By Saeed Qureshi
My heart bleeds for my countrymen living in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I am confounded why they have to suffer so much. The country is in a state of complete paralysis. The people are caught in a trance of bewilderment as if they have been bewitched or are under the spell of evil spirits. The life in Pakistan for the teeming majority is miserable.
Pakistan is not in Africa yet the life is no better than that far flung continent, used by the human traffickers to provide raw manpower for nascent America. Africa has remained steeped in pathetic quagmire of ignorance, humiliation and degradation. The black pigment was touted by the cunning and diabolic white masters to be a symbol of slavery and sub-human species.
But Africa is in the throes of a gradual awakening. Despite intrusions and civil wars engineered by the colonial masterminds, the African countries are demonstrating signs of resistance against the latest western onslaughts to keep them subservient to their economic interests.
Africa is replete with untapped natural resources. From Sudan to the ultimate brinks of western Africa, a wave of self realization and self dignity has started sweeping. The despicable, polygamous and lecherous monarchs are in a state of retreat.
The change is visible in empowering the people and forming representative governments. It would be too early to expect a miracle or rapid switch from autocracies to unalloyed democracies. But the change is in the offing. Africa’s future is glorious. Africa in the next century, by cautious reckoning, would be studded by modern states with their concomitant features such a adult franchise, the dignity and power of ballot, the monumental economic milestones, the establishment of modern cities.
The so called Dark Continent would take giant leaps in education and healthcare, the cure for diseases, the prosperity in place of poverty and hunger and the realization of the most cherished goal of creation of civil societies. So much for the hibernating and slumbering Dark Continent not in terms of the color of the people but by the atrocious and pervasive decadence of millenniums.
Pakistan a modern state carved out of the Indian subcontinent for the Muslims to live a peaceful life is receding into a cesspool of suffering for its people. It is a society where hunger, grinding poverty, spiraling insecurity, aberrations of unemployment, pollution, crimes, civic mess, injustice, stalk the land.
For six decades of its existence it has remained caught up in an unremitting and swelling decline. One wonders why this country in the reverse gear of progress is. Whatever hope and modest livable conditions the people initially had, are fading.
I do not have enough endurance in me to see the heart-wrenching scenes of people aimlessly wandering in the streets with the agony and stress writ large on their faces because of the nightmarish power outrages and interminable blackouts that invariably take place many times round the clock.
It would be superfluous to enumerate the debilitating fallout of power breakdowns on the human mind, psychologies, moods, sensibilities and resistance of the people. A nation is turning paranoid with twin phobias: one about the uncertainty of electricity’s coming and the second about its going. Add to this frightening situation the burgeoning terrorism and killing for extortion that have snatched their peace of mind.
Of late, on the television, I have seen crowds of people sleeping in the open spaces, on the roads and pavements in a state of anguish and helplessness and under a specter of looming insecurity. A nation is sleeping in unguarded places to beat the stifling suffocation, unbearable heat and humidity of the sizzling summer in summer and biting cold in winter without caring for the bomb blasts, target killing, robbing at gun points and rape.
Just imagine the degree of despondency that is breeding indifference to even one’s own life. I am talking about the human miseries and not the colossal commercial and industrial losses and its disastrous ramifications on the national economy.
The school going children from the poor families starve and cannot have enough food to eat. They do not have access to easy and safe transportation to reach their schools and colleges. The ramshackle, stuffy Suzuki vans and clumsy buses lacking proper seats, or such necessary comforts as heating or air-conditioning commute between destinations with passengers perched on top and on all sides. The young kids both boys and girls are exposed to falling off or sitting in the company of vile individuals.
The streets and roads are full of nauseating stench and pollution of animal refuse, the smoke emitting and shrieking vehicles, the overflowing sewers and open drains choked with filth and garbage. The ancient cities of Pompeii, Baghdad, and of Pharaoh’s eras were even much better in civic management than the cities of Pakistan.
The offices, the bazaars, the houses, the lanes, the shopping centers and the space between sky and earth, remains covered with the thick layers of smoke and dust that wards off oxygen and obstructs the breathing in a fresh and pure air.
The young kids from the indigent families cannot afford education and therefore have to work in workshops as apprentices, conductors in public transport and on similar menial jobs. The budding flowers of the nations remain vulnerable and easy targets of molestation and abuse by their masters.
The residential religious seminaries present the worst scenarios. It is hard to believe that the students residing in these fortified religious citadels would be safe from the abuse of their sturdy custodians. They lose the significance of moral dignity, propriety and inviolability of human body.
They fill their stomachs with the charity food sent or donated by others. When they grow up they themselves, in the footsteps of their molesters, continue that loathsome practice with the students under their morbid supervision.
Barring the costly bottled water, no water is safe for drinking in Pakistan. Most beverages are adulterated. Most food items are not pure. Can one imagine that in the water scarce areas of Pakistan, the humans and animals drink alike from the same highly polluted pond filled with rain water? No wonder they develop deadly and incurable diseases.
The runaway children from starving families roam and loiter in cities to be seduced or forcibly whisked away by hardened sex offenders or by the heartless criminal gangs or by those who would keep them in forced bonded labor or sent for bomb blasts assignments.
The women are targeted and raped with willful abandon. There is no recourse or remedy for them to seek justice. The police catch the people sitting in public parks, take grafts forcibly or lock the citizens for no reason. The women in police custody or other law enforcement agencies seldom come unscathed from sexual abuse.
There is a one page official form called FIR (the first investigation report) cannot be written unless the SHO (the station house officer), commonly known as inspector agrees. The format of this form was prepared during the colonial rule and still no change has been made in that. Writing of an FIR comes on a heavy graft or on the order of a dignitary.
The process of justice from FIR to the final outcome takes countless twists and years making a mockery of the legal system. The judges, the magistrates, the lawyers, the touts in between are engaged in a vicious game of catching the justice system on the wrong foot.
The scale of corruption, bribery and financial scams is alarmingly widespread. The malfunctioning in every government department with corruption as the leading vice is no secret at all. The addiction of making illicit buck and exploiting the voiceless citizens is in the veins of every person in an authoritative position, be it a small clerk or a member of the parliament or even the ministers, prime minister and president of Pakistan.
Literacy, education, research, social decency, a tolerable civic life, and a civilized environment are all far cry in the chaotic and perennially troubled Pakistan. The religious preachers keep their eyes closed on country’s deformities and real fiendish problems.
They push the people towards the age of barbarianism and primitive cave life and force them to perform rituals and meaningless traditions devoid of real spirit of religion. The Religion has become a robust and ensured means of exploitation in the name of God and fear of hell and pleasures of paradise.
Let me take a break to compare this abysmal spectacle with the societies where people enjoy civic and social peace. Let us take the American society. This comparison should, in fact, be deemed as a contrast. The first glaring hallmark is the order and discipline that runs in the arteries of this society, like the healthy blood in a human body. The law is equal and stringent and is for all.
The laws are humane yet inviolable and operate within the limits set by the society and the constitution. There is no large scale infringement of the law but if there is, the law ultimately prevails. Everyone from the president, to senators to congressmen to governors is exposed to well integrated and efficient network of oversight and accountability.
The detractors or cynics may like to point out the social freedom that they call moral laxity as a stigma on the western societies. But choice to enjoy is left to one’s own discretion as a part of human freedom and is observed in very strict conditions. By comparison the vice is more rampant and beyond law in our societies than what one can observe in the United States.
The violators are vulnerable to condign punishments. The pub, clubs and selling of liquor are prohibited near educational institutions. Smoking inside the dwellings, the offices and in restaurants is completely banned. There is no or insignificant nepotism, no culture of graft here.
From getting a driving license, mowing a lawn, seeking a job, the construction of a house, to setting up of a factory, there are hard to bypass yet easy to follow regulations. If you qualify you will get the needful done readily. There is a portfolio of social security nuts ranging from the healthcare insurance to old age benefits, to free food, to unemployment allowance to pro-bono (free) legal service. The rights and obligations in this society go hand in hand.
The utilities and public amenities from the supply of clean water to electricity, to drainage seldom malfunction. The services such as payments of bills, mail distribution, requesting emergency health or security help are dispensed immaculately.
For deserving students, both either by virtue of low income or academic excellence, there are funds available. The environmental purity is so jealously guarded that literally, not a blade of grass can grow or removed without the prior permission of the city government.
This is not to deride or belittle my own country of origin in any manner. What I wish to drive home is that we can transform our societies into people friendly societies with reasonable order and creation of safety nuts for the people. What is lacking is the intention to do so. The privileged, the elite and the aristocratic classes are above and immune from the sea of suffering of the common masses in Pakistan.
With slick cars, the palatial mansions, the hand folded army of the servants, high profile jobs, money minting lucrative business at their disposal; these blood sucking segments in Pakistan are least bothered about the people teetering on the brink of colossal human tragedy, poverty and deprivation.
So let there be a revolution. Notwithstanding the moot question as to who will lead this revolution. The movement for change can be spearheaded and sustained by the civil society upholders, the conscientious yet valiant individuals, the NGOs, the educated, the intellectuals, the rebellious, the zealous, the students and all aspirants for the change.
This diverse assemblage of proponents for change should mobilize the vast majority of underdogs like ordinary workers, the impoverished peasants, the victims of police and institutional injustices, the teachers and all those who want an egalitarian, welfare and a civic cum civil society.
They should come out of their homes and trigger an earth shaking upheaval for their rights to live as equal and honorable citizens. They should besiege, waylay, and chase the power wielders, the privileged thugs, the corrupt and immoral government functionaries. They should assail the houses and mansions of the rulers and decision makers, snatch their cars, houses and force them to open their coffers of wealth to be distributed among the needy public.
A people’s revolution is desperately called for: not like a socialist or communist revolution but a genuine grass root raucous shake-up that should compel the imperial and licentious minority classes to behave. It’s time for the people of Pakistan to shed their helplessness and raise a hurricane by snatching their rights to live a life brimming with, order, dignity, equality, freedom, justice, accountability, civic galore, and with the radiance of a civil society.
The oppressed classes should mobilize themselves for a society where molestation of a minor carries life imprisonment as in the United States of America, where justice is inexpensive and accessible and where worship of God is free for all faiths. This is what peasants of France achieved in 1789 known in history as the French Revolution.
I have written a manifesto to launch such a watershed movement.