I am ashamed

2014-07-21 00:00

ANYONE who has ever traveled abroad will tell you that no matter where you go, if you are a British national or a Caucasian American, people become friendlier. The security becomes less pressurising. Visa queues are shorter. Procedures are simpler.

If you’re a brown Pakistani man (or even woman), that’s a whole other story. If you’re working in the Middle East, chances are your salary is just a little above the basic working wage or anything that will get you a bed space with seven other human beings. Respect is minimal.

You’re not supposed to ruffle any feathers. Or demand rights. Your children are thousands of miles away studying (because you can’t afford education for them here), your wife probably has another job to help make ends meet and your job squeezes every drop of your blood into a tiny container that helps build the skyscrapers and that little container is thrown away quicker than you can say “burj”, as soon as your company decides to say bye bye.

As if the current state of the country, with its years of dictatorship and lack of infrastructure, hasn’t driven us insane enough, there is the added bonus of letting religious extremists destroy everything we hold dear.

Sure, apologists will reason “this is not true Islam”. But my question is, when do we set aside the debate of what is true Islam and what isn’t?

Let the clerics and the religious scholars sit in their mosques and minibars, oh I meant minbars. But once and for all, eliminate the cowardly, immoral men who buy the bodies of poverty-stricken, desperate men, strap explosives to them and send them into markets filled with innocent women and children.

A recent article in the New York Times reported on the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaration of the polio emergency in Pakistan.

Last year, a polio worker was killed in Peshawar, another was shot dead in Khyber Agency. Several were kidnapped in Bara. In January this year, gunmen killed three health workers taking part in a polio vaccination drive in Karachi. Not Kabul. Not Sierra Leone. Not Riyadh. Karachi.

The article further stated that the highest refusal rates for polio vaccinations were recorded in wealthy neighbourhoods of Karachi because they had little faith in public health care.

In North Waziristan, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has forbidden vaccinations for years. Pakistan thus has 59 polio cases to report, the most in the world.

Being a mother, it scares me. It reminds me that even if I run far away from the borders of my own land, its demons will continue to haunt me and my future generations. I Google “Pakistan” and everything that is reported is about death, destruction, squabbling politicians, ailing children, extremists blowing up things and a struggling economy.

I raise my eyes to our neighbouring country and see what could have happened if we were still a united India.

Maybe we would have been polio-free too. We would have been part of a process of being the world’s next big force to reckon with, of being a part of the next blazing economy.

I wish that Muhammad Jinnah hadn’t made this mistake, that he had thought about the future of Pakistan.

I look at the years of struggles that Pakistan faces, the fall of Dhaka, the provincial wars, the stark separatist mind-sets and I wonder what Jinnah was thinking when he decided to leave the Indian National Congress. We share more with our Indian brothers than our ancestral DNA. Our food, language, clothes, lifestyles are more like them than the Arabs we so badly want to mimic and ape.

I am ashamed of being a Pakistani today. I am ashamed that I belong to a country that kills human rights lawyers and sitting governors, and issues death threats to university professors.

I am ashamed that we believe in spaghetti monster theories and pie-in-the- sky conspiracies and risk the future of our children. I am ashamed that we have rejected our scientists just because they believe in a different dogma. I am ashamed that we cannot protect our women, children and men from the evil that is extremism, fundamentalism and the foolhardy idea that Pakistan is a great nation.

So, to all those who defend their patriotism blindly and their religion with a bullet, I hope you know exactly whose side you are on. I hope you sleep well at night knowing that you are on the side of the murderers. — Express Tribune, Karachi, Pakistan.

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