-sift’ or equate these murderous rapists with beasts and animals. Let us never forget what Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist and foremost knower of human psychology had to say about the savage side of human nature. ‘People talk sometimes of a bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be as cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it’.

Our canaries will keep on perishing until we don’t prepare them to scream when someone tries to strangle them. Till then, we will be burying their corpses.

Shah Nawaz Mohal

Shah Nawaz Mohal is a law graduate, feature writer and columnist. At present he is studying world literature at University of Potsdam, Germany. He can be reached at [email protected]



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