Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sialkot Murders: We all have blood on our hands

We have failed humanity. We have exposed our demons to the public. We have lost the plot. I cannot think of a more helpless act then to actually write about this. I don’t know why I’m writing. I know it will mean nothing, nor will it have any impact. I’m not writing to hope for change. I’m not even writing to gather some common support from other fellow citizens in this hour. I’m merely writing because I cannot keep these words in my head anymore, and perhaps this is my only way of trying to push past this state I’m in. The last drop of blood I had for our country was beaten to death on the 15th of August in Sialkot. I was body slammed with the grotesque reality that I have been trying to ignore for so long now: we as a people, are really as disgustingly pathetic as we are portrayed in the global media. I cannot fight the odds against the critics of this country anymore. I don’t want to. I want to swim in this self realization of how low a people I come from. I want to get intoxicated by the stench of our debauchery because no other substance will ever help me to get past this. Our entire premise of life is wrong. Of course, the irony of the timing couldn’t be more perfect for such a spectacle to present itself. While facing the biggest calamity Pakistan, or possibly the world, as ever seen, all eyes, hands and mouths were pointing to the sky in hopes that heart over mind would allow for some relief from friend or foe. We are looking to the world to show its humanity, in spite of our less than current ideal global standing, and hope that they open their hearts and wallets to us. I have friends who I know for a fact are indifferent to Pakistan, for whatever reasons, yet have seen them open up their wallets because of their natural attitude to humanity prevailing over any political or religious position. Good people, Pakistani and non-Pakistani, have been going above the call of duty to help their fellow human beings in this time of need. I have seen my fellow Pakistani’s leave work and family to go and help their countrymen. Yet, I’m afraid the stains of our sins will destroy the collective purity of any of our good will. I cannot conjure up the strength anymore to justify the value of lives being helplessly lost by natural disaster, when lives are taken in this country in the most disgusting manner for things far more trivial. Two brothers. Two boys. Two fellow countrymen. That’s all it took for me to lose my faith in any of you. Including myself. They were beaten to death with such graphic detail that no Hollywood studio could ever match the display irrespective of what technology they use. That they were wrongly beaten to death because of a lack of evidence, or that they were beaten with such angry display, still did not push me over the edge of my own reasoning. That an entire crowd of people, however, including police, stood there without once stepping in to protect those two precious boys from the jaws of ignorant death is where I find utter and absolute disconnect from my own people. Even this would eventually have been palatable with a stable supply of vicadin, except for the fact that I include my own self in that disconnect.
That’s when the damndest thing dawned upon me: how DARE we raise a finger at Asif Zardari or the government? I am usually quite creative and explicit with my evaluation of the government in power. I systematically destroy every single one of their lives in my discussions and find comfort in the knowledge that the only thing I have in common with the government leaders is that I too have to eventually go to sleep. But those are conversations that I have with my privileged friends sitting in my privileged home, eating privileged food while enjoying privileged air conditioning. And that is sadly, where most of our destruction of the government ends. After promising anarchy, rushing out to the streets, leaving our comforts, threatening to change the system, nightfall eventually catches up to me and I find myself sitting on my amazing grade 4 Italian leather sofa, watching the latest episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. And my life goes on. I too am Zardari.
My countrymen, you are all Zardari. I came back last night from a restaurant in Karachi where I was amongst friends discussing everything from fashion to the arts and eventually to the government. After a healthy session of tearing the government a new one, we all left to go home. As I was on my way home, I found myself in the most interesting position of being one of ONLY two people stopped at a red light of a major intersection. All my very ‘nationally concerned’ friends just sped through the lights, and in fact, I was even honked at by one of them to get out of the way. I stood my ground. And so too did the old driver in a beaten up old Suzuki swift. He must have been in his mid seventies. I could see in his eyes why he stopped. It wasn’t because he thought he was going to change anyone around them, which is foolishly, my only sole reason of stopping. His eyes spoke way too loudly for that to be the reason. I concluded that he was staying put because he was around during the time a promise was made way back in 1947. He must have seen lives destroyed for that promise to be fulfilled. He must have seen his family get shattered for that promise to mature. As a result, he must have vowed to himself that he would never forget that promise, and that he would deliver his end of the deal. Fast forward to him sitting in his car next to me, and I knew that man had his foot on the brakes because he knew of too much blood that had spilled on the streets for him to be able to be in his car at that junction. I convinced myself there couldn’t be any other reason, because if he looked around, he would have seen just how foolish he was looking. He didn’t even look at me. I’m so grateful that he didn’t because I wouldn’t have known how to respond to his glare.
However, it led me to the conclusion that we as a people just don’t give a damn about law and order. We talk about accountability, and yet we laugh off whatever little infrastructure of law and order there is. How can any of us stare into the eyes of the mother whose two boys were ripped away from her because the most barbaric acts of violence were done without interruption in a crowd, and offer her any level of comfort, when we don’t even have the capacity to stop at a goddamn red light? How can we offer her any promise of accountability when we ignore whatever limited accountability has been set on us? We can’t. I can’t. It really behooves us to get a reality check. Can you blame Zardari for your running a red light? It is there, it works, and you have the full moral capacity to follow it. And yet, you don’t. It’s as simple as that. Zardari might be the reason there are so many poor people in the country having to live much lesser of a life then they should have to, yet he is not the reason for us stepping out of our moral boundary. That is one liberty no politician, no wealth or lack of, or no situation can deprive us of.
To most people, drawing a comparison of such violent ignorant brutality to ‘normal’ people innocently running red lights might seem bizarre and self indulgent. I’m sorry if you think so. I’m also very sorry to completely disagree. I find them disturbingly connected because both involve a lack of moral compass. One is only more atrocious then the other.
As I find myself bringing an end to these words, I’m also suddenly overcome with that most irritating of words: hope. I find myself bombarded with the faces of people who work tirelessly to make things better in this country. I remind myself of the thousands of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s there are all over the country who work with the full knowledge that they will never be rewarded for their efforts. As humanity would have it, I’m also finding new streams of blood, as I write this, to replace what was destroyed by those thugs. I have been thinking lately about what I would say if I was sitting in front of that helpless mother who lost her boys in such a disturbing manner. Elegant words of revenge, honor, and promises would certainly have been the theme of my conversation. I have romanticized promising blood for blood, and love for love. Yet, now that I put it all into perspective, I think I would only say one thing to her, whether or not it leaves her baffled: ‘I promise to never brake another traffic light’


  1. utterly brillian piece, Usman. this is why i respect you, my friend. x shayma


  3. I was very moved and touched by your thoughts.
    The comparison you have drawn is very apt Usman.
    You have been gifted with a thinking mind and a seeing eye, you are equally blessed and cursed !
    For people like you, (and me), are the sufferers in the end. We cannot change anything and we feel so helpless and inadequate, yet restless as we want to do something for the "victims" of social injustice.
    But as you say, HOPE keeps us going. Maybe, that day will come....
    If it helps, I suggest you go through Allama Iqbal's Bang-e-Dara, specially his poem called "Tasweer-e-Dard", and others.
    Lets not despair, we've reached rock-bottom, there is only one way to go - UP.

  4. This is a really good read. A realisation like this should begin to hit the conscious of the 'privileged' Pakistani's living in their bubble. Majority of which who sadly do not even perform the most basic duties of being a citizen of Pakistan such as paying taxes or trying to create a system of transparency. Its a sad situation.

  5. You have said what many of us have been thinking but are too scared to say out loud as that would mean we have to take some of the blame (if not all) for creating the society we live in.. we are a people who love to blame others.. we never hold ourselves accountable for anything.. we are not responsible for anything that happens in all happens "to" us and not "because" of us.. we are the eternal victims..always on the cross!

    We are actually just glorified free loaders who want to breeze through life in a 3rd world, terror stricken, problem ridden country where we spend all our effort to make sure we stay away from the 3rd worldliness, the problems,the dirt and scum of the place. We have created a system where we live by the "law for the privilged" as opposed to the law for the ordinary citizen! We are responsible for the lawlessness, for the ineffectiveness of the security forces and the justice system and for everything that is wrong with this country because we live in it without taking any responsibility!
    Whether we admit it or not we are responsible for the Sialkot tragedy and for other such countless horrific incidents that have been happening and will continue to happen but will not catch our attention because they were never caught on film!

  6. From extremism to corruption to the latest events in Sialkot, my personal conclusion is that while alas Pakistan must go forward, it must sadly do so without its current society.

    Far too many evils now prevail to go unchecked. The Holy Qur'an is full of stories warning us of consequences of such evils. These floods are "Biblical" indeed and one wonders whether they are part of a greater punishment. Extremists are mischief-makers. The Sialkot events were barbaric to a pre-Islamic paganistic level. Where does it end?

    Pakistan may not deserve this fate but Pakistanis do. They brought these floods on to themselves.

    It is time for Pakistan to dry up, dust itself off and grow forward. It is also time for its people to be extinguished for its evil.

    Long live a Pakistan that honors its own name.

  7. if there is something called Hell then we as a nation have finally arrived.

  8. Usman an excellent piece. Many including me used to think of it as inertia but it goes much deeper into the fabric. However, one can only live if there is belief, even an iota of it, that tomorrow will be better than today . . . God willing.

  9. very well written. The Sialkot incidence has raised so many questions for me as to what kind of people we are. Why blame only the leaders, what about the common people who stood there and witnessed the worst barbaric act I have ever seen in my life.

  10. A wet eye, a shaken life is not enough,
    The accusation of a hidden love is not enough,
    With feet in chains, Let us go in public today.

    Let us go with palms exposed, with a song and dance,
    ...With dirt in our hair, with blood on our chest,
    Let us go while the entire city of lovers watches.

    For the warden of the city, and the crowd of the commoners,
    And the arrows of accusation, and the stones of abuse,
    And the glum morning, and the failing day,
    Who is there to give them life except us?
    Who is ready in this city except us?
    Who is honorable enough for the killer’s hand except us?

    Pack up your belongings O Injured heart ones!
    Let us go friends and get killed once again.

    - Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 1959 (Lahore Jail)

  11. Will we ever be ashamed of what we have become as a nation! I don't think God will forgive us.

  12. well said, really here are some points to think and take steps.

  13. Excellent piece. Extremely well-said. You need to go on national television and shout these words to the nation! If only people would listen, or rather, understand.

  14. Well done, Usman. Initially I thought, "Oh no... where's he going with this?" but you really drove the point home in the best way possible.

    I'd love to know what your thoughts are regarding the Sialkot incident now that it appears that the two boys had not been wrongly accused. You seem to have the rare quality of thinking clearly from the heart, so it would be interesting to get your take on this.