=> This year, and we're only a month in, has been a h -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

=> This year, and we’re only a month in, has been a h

This year, and we’re only a month in, has been a heavy one. Pakistan marked the New Year with characteristic aplomb. It seems that we are becoming a country that answers every question with violence. There is no room for negotiation, no room for debate, and certainly no room for difference. We have a problem, we axe it.

Chief Justice? Let’s call for Emergency and kill some protesting lawyers while we’re at it. Fundamentalism brewing in our northern areas? Let’s launch a war and exterminate them all. Let’s not waste anytime talking or answering for our role in breeding terror and hate, tish tosh.

Politicians are used as target practice and politics has become mere entertainment fodder for reptilian journalists and local commentators alike. I’m afraid we are becoming a most unsavoury bunch. Our media have divorced themselves from ethics and responsibility (it’s not just Pakistan, look at most foreign media outlets and you’ll get an idea as to where we learn our tricks) and we citizens are quite happy to sit back and not question much of anything.

Pakistan has officially become the country that no one wants to be friends with. It’s going to be a lonely year ahead. Elections have been postponed and the promise that they are to be held in a month’s time is sweet but not entirely realistic. I, for one, am tired of being lied to. Is Shaikh Rasheed a crystal ball? I don’t mean to frighten you, but he very well could be. He seems to echo whatever it is the government is thinking at whatever given point they’re thinking it.

He is the swinging pendulum of the state. One moment left, the next right. Shaikh Raheed is nothing if not deserving of our utmost attention. He said recently that if elections are not held on Feb 18 and are postponed again, we can forget about a new date — I’m paraphrasing here, of course; he is infinitely more lyrical than I am. But this latest statement is something worth listening to.

We’re not animals, we’re rational intelligent people at times. If the government has no intention of holding elections, just tell us. It’s much nicer than just teasing us. Election work is costly, time-consuming, and exhausting. Party workers put their hearts and souls into campaigning; they leave behind families, jobs, and the luxury of sleep to work on elections. Voters don’t like it when you keep changing the date on them, it makes them think you’re kidding around like the boy who cried wolf, and eventually they just stop believing you.

How else did we mark the start of the New Year? With violence so commonly employed, it runs the risk of becoming ordinary. First Lahore, usually a calm city, was hit by a suicide bomber killing some twenty people — mainly policemen and lawyers — and wounding scores of others. No one was brought to task over the senseless attack. Then Karachi, by now a usual suspect, was hit by another bombing in Landhi. Eight people were killed. Was the attack ethnically inspired? Was it political? No one knows; no one was brought to task over the senseless attack. Next was Peshawar, victim of an Ashura attack against the Shiite minority on their holiest of days. Nine people died in the Imambargah bombing.

No one was brought to task over the senseless attack. Pro-Taliban militants struck at Ladha Fort, a security fort used by the military, in South Waziristan. Five soldiers were killed. Soon after, the army abandoned another fort at Sipla Toi, also in South Waziristan, fearing another attack. This Monday the army struck back and killed 37 militants in South Waziristan. Where does this end?

In other news, the CIA is desperate to come trooping across our borders, and according to recent news reports we’re trying to keep them at bay. Good luck with that, we opened the door to those spooks decades ago and never bothered to close it. The Washington Post claims that the Special Forces are also desperate for a good old South Asia tourist experience and have kindly offered to come to Pakistan and undertake the task of training our armed forces. The fact that we have the seventh-largest army in the world, and one that seems to be doing their job just fine, doesn’t concern anyone. Shouldn’t it?

Why don’t we ask questions? Democracy means accountability. It means fostering the right to free expression and dissent. It means taking leaders, criminals, and party officials to task.

We have been silent for too long. Why is it that Pakistanis aren’t interested in demanding answers to our questions? Except for this one, this is our all-time favourite question: Whom can we blame for everything? Is America/Punjab/the army responsible for all our problems?

No, we are. America and other assorted bogeymen certainly take advantage of our reluctance to band together as a nation, but they are only able to do so because we give them the necessary space.

We are responsible for our past and we are responsible for our political future. If we hadn’t joined this catastrophic War on Terror in the manner that we had (obsequiously and eagerly), but rather negotiated our strategic importance and insisted on referring the matter to our citizens, maybe we wouldn’t have the Taliban wreaking havoc in Swat because they think their state betrayed their own people in the interest of a foreign power.

If the mass of men had a stake in the distribution of justice and access to the law, maybe we could take our compendium of colourful criminals to trial? Maybe if Pakistanis bothered to get registered and walk their important selves to a polling station on Election Day in 2002 we would have had a government more representative of the people and their needs. Maybe.

Source: The News