It is tempting to grab unchallengeable power and to enjoy its use. But power has its limits which many of us try to transgress with the result that it backfires and kills its master. In Pakistan, the use of force and religion is thought to be the only weapon to fight with in every situation. The adage of “violence breeds violence” proves true every moment in Pakistan but no one is prepared to break this cycle by cutting its roots.
Let us begin with the prevalent violence at home. Our homes have become torture cells. The powerful persons resort to intimidation and physical punishment on petty issues and difference of opinion. Children and women in particular find little space to breathe in. By growing up in an environment of violence, the children unconsciously learn that the only way to get things done or elicit compliance is to use force. Moral authority and logical persuasion are perceived to be signs of powerlessness and never allowed to flourish.
After going to school or madrassa, the children are subjected to even more violence for minor violations. Unfortunately, teachers are not trained to discipline students by channelising their energies to productive activities and projects. Silence in the class is construed as obedience which in reality is a time bomb which explodes when the fateful moment approaches.
The epidemic of violence spreads from home and schools into society. Intolerance permeates every walk of life. It becomes visible on faces, speeches, and conduct of individuals. Make a little mistake by omission or commission and then see the disproportionate reaction! Even a little advice is reciprocated with abusive language and harsh tone. Now the virus of violence is out there to infect everyone!
It is said that a man was run over by a snake when he was about to sleep. After some time, he recalled the incident and started crying like a lost child. A passer-by came close to him and asked sympathetically about the problem and any help he could extend. The man thanked him and said he was weeping out of fear that the snake might make it a habit to run over his belly in future and would eventually bite him to death.
The recent violent protest by TLP throughout Punjab for about two weeks is the tip of the iceberg, which if not averted by the state capitulating itself through a not-so-hidden agreement, might have rocked our rudderless boat into pieces. Now that the agreement has set a dangerous precedence for other proscribed groups, the state would be forced to yield more space and would thus lose its moral/legal monopoly over coercive power to implement its writ.
The bulging young population coupled with poverty and illiteracy is going to bring us more horrific incidents in the days ahead. More unfortunate is the tendency of our politicians who play to the gallery for short-term electoral benefits and never try to properly educate the public on how to respond in extraordinary circumstances. Some institutional interests also make it difficult to contain militant groups from threatening constitutional order in the country. It is now an open secret that militarism in Pakistan has more to do with political disorder than ideological differences.
A recurring rallying slogan of many religious groups is “Jihad” as a means of bringing about Islamic revolution in Pakistan which would not only give socio-economic justice to everyone in the country but would also make it strong enough to protect the sacred personalities and ideals of Islam. Ostensibly, it seems a noble cause but using religion and force for political purposes should remind us the bloody history of Umayyad and Abbasids that caused the Ummah to shatter before the Mongols’ unstoppable march in the heartland of Baghdad!
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2021.