A series of incidents in the recent past has exposed the extent of our societal decay. It is high time we correct our course
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” — this centuries old warning fits our present social outlook perfectly. The image of the society has been tarnished badly by frequent incidents of grievous concern from the rape and murder of Zainab and Noor Mukadam to assault of Ayesha Akram and the recent rape of a woman and her daughter.
A country claimed in the name of a religion of peace was meant to guarantee equal rights for all classes and segments of the society. A series of incidents in the recent past has exposed our weak criminal justice system. The media coverage of these crimes and social diseases has made young people and their parents worried. Extremist elements appear to be gaining greater power over other people.
All victims in the recent past have been casualties of misogyny and male entitlement. Unfortunately there has been rampant victim blaming on media. Successive governments have failed to bring about “enlightened moderation.” Their weakness towards such elements has allowed the situation to deteriorate further. Many of the sane voices have been silenced by these elements from time to time.
The mushroom growth of media and unchecked social media exposure have further complicated the situation. We are, with due reason, seen internationally as a nation devoid of social justice and oblivious of the rights of downtrodden classes and minorities. The Greater Iqbal Park incident has brought to the limelight the extent of societal decay. Media coverage of the incident has also been problematic.
It is argued by some that the Zia era made our problems worse because Zia needed legitimacy for his usurpation of power. He saw a golden opportunity in shaking hands with Reagan administration. It also brought useful dollars. Zia introduced and implemented strict Hudood laws which were exploited by the powerful. It was during this time that extremist elements started cropping up. There was a mushroom growth of jihadi elements and groups like the Sipah-i-Sahaba and Sipah-i-Muhammad surfaced and received widespread support and acceptability. Political groups that would go on to cause social unrest like the MQM were also founded. The sectarian elements, the jihadi forces and the violent political and ethno-linguistic groups wreaked havoc on the communities. The Afghan exodus further deformed our social outlook. The Kalashnikov and drugs came to be mentioned as a culture. Successive governments seem to have succumbed to their power.
At the end of 20th Century, we saw a turbulent situation especially in our region in the wake of new world order and culmination of the Cold War. The US emerged as the global superpower. Since the dawn of 21st Century, we have witnessed a series of shocking incidents. The balance of power in the subcontinent became precarious as both India and Pakistan became nuclear powers. The Taliban emerged as a threat to many with their strict enforcement of shariah punishments.
The world saw 9/11 and this region again became a battlefield as American came down in pursuit of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan again became part of other people’s war. Musharraf, like Zia, wanted legitimacy. The remnants and vestiges of the former’s rule were visible in the reign of Gen Musharraf. The successive dictators took the country to the verge of destruction. Unlike Zia, Mushrraf brought forward a puppet regime by making a king’s party and empowering mullahs.
The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, a religio-political faction, helped Musharraf extend his tenure. The war in Afghanistan brought another generation of Afghans into our social and economic corridors. After 2005, a wave of suicide bombings started in our country and sectarianism turned into fascist terrorism.
So, a country based on progressive notions turned into a radicalised zone. Teenagers were precariously indoctrinated. Sane voices and people were silenced. This further aggravated the situation. Thousands of lives, civilians and military, were lost in the chaos.
The biggest catastrophes have been the death of sanity, progressive discourse and cultural activities, the sense of tolerance, rights for minorities, equal rights for women and children etc. We also saw an unending frenzy in our parliament.
The need of the hour is to purge the society of the obnoxious and abominable elements that are instilling hatred and prejudice among our youth. Pakistani society is in a terrible state of chaos. It is time we reflect on the reasons of this societal decay and correct our course before it is too late.
The writer is a civil servant.