Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sarfraz Shah: 'Yaar, nahin maro yaar' (friend, please don't kill me)

Rage it seems is a bigger river than the Nile. When unleashed, it can completely destroy the balance and structure that our minds attempt to give us. When rage takes over, and the illogical takes precedence, than what have you got left? What really are you able to hold on to with some form of value if the sensical becomes nonsensical? Where can I bury this incident? Whom can I lay the blame on? I need to move on, but I need to satisfy my conscience first, somehow or the other. In the absence of any real justice, I will even settle for a cheap substitute. Please. Just give me something. Anything. My mind needs to just shut the hell up, process this reality, and digest it so that I can move on. After all, I have X-Men to go and see tonight.

Sarfraz Shah. 19 year old Sarfraz Shah. 19 year old student aspiring to study Computer Science Sarfraz Shah. Youngest brother of four brothers Sarfraz Shah. Son of Manzoor Fatima Sarfraz Shah. We murdered you last night. We didn't even let you hit twenty years of age. We didn't care that you asked us to save you. You were clearly fooled by the uniform we were wearing. I can console you though by telling you that you are not alone. We are on a murderous rampage. There is nothing left keeping us from taking another life tomorrow. There is no defense. There is no measure of protection. Most importantly, there is no will to stop us. It seems as if we couldn't even wait to see if there really was a heaven or hell after death, for we have created our own hell right here. Frankenstein it should seem, is finally awakening.

The anger is piercing its way through me. I'm looking for a victim. I want to blame the Rangers. I desperately want to blame them. I've seen the evidence and in any court of justice, the blame would lie wholly on the shoulders of those uniformed men. However, for those of us living here, it isn't as simple as that, is it? In fact, for those of us living here, if we truly ask ourselves what happened in that park on June 8th, we would realize that we were only looking at the effect, not the cause. Those rangers pulled the trigger to end that boys life, but we put that boys life onto a gambling table many years ago. People of this country, you need to ask yourself why the hell all of this is going on. You need to study it. You need to feel it. You need to look for an answer regardless of how uncomfortable it is. As much as I am disgusted with what happened, I am not in the least bit surprised at it actually happening. In fact, I am surprised that it isn't happening more often.

We have NO value for each others lives. We have value only for our own lives. The evidence is in the gunmen everyone hires to protect themselves. It doesn't matter if a market place comes to a standstill when five of your gunmen are surrounding the place, because at least you are protected. We have enlisted the help of thousands of gunmen throughout the cities, all individually hired at basic wage levels, to protect us from each other. We are trying to put out a fire in a forest by blowing wind at it. How incredibly stupid as a nation can we be? When the hell will we open our eyes and realize this is a beast created by us and no one else?

Law and Order is an uncomfortable reality that every society has to accept if it wants some form of justice. It means that even if no one will get hurt, you cannot run a red light. It means that even if your house happens to be right at the start of the oncoming traffic lane, you still have to go all the way down and take a u-turn and come back. It means that when there is a No Smoking sign in a building, you don't fire up a goddamn cigarette right next to it. If these absolutely basic concepts are not met, how the hell can we expect more complicated issues like police and uniformed violence to be addressed?
We have a disease of multiple heads here. However, one that we need to address immediately is the disgusting amount of gun proliferation in this country. What is it that we are trying to achieve by deploying all these armed guards? Every house has a few, every office has a few, cars are loaded with them, streets are filled with them, schools and parks are filled with them, restaurants are fronted by them, blah blah blah. Have we become safer as a result of this or simply numb to seeing guns all around us? There is no longer any differentiating factor between the armed police and the privately armed micro militias that are scattered throughout the cities.

We are being scared into believing that this is the way towards future protection. This however, is the way towards anarchy. Violent anarchy. We have to stop this gun flow. We have to get rid of the guards. We have to learn to trust each other again. We have to learn to value each other again. These Rangers have become a trigger happy group of people because they see that their uniform is worth no more than the average shalwar kameez dressed man if they are both holding guns. They have seen their value plummet to the point that shock therapy is perhaps their only way of getting some reaction from the masses. This was an incident that went too far. I want to blame them, but it is too easy to blame them. They are poor, underpaid, under appreciated people who will be slapped with the charges and forgotten about in a weeks times. The symptom would have been treated for the day. The disease however, will continue to proliferate. Find your humanity once again friends. We owe it to each other. Sarfraz Shah's mother, Manzoor Fatima, will never trust you or me again. She has written us off for good. She has inherited a lifelong pain that we can never fathom. Can we finally get back onto a path which will never put another mother through such torture? Can we? Dare we?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Not believing in the Devil Won't Protect You From Him:

For many Pakistanis, it would be easy to blame America for its' current crisis, but…
Before they do, let’s go over just a few of the things they cannot blame it on(in absolutely no particular order of impact):

1) The lack of education in this country
2) The ever strong feudalism spread throughout the country
3) The loadshedding
4) The stealing of electricity, both by the rich and the poor
5) Tax evasion.
6) Breaking red lights
7) Driving in the wrong lanes
8) Killing people because of their religious sects
9) Killing people because of their ethnic sects
10) Killing people because of their political sects
11) Killing people because of their dishonor to the family
12) Killing people because of their audacity to be different
13) Raping women and then being let go free
14) Throwing trash onto the ground without any concern for the community
15) The bribery for almost anything to almost anyone
16) The intolerance of each other
17) The politicians and their lies
18) The poor getting poorer
19) The paan stains all over the cities
20) The people sitting on top of buses like luggage
21) The fact that no one wears seatbelts
22) The thousands of abused women being overlooked
23) The plague level of guns in this country
24) The child labour
25) The incredibly huge disparity of wealth
26) The ever so strong divisions of class
27) The corruption in cricket
28) The corruption in government offices
29) The corruption in the police
30) The corruption in the army
31) The corruption by the rich
32) The corruption by the poor
33) The pollution
34) The disregard for copyrights of art and entertainment
35) The proliferation of sub standard products to make a quick buck
36) The dishonesty in the market place
37) The hypocrisy of preaching religion and not practicing it
38) The abuse of religion to further malicious intent
39) The guards attacking those they are hired to protect
40) The kids being forced into adulthood to put food on the table for their families. Kids.
41) ...

Blaming America for Pakistan's current crisis is like an obese child blaming all the candy in his hand. Pakistan is Pakistan’s problem. The sooner it figures that out, the sooner it can save it from itself.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama Bin Laden: Hide and Seek World Champion 2001-2011

Osama Bin Laden was caught and killed while in Pakistan. Conspiracy theories aside, those are the facts. There are questions as to how he was caught, who helped, who didn’t, who drove the car, who hid in the bushes with a whistle, and who pulled the trigger. Who gives a crap? Really. The fact of the matter is, in the court of the global audience, the verdict has been declared: by sheer fact that Osama was within the borders of Pakistan at the time of his death, Pakistan is as guilty as the ‘Waldo’ of the 21st century. Stop complaining. It’s useless. Stop defending. It’s embarrassing. Stop retorting. It’s tiring. It really is. We all need a new song. Desperately.

The incredibly vibrant and free press of Pakistan of course went to task with all sorts of points and opinions. Some celebrated the death and insisted that Pakistan was part of the party. Some pondered over the possibility that some part of the establishment must have been privy to the 6ft. 4inches tall, bearded man’s presence in the country. Some defended against the backlash from the West insisting Pakistani’s have lost more lives than any other nation as a result of this war. And yet, some predicted the beginning of the end and that we might as well all pack our bags and abandon the sinking ship. It was quite a colorful spread of messages in fact. As I breezed through a cross section of all these articles on my way to work, I was struck with the most bizarre of realizations: I couldn’t care less about any of this. Really. In between the notorious Karachi traffic, the five work meetings scheduled for the day, the growing list of toys being demanded by my son, and the depressingly expanding waistline of my stomach, the last thing I was thinking about was how the geo-political impact of this man’s death would impact my life. And as quickly as that thought dawned upon me, another one ran through my head shortly after: this is where all the moderates of Pakistan are. People all over the world have wanted to know where they are. Well, my friends, I have found them. They are busy stuck in the rut of everyday life, just like me. They are complaining about bills, about their breakups, about their workload, their children, and their lovers, just like you and I. Sure, there are a few additional worries on our heads. Will I be blown into oblivion on my way to work, comes to mind instantly. Nonetheless, they are mostly worries that anyone in any part of the world would usually consider. And than I thought, why should I apologize to the world just because this man was found in the same country as me. That connects me with him about as much as Ann Coulter connects with Richard Simmons in the United States.

Pakistan has some serious problems today. The sooner it accepts and confronts this reality, the sooner it can start the path to progress. Does it matter that the international military response to 9/11 pushed Pakistan into a state of implosion? Only if you are a historian. Does it matter that the cause actually became the effect in trying to eliminate terrorism? Only if you are an analyst. The fact of the matter is, a genuinely valid reason for eating dog food doesn’t make dog food taste any better than the dog food that it actually is. Pakistan has to learn that ultimately, the only people who will ever be responsible for getting it out of the state it is in, is Pakistani’s.

Pakistan also needs to be less concerned about its current global image and more worried about its grass root efforts to improve its society as a whole. The best thing about being part of the global village, is that the track record of all is there for everyone to see. There are very few countries who can boast a perfect track record of history, none of them being countries that are in any way connected to this current crisis. Folks, amongst those of us who have less than perfect credentials, we have members who have gone to multiple wars, dropped atomic bombs on bustling cities, forced kingdoms onto weaker nations, used and abused religion for personal gain, traded in souls for oil and gas, and yes, blown up innocent people to instill terror. Who’s the fairest of them all? Does it really matter? Honestly, does it?

We can hate all we want, and we can scream at each other all we want, but sooner or later, we will realize that nothing is more tiring than hatred. It is impossible to constantly hate. I’ve tried it. I have a neighbor from hell that I swore was the disciple of the devil for many years, until recently, he has annoyingly started to actually be good company. Such is life.

I am not going to attempt to claim any stats about what the majority of Pakistani’s feel about the death of Osama Bin Laden. We have multiple media outlets for that. I can only vouch for the people I know, and there is a unanimous sense of utter joy and relief at the news of his death. There is also of course, the ‘tree huggers’ unit out there who believe one should never rejoice at the death of anyone. That doesn’t connect with me. Osama Bin Laden was a murderer and death was his sentence. Fair trial or not, his open incitement of hatred on countless recordings was enough to justify the metal lodged in his head, in my opinion. Pop open the bubbly indeed!

If there is any parting thought that a global citizen of Pakistani persuasion can give on this matter, it’s that the best way out of a jungle is to help the weaker parties. Whether or not those parties were made weak because of internal issues or external ones, life will be much more comfortable for all when we have cleared the jungle. So, rejoice at the great news of the death of such an enemy of humanity, but please think seriously before you find a growing anger towards millions of other people who happen to share the same country code. Death is very uncomfortable for the vast majority of us the world over. It really is quite a party pooper. I hope the thinking minds of the global community understand that we are dramatically more similar than we are different. Except for food. Wow, do we kick your butts in food. To humanity, with love.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There is a Light that Never Goes Out: Governor Salmaan Taseer

I learnt something very important and damning in the past few days. The mind, I am now convinced, can never question the heart. The incredible weakness of poor logic can never be a match for the ignited machismo of old fashioned heart induced emotion. It is a war of two fronts that will always go to the heart. Our mind is only the puppet leader. We need to accept this reality. In actuality, we are but slaves to the whims of our own hearts. And it is because of this that we will always fall short. My heart will be the death of you. And your heart will be the death of me. Today, an emotionally charged, logic absent heart has created so much anger in me, that my own logic has been thrown out of the window and emotion has taken over. I have lost the capacity to want to think. All it took was one man. That is how weak logic is. I am an angry man today. I have every right to be. I don’t give a damn about your feelings, because my feelings are more important. That’s the beauty of emotion without logic. Now deal with it.

We lost so much more than a governor last week. We permanently lost bits of our personality to the rage. We lost pieces of humanity. We lost chunks of conscience. We lost doses of shame. We lost liters of decency. But most importantly, we lost the fact that we don’t even value the concept of individual life. We lost someone’s father. We lost someone’s husband. Do you understand? The simple fact that we have to talk this man up to such a height in order to feel the pain of his death is proof of our skin thickening by the day. The heroic efforts of Mr. Taseer will not go unnoticed by me, nor have they ever, but when did we decide that only the death of heroism should be mourned? Someone’s father was ruthlessly and shamelessly killed. By people hired to protect him. That is enough for me.

In my previous blog, before the horrific tragedy of Mr. Taseer’s death, I wrote about the case of Aasia Bibi. In bone chilling accuracy, the exact words I wrote in that article were, ‘We kill. Do you understand? We kill. We have sick people amongst us. Fear us, for we will attack without prejudice and we won't even have the conscience to repent. It is amongst our most reliable qualities.’ I wish I was wrong. More than ever, in the case of Mr. Taseer, I truly wish I was wrong. And yet, the irony of the loss of such a strong man to such a cowardice act is, that I am not surprised. After all, insanity knows no ends.

Mr. Taseers great efforts and determination to improve the lives of the people he spoke for is well documented and needs no further qualifying. His legacy is for all to see. You cannot erase facts. The humility of his success will stand the tests of time. He did what he could with the tools he had, and in the time given to him. And he did a damn good job. And in the days after his death, the final evidence of how great a man he was, was proven by the incredibly balanced and loving responses from his family. They responded to the cold blooded and mindless snatching of their father with a type of refined maturity that can only be coveted at best. I salute the strength of their logic and its control over their heart in a land where it is in major shortage.

Where do we go from here? What is the right thing to do? Have we become the monsters in the dark? Have we lost the plot? I don’t know. I just don’t know. But I do know that a good man died because he had optimism in the rest of us. And as the potency of my own sanity pierces through my emotion, albeit temporarily, I realize that in fact, there is an entire army of Salmaan Taseers all around me. There are great people all around us. There are people who want to laugh, to live out loud, to dance all night, to dream all day, to hold out their hand, to offer their shoulder, to offer their plate, and to walk hand in hand. There are people who will call a spade a spade and will never bow to ignorance. There are people who Mr. Taseer would have been proud to have his arm around, and vice versa. And while the scream of ignorance might be louder than the tune of conscience, the tune will always continue to ring.

I cannot imagine living in a place where I have to be scared of my own common sense. And yet, there are forces who are trying to do that to me. Mr. Taseer died protecting me from that force. I will not forget. I will never forget. I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend about the fact that we will never forget Mr. Taseer’s stance for a tolerant, fair, and modern society. He made the point that after a few days, we will forget and just go back to our daily lives of partying, socializing, having fun, and moving on. I replied that the very best way to attack such a deadly force is by doing exactly that. Our job is to live our life to the fullest. The best way to attack this mindless ignorance is by enjoying the hell out of our lives. It will irritate the life out of these fools. I say it again: if you truly want to fight the ignorance we are facing today, life your life as if nothing happened to change it. Work, study, dance, sing, love, laugh, eat, drink, play, create, innovate, and think. Think. Always, always, think. Nothing will piss them off more.