By Humayun Gauhar
Sajay to kaisay sajay qatl-e-aam ka mela? Kaisay labhai ga maray lahoo ka wa waila? Mairay nazaar badan mein lahoo hee kitna hai?
“How to adorn this festival of death?” asked Faiz. “When will it reach the brim and end blood’s cries? How much blood is there in my emaciated body, after all?”
All over Pakistan a suicidal dance of death is being played out as our multifarious meltdowns inexorably move us towards the final denouement. That meltdown has become a worldwide pandemic is of little consolation to us. When the Leviathan falls, the whole world gets crushed.
Karachi is in flames. A turf war over protection rackets between political Mafiosi is destroying the essential fabric of the country, its very raison d’être. There’s more to it: the protection mafias took to sheep’s clothing and became political parties long ago. Their fight is for political control of Pakistan’s economic heartland. Their dance in the desert is akin to the dance of a scorpion with sunstroke stinging itself to death. What seems a ‘dance’ is actually death throes. Elsewhere in the festival a snake is swallowing its tail.
So far more than 1,500 people have been killed in Karachi alone, many thousands more everywhere else. While American bombs regularly spill our blood we shamelessly and surreptitiously help them, like the quislings Clive used. What else starkly exposes our total loss of shame, of self-esteem and self-respect? Sure terrorists are our enemies too, but don’t let Robert Clive in once again to do your dirty work in return for you doing his dirty work. Else you will be enslaved again. Actually, we already are in America’s bondage, so piteously dependent on the scraps it throws our way. Yes, after a great embarrassment our army is seemingly struggling to break the bonds, but I will celebrate only after the last link is broken.
Karachi has been in turmoil for years, but this time it could be fatal. Street dogs are saying, “Run from Karachi or you will die a human’s death.” Don’t feign innocent surprise. You should have known. You are so in thrall of political wolves that you let them in through your door. Weren’t you aware that they would gobble you up one day? That day has arrived. This alien and corruption-engendering political system in democracy’s garb doesn’t deliver democracy at all. It delivers big bad wolves. So don’t wail. You asked for it, you got it. You had it coming. Weren’t you pathetically lamenting on television the other day – “Bring Musharraf back. We want someone like him. We want army rule for 20 years.” Have a heart. Is there no shame? It’s taken you only three years to come full circle again? Why don’t you decide what you want? Don’t swing between two dispensations, neither of which can deliver. The very integrity of the State is now at stake. Use your minds. Think, for God’s sake, think.
Our land is often parched by drought, but our earth is perennially saturated with human blood. Blood-watered earth we share with Mesopotamia too, modern day Iraq. There are killings galore in Karachi. The land of the proud Pushtoon is awash. We are drowning in our own blood spilled by our own hand, for the buck stops with us. A spark has fallen into India dry tinderbox of inequity: evoking images of Gandhi – the Mahatma, not a Nehru – a 74-year old retired army driver’s protest by hunger strike against rampant corruption has ignited that vast country from end to end. That’s just for starters. When protests against hunger and poverty start, as one day they must in South Asia, the lumpen proletariat will emerge from their urban rat holes and the rural proletariat will head for the cities armed with staves and stones, what will the bourgeoisie do, what the ruling elite? It will be a wonder to behold, hopefully deliverance too. We’ve waited for it for millennia.
From what is known, blood spilling started here with the Aryan invasions of pre-history. They continued with invasion-after-invasion through the Khyber Pass, that ‘Gorge of Blood’. It continued under occupying invaders. Only the Europeans came by sea. Britain prevailed with help from warring natives and occupied this land of sorrows. The bloodbath continued. Came Partition, came the deluge. Came the biggest bloodbath in modern history. Man fell upon man, neighbour upon neighbour, raping, killing, maiming, all because of religion exploited by politicians for economic-political advantage. To make Jinnah’s ‘hostage theory’ irrelevant, Nehru wanted no Hindus left in Pakistan. A two-way migration of some 10 million people took place, the largest in human history, all in a few months, leaving India with millions of hostage Muslims but Pakistan with few hostage Hindus. The amount of blood spilled is incalculable. It continues throughout South Asia to this day, all ignited by petty issues – clinging to power or to gain it, religion, ethnicity, or language… A rare pause in bloodletting is an aberration. Those with vested interests exploit man’s prejudices for gain. When it is all over and the history of the human race comes to be written, it will be determined that ‘politics bloody politics’ was the most damaging factor.
The latest bloodletting in Karachi started when a Sindh provincial minister – a nobody really meant for the trashcan of history – made a racist speech against “Mohajirs that speak Urdu” who came to Pakistan after Partition. Ironically, his diatribe was in Urdu. He called them “ingrates” for they “came hungry-naked” – barefoot and empty handed – and the native Sindhi welcomed them. No doubt they did, for Sindhis are good people, not to be lumped with this politician and his ilk. (So did the Punjabis welcome migrants, but without bellyaching). The hosts were actually doing themselves the greater favour, for they were following in the footsteps of the people of Medina where the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers migrated from Mecca to escape persecution. They were called Muhajiroon or migrants; the people of Medina were called Ansar or ‘Helpers’. Hijrat, migration, is a great tradition of Islam, so great that the Islamic calendar begins from there. And being a Helper is great too. Sadly, today’s politicians everywhere are ill educated, without a sense of history. I suppose one has to be to qualify for politics. Forgive the minister for he knew not what he was saying.
Karachi exploded. Flames are dancing there, being enlarged with flame’s fuel – more blood. The music comes from a political orchestra, the singing by politicians spewing nauseous words – “seventy percent of the killings are because of love affairs” one croons! Better that, if you can. We are sickened by their ‘power-sharing’ deals, their sit ins over less relevant issues because they are too old to march, a paralyzed parliament held captive by party dons, a newly ‘independent’ judiciary exercised not by issues of moment but with Atiqa Odho’s bottles, postings and transfers in the executive. And so it will go on until one spark lights the tinderbox and the pomp, panoply and paraphernalia of the powerful goes up in flames too.
Brings to mind Nazir Akbarabadi’s "Sub thaath para reh javay ga jub laad chalay ga banjara. ‘Banjara’ means gypsy," the Grim Reaper symbolizing the angel of death.
“All pomp and panoply will be left behind as the Grim Reaper loads you on his shoulder and moves on.”