Guest Post by FAWZIA NAQVI
[ This guest post marks one month of the 16th December massacre of school-children by Islamists in Peshawar, Pakistan ]
Pakistan has become a euphemism for insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different outcome. There are though some incredibly brave, thoughtful, humane and patriotic Pakistani men and women who have decided enough is enough and they are determined to chart a different future for the country.
After speaking with one of these activist leaders I was reminded of the Russian author Ivan Turganev’s heroes Bazarov, the young Nihilist from Fathers and Sons or Insarov, the Bulgarian revolutionary from On the Eve. Youthful, galvanized, resolute, compelled by the rightness of the cause and their destiny, dreaming of a new country and their place within it, they were the first glimpse of “the new men,” lonely and ultimately tragic. In 1860 Turganev’s heroes were ahead of their time, pulling along a people unwilling to change tradition and unwilling to cede privilege. In 2015 Pakistan, there is a huge obstacle in the way of these courageous souls. They are outnumbered by the rest of us.
The time has come for each of us to recall what it was we were doing when our children were being executed in Peshawar. Is there even a word which encompasses the horror when 135 children are executed? Make no mistake it was our collective shrug which has tipped Pakistan over the edge and into this very dark abyss. It was our collective indifference which let these children be stalked by death at the hands of cold blooded murderers who went from child to child executing them that December 16 morning in Peshawar. We let our children die alone and scared, with no one to comfort them except other wounded and dying children. And we know, yes we know, that it is not a question of if, but merely a question of when the next body blow will hit Pakistan’s families. We also now know well that more than three decades of breeding monsters in petri dishes has served up the reign of the militarized mullahs and their religion inebriated militias willing to shoot every one of us in the head should we dare to disagree.
Military courts have never been a good idea for any country, especially one which aspires to preserve a hard won democracy. There will be grave excesses and questionable verdicts. Innocents will become victims and there is a great danger that these courts will be where political opposition will go to die. But as much as I want to focus on the merits or demerits of these courts, I keep coming back to the basic premise of why we have arrived at the threshold of military courts? How has this even come to pass that with an act of Parliament a democracy has willingly forfeited critical space, and the fundamental defining tenets of democracy; due process and the right of habeas corpus, to the very folks who led us to this juncture in the first place? The answer resides within each one of us, within our choices, our ambivalence, our confusion, our prejudices, our indifference, our ignorance and of course our fear.
But we have all analyzed to death, literally to death, the causes and who did what to whom. Yes Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies have played parent and patron to the vilest of ideologies which serve their perverted notion of national interest, yes politicians, judges, bureaucrats, journalists fell in line, genuflected at every military boot in sight. Yes, Nawaz Sharif sprouted forth from Zia ul Haq’s petri dish and yes PMLN has been cozying up to the most vicious sectarian murderers roaming free in the Punjab. Yes Imran Khan has been and still is one of the key apologists for extremist elements. One could go on! But there are 180 million Pakistanis. What have we done? Yes us, we the people.
How have we permitted ourselves to be collectively hijacked, cornered, captured by a revolting narrative which erases every trace of who we are as a people, dictates how we interact with each other, how we worship, how we go about our daily business, what we learn and teach, whether we have equal citizenship rights or not, and indeed even whether we live or not? How have we collectively forfeited our inalienable human rights to murderers that are now stalking and hunting down our children to teach us a lesson? How do we on a daily basis, permit aiders and abettors of our children’s murderers to spew hate, falsehoods and fearlessly threaten more children? Why does Mullah Aziz still thump his chest and threaten citizens and the state in the heart of the nation’s capital? Why his detractors were instead threatened with arrest and disappearance? Why do retired military/intelligence men of the jihadi mindset still appear on our television screens accompanied by none other than heads of militant jihadi outfits to sneer at us and spit forth conspiracy theories and diversionist poison? Why is Amir Liaqat, a talk show host permitted to play god and pass a death sentence on innocent citizens of Pakistan? For the love of our children, why? The answer I fear is both simple and sickening, because we let them and because many amongst us are even ok with it.
Even now after Pakistanis have witnessed a catastrophe, 135 executed children, we allow these murderers, their protectors and apologists to sneer and hiss at us from pulpits, from podiums, from containers and TV screens. How have we let our children our babies shoulder the responsibility for bravery and to sacrifice their lives to defend what’s left of us as a nation while we cower in fear when a mullah wags his finger at us or wields his fatwa.
December 16. Children trying to protect children. Children mourning children. When will we say “no more, never again?” Dear Pakistanis, what have we become?
Fawzia Naqvi lives and works in New York City