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August 10, 2016

A deck of cards


August 10, 2016

Quetta painted red again...yet again...And so it goes on; the killing spree continues; our pain gradually turning into numbness and our tears refusing to visit the eye for there is no more space to accommodate them. We keep waiting. We, the masses, the people, the scum of the earth...the extraneous....the irrelevant ...the unconnected.

We, the people, we, the victims.... we keep waiting for something to happen – something that can reignite hope; something that can reassure us that we are for real, that we exist; that we matter; that we are still capable of pain and tears; something that can push each heavy breath into following the previous one with relative ease.

We keep waiting for something to happen. Something that can comfort us in our hour of seemingly unending grief with the thought that one day our children and grandchildren will not have to walk in blood-splattered streets; that they will not have to mourn the dead at regular intervals with fading hopes for justice and peace.

And that they will not have to see victims of a terror attack reciting the Kalma-e-Tayyaba as they die live on their television screens. That our future generation will be spared the mayhem that has become an excruciatingly painful part of our traumatised lives.

We keep waiting for something to happen. Something that can assure us that our human dignity although bleeding will survive nonetheless. That despite being trampled time and time again under the military boot, under the political shoe and under the pious chappal our battered self-worth will bounce back because our dignity is a divine gift that no human hand can expropriate.

We continue to wait for something to happen. It fails to happen though. Time and time again we look up at those perched on the top of a tall tree. A very tall tree – some of us cling to its trunk ...most of us caught in its roots.

We call out to those sitting on the tree top to warn them that the roots are dying... that the trunk is brittle...that pruning is needed...that the stream of compassion and tolerance that has been the tree’s lifeline has very nearly dried up; that we feel alone; that we feel betrayed; that we feel abandoned; that our suffering and mourning and grieving is beyond endurance. Help, help! We cannot breathe anymore!

But those at the top branch are looking elsewhere...up, up and up...their suits and sherwanis, uniforms and medals shining in the sun, their noses taking in the fresh air. No wonder they can breathe easier than all the rest of us.

We do not matter; only they matter. They only talk to one another; they only quarrel with one another; they only please one another; they only appease one another and they play games to beat one another. They set the rules of the game. We, the people are pawns on a board; we are nothing more than a deck of cards. And a deck of cards cannot influence the outcome of the game.

Once in a blue moon when our screams get louder than usual they look down from the tree top to tell us to not make so much noise because they are trying to figure out their next move. We, the people have no part, no say in this ‘great game’ that only the Titans play.

But there is no need to despair. We have a number of beautifully designed buildings on both sides of the Constitution Avenue in Islamabad the beautiful. These majestic buildings are the fountainheads of democracy and justice. And what is more, even though we, the people are beginning to suspect they are haunted, these buildings are populated with real men and women.

True, these men and women have no incentive to focus on the fast-drying stream that feeds the tree, but then we should be grateful that they are there at all; their mere presence – and the presence of their land cruisers – is enough to make us want to pray for their longevity and the longevity of their bank accounts and offshore companies.

And if Islamabad does not fill us with confidence we must visit Rawalpindi to find solace. Of course those who occupied it earlier were the ones who planned and facilitated the sapping, the gradual erosion of the stream in the first place. But what we, the people need to remind ourselves of is that it now houses those who believe in democracy.

On this 14th of August we must not mourn the victims of terrorism in Pakistan...20,000 by one count; 50,000 by another, 80,000 by yet another – twenty, fifty, eighty – what does it matter. We, the people were never more than a number anyway.

On this 14th of August there is no need to introspect, to search our souls. Let us blame the world instead. We are free prisoners. We have nothing to fear in hamara Pakistan which is Allah ka inaam. Ideology will sustain us. What is there to complain about anyway? Martyrdom lifts our spirits; patriotism feeds us.

The writer is an academic, currently affiliated with Meliksah University, Turkey.

Email: [email protected]


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