Its very very hard to stay focused in a country like Pakistan. Not so long ago in the ending weeks of 2009 I wrote a very upbeat cheery article about the incoming new year and how Karachi was going to celebrate it. On the 10th of Muharram, that article and any future hopes of celebration had to be shredded. Every one knows what happened that day during the bomb attack on a procession of our shia brethren and the horrible events which followed in which 3 city blocks of Karachiâ€™s main whole sale markets were razed and torched to the ground. So I am not going to dwell on those horrible facts, I wont even mention the ghastly mistake made by our main stream tv media in showing as many grisly images as they could or trying to create some sort of morbid horror version of daily life in Pakistan to the International world.
When I say things like this people tend to turn around and scream â€œwell life is like that here is it notâ€ I agree there are days like the last ashura but then even on that day aside from those 3 blocks the entire city was not in flames so why was that impression given? Is it not the responsibility of an informed media to present views in a balanced manner on any crises instead of jumping from breaking news to breaking news like some sort of perverted vampire thirsty for ratings blood?
In any case new year was bound to come whatever hell we might live in and it did. With it came the realization that 2010 no matter how difficult to type and write is finally here. On the first day of the year I joined some people in a peace rally at the press club, this rally was organized by a loosely knit set of organizations including, womenâ€™s right activists, print media columnists, bloggers, social activists as well as a few celebrities thrown in for the glam of it. Plus lets not forget people like me who were there to see just what the heck all the hoopla was about?
The banner uniting all of these people from different strataâ€™s of life is the AMAN ITTEHAD and it came about after a series of efforts from individuals in all facets of civil society holding a conference in murree to come up with a strategy and perhaps a modus operandi for registering and raising their voice against injustice. As to why that meeting was held in the leafiness of the hills is worth a chuckle if you consider the irony of civil activists replicating the actions of those they are strategizing against right down to meeting locations.
As for the peace rally? The first day of the year was officially decided as the â€œSolidarity dayâ€ and was registered with similar rallies in 37 different cities of the land all at 3 pm, though someone should have explained that to Karachiites better as in KST 3pm means about 4 or so. Thus people ambled in about an hour late and joined up throughout the marching throng which first gathered at the press club and then went towards the governor house (junction) to release a plethora of white balloons, after which everyone trooped back to the starting point amidst much chanting, singing and general air of merriment at having achieved something. I must admit it does give one a heady feeling to be part of something like this, but for me that feeling sank right after we released the balloons and waved our white paper doves as I overheard two policemen talking to each other as they walked by. The words of that conversation, although too crude to reproduce here were along the lines off â€œIf balloons could restore peace what the heck are we doing all dayâ€
See when you hear something like that, you begun to think as to what purpose did so much organizing, meetings, banner making, gathering and singing and chanting achieve? Does it really matter to those in power if civil society is mad at the way the country is being treated. Does any of this serve any purpose except for an extended photo op with the whoâ€™s who of the literary circuit and civil activist ranks?
That day thankfully my mind gave me a clear and simple answer. If we the people who live in Pakistan do not own up to the violence here and raise our voice against it who will? If we do not register our protest in a civil manner then do we have any reason to sit in our homes and complain when the shit hitâ€™s the fan? No we do not! We must take action, be it by contributing in any manner possible on any forum. We must all unite for this country and demand from our elected representatives the basics of any societies needs, we must all ask for an end to violence and injustice in any shape or form, be it in the face of our brave army fighting the Taliban or a judiciary which can take action on injustice swiftly. Its no good blaming people for things that go wrong when none of us have even the decency to try and do something to support those we blame in any effort.
So here is to a year, where Pakistan and its people will inshallah come together and forge ahead into a future that is peaceful for our children!!
As published in The Friday Times on 8th jan 2010