Passing through the wormhole

Walking the streets in Georgetown, DC and looking at the immaculate taste in shop fronts, the energy of young students and the general order, I feel so far removed from its grandeur because of what recently happened back home: brick kin workers Shyman Bibi Urf Shamar, her husband, Sajjad Nasir Zurjah Nazir Nasir and their unborn child were murdered while in custody for wanting out of their servitude. Their powerful masters, if you wish, accused them of desecrating the Holy Quran, the most common and menacing blow one can deliver to any opponent, provided the victims are poor, preferably from a minority community and that the accuser is someone with some social equity (read: mainstream Muslim). A mob will take down the accused for the one who made the allegation, a standing army of sorts for the civilians. In this case, they burned all three lives in the pit.
While I walked the brick lanes here, I wondered about the difference between their composition in terms of material and sweat that went into making them, and the difference between the composition of the people and that of their ethos. Having attended a conference in DC on inclusion, there was seemingly a black hole between the path that we were on back home in Pakistan and the aspirations towards the values this society cultivated in the US. It did not seem to me that progression could be linear; it had to be through some wormhole. The foreign policy decisions and civil rights issues in the US notwithstanding, it is terribly painful to watch one’s country so dismal in its performance on the human rights scale and for it to have such blatant disregard for the spiritual value of human life.
Not to mention the double standards: to abort a child is forbidden and illegal but to burn it inside an accused woman’s womb is acceptable and even celebrated. At least the gladiators in Rome signed up for battle and for the spectacle. The Christians in Pakistan want nothing but to live with dignity, a safeguard the government is seemingly unwilling to provide. A customary visit to console the grieving family by government officials is simply patronising if not matched with a befitting punishment for the murderers.
Pakistan has failed not just its religious minorities but itself. Without the five percent of all minorities being mainstreamed into the economic and social fold, Pakistan will remain in the abyss, eating off the leftovers the world dumps on it, schmoozing with the canines that also hover on the bottom of the global health and economic indicators, growling at its neighbours so it can accumulate more defences, hoarding more resources and delivering nothing to the world, even less to its weak and vulnerable.
This problem of hunting down the weak did not proliferate overnight. It emerged from this increasingly vague notion of ideology and the ‘principles’ of Pakistan. In its vagueness it possesses all the dangers of a nuclear explosion because anything and everything can be fit into this notion by anyone and everyone depending on who is on the power rotation — the brick kiln exploiters, the elite service protection, the defenders and any Johnny with means.
Now, even the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has issued, in its wisdom, a warning to its students to not violate the ideology and principles of Pakistan. If this is not fascist, it is certainly heading that way because this can be grounds for both a crackdown on women on campuses — on their choices of mobility, intellect and dressing — to an official attack against or signal to minority students that, unless they wither inside a shell of the state’s religion, they will not be safe, and if they do find themselves between the jaws of a dispute, that they will find no recourse.
This is not freedom. This is not that essential ingredient that makes higher educational institutions create groundwork for intellectualism, dissent and progressiveness. This is death. We will now have thousands upon thousands of “vertical corpses”, to use Orwell’s term, walking around this haunted land going about ridged routines that pledge allegiance to the dictate of the clerics.
It may serve as a reminder here that Mohammad Ali Jinnah did not draw up this blueprint in his creation of the country. For those who have the inkling to dwell in vagueness, here are some specific instructions from him: “Pakistan is not to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission.”
Until false accusers are punished for their crimes, there will be no passing the wormhole to the order and peace that much of the world experiences. Until educational institutions do what they are meant to do — teach — there will be no future scientists, engineers and doctors that have both the intellectual capacity and critical thinking skills needed for good citizenry. Until law enforcement is not made more effective and reinforced with resources, innocent people falsely accused will continue to be murdered in custody. But, above all, until we let go of our notions of ideology, which is anything other than the progressive vision of our founding father, we will always continue to breed axe murderers and arsonists.

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