ISLAMABAD: At 1300 hours every day, during his lunch hour, one man out of a million residents of Islamabad leaves his reasonably comfortable office for Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue. For the following hour, under the scorching sub-continental sun, this man manages to stand straight in the middle of the Parade Chowk’s sizzling hot mix asphalt.
Zuha Saeed, admittedly an old friend, first came out on June 22, the day Raja Pervaiz Ashraf took oath as the 17th Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A couple of days ago, I had a chat with Zuha Saeed. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Which political party are you affiliated with?
ZS: I do not belong to any political party neither am I affiliated with any. As a matter of fact, I cannot even think of one family member who has had played any significant political role in the recent past. I don’t even have one politically influential close friend. But if you feel that I haven’t answered your question then my answer is that I am affiliated with Pakistan and that is my only political affiliation.
Q: Why have you been coming out to protest every day since June 22?
ZS: Ever since a new PM was nominated, the man who has been responsible for the acute power crisis, I felt helpless and maimed. Can anyone do anything? Am I the only one in pain and agony? Will no one convey their pain and agony to the ones who are actually causing all this pain and agony? Who will tell our master that ‘enough is enough’? May be others in pain will join me and make the rulers hold back their whips?
Q: Why are you protesting against a democratically elected government?
ZS: Sir, if this is what democracy is all about and if this is how democrats treat their voters then Pakistanis have seen better days when there was no democracy.
Q: Why can’t you wait till election time?
ZS: My fear is that if this jatha group continues to do what it has been doing the tipping point for everyone in this land of the pure is not too far away. I feel that the window of opportunity to save what we have will not remain open for too long.
Q: You are protesting right in front of the parliament. Are you not afraid of the coercive apparatus of the federal government?
ZS: Fear is built in a man but when it comes to saving one’s country fear ought to take the backseat. I by just standing here am committing no crime. I am absolutely non-political, non violent and non aggressive. I can stand on top of a garbage dump if need be.
Q: Are you not concerned that the intelligence agencies will follow you or your family?
ZS: I am sure I am being traced and followed. What else do you expect? I am raising a voice against a multi-billion dollar predatory infrastructure built at the cost of 180 million powerless Pakistanis.
Q: What do you want to achieve out of this?
ZS: Relief to people like me; relief to people in pain and in agony.
Q: Why aren’t more Pakistanis joining you?
ZS: Simply because I think they still do not know that I am standing out here. I have placed the first brick and now it is their turn to come out and place their bricks. They have to come out to seek relief. There have been Pakistanis who have driven to commit suicide why can’t I stand out here for a few hours? We must all seek our rights from our rulers. It is now or never.
I read somewhere that one of The Talmud’s injunctions is: “Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.”