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Fleeting moments

October 17, 2020

Public anxiety

Opinion

October 17, 2020

A strange sense of unease pervades the air. It is palpable on many faces. Most likely, it is linked with uncertainty about the future. Psychologists agree that uncertainty breeds anxiety. At present, anxiety is visible not only on the faces of the lower segment of society but also reflects from the faces of the middle class.

Anxiety about the future consumes the mental and physical energies of the individuals. Those innumerable people with empty stomachs may have genuine reasons for their anxiety but why should the relatively privileged look visibly anxious. As pointed out by columnist Dr Farrukh Saleem, "64 percent of Pakistan’s population is younger than 30". Many of them are qualified from various universities but remain without jobs. Industrial activity has slowed down, and layoffs is a common practice.

Of course, sons and daughters of the influential are an exception in our society. If jobs for them are not available in the public sector, the same could be created with a stroke of a pen. It would obviously make the more deserving downcast. Researchers in psychology believe that living with a sense of injustice over a prolonged period will have adverse effects on one’s health. No wonder then that many among us are angry, frustrated, and lose their composure on minor issues.

In egalitarian societies, people face different kinds of worries. But they rarely complain of injustice or justice denied to them on political, religious or socially low status. In our land, the rules of the game are different. If you’re poor and belong to a lower strata of society, you’re nobody. You had better not exist. People don’t rise against the unjust system because of their religious belief that if they suffered in this world, they would be compensated in the hereafter.

An old case but reported recently by an English daily is of how a seventeen-year-old village boy was picked up as a robbery suspect in 1989, mercilessly tortured in a police torture cell, later produced in an Anti-Terrorism Court and condemned to death. After waiting for 22 years in death row, Muhammad Iqbal, now 39 years old, is set free for being innocent.

This reminds one of a movie from our college days in which a character played by the then popular actor Mohammad Ali had spent twenty years in jail on fake charges. As the character stood before the judge, the judge hit his gavel on the table and pronounced him innocent. Teary-eyed and emotionally charged, Ali's character roared back at the judge and rendered his everlasting dialogue: “Judge Sahib, who will return me my twenty precious years of my life”. The judge was speechless and even wept. But that was in a movie.

Imagine: when the police bundled up Iqbal, the innocent teenager was bathing cows in his village. There have been other cases of similar nature when accused persons languished in jails for years before they were declared innocent. They all shared a common denominator: They belonged to the lower layer of society. It raises a pertinent question. Do those placed on a high moral pedestal to deliver justice fail to do so, sometimes intentionally or callously, ever imagine that they would someday face the highest court to answer for their misdeeds.

Pakistanis are a struggling nation. They possess ingenuity and the potential to excel in life if provided with a conducive environment. After all, many of them make a name for themselves when they go abroad. Why can’t they achieve the same back home? What is it that makes them performers abroad and despondent at home?

There’s a reason for it. For example, take a young civil engineer who worked for a local construction company for a year. He applied for a job in Dubai and was offered one. From there he applied for a job in Australia. Within a few weeks, he not only got a well-paid job but also permanent residency. White nations have made their countries paradise for their people. When it comes to us – the less said the better.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]