One step at a time

On Thursday, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for an explosion targeting a police bus in Karachi. Thirteen people lost their lives and 47 were wounded in the attack. The TTP spokesman said their “defensive war will continue until an agreement is reached on a ceasefire” between the government and the Taliban.

Instead of condemning the TTP, their apologists in politics, media and society continue to lay the blame elsewhere. They always come up with an excuse: some ‘third force’ is responsible for these attacks; the Taliban are innocent.

Paranoia and schizophrenia: two words that best describe the current frame of mind of many Pakistanis. We think the world is out to get us while we turn a blind eye to the enemy within: i.e. the Taliban and their affiliates. The government is hell-bent on talking to the Taliban; the same Taliban who continue to bomb our civilians and security forces alike. With each passing day, we cement the path for self-destruction.

The optimist in me says this too shall pass; the pessimist says, ‘Dil ke behlaanay ko Ghalib, yeh khayaal acha hai.’ What gives me hope is that in the midst of all this violence, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is trying to do something different. The PPP’s young scion, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh government organised the Sindh Festival (February 1-15) to reclaim our past and glorious culture. The opening ceremony of the Sindh Festival was held in the historic Mohenjo-Daro.

Raza Rumi, journalist and a culture enthusiast, feels the festival is a watershed of sorts in the current political climate of Pakistan where the Right is preparing to hand over the state to the extremists. He said, “As a stark contrast, the Sindh Festival revives the pluralistic and secular past and present of Pakistan. Pakistan is neither a jihadi state nor a product of imported ideologies because it is the continuum of a 5,000-year-old civilisation. Sindh Fest unwittingly emerges as a symbol of hope for an enlightened Pakistan sometime in the future.” This festival is a good reminder for those who think that our history began with Mohammad Bin Qasim that we had the great Indus Valley Civilisation way before he set foot on our soil. This is not to say that holding such festivals alone can counter the extremist tide without any meaningful action by the state against terrorists but when we start taking pride in our heritage, only then can we begin to realise how these terrorists are destroying the very fabric of our society.

Most people in Pakistan are not very familiar with our ancient history. This is obviously something we need to tackle and urgently. Reclaiming our past by owning (and proudly so) our culture and heritage brings us one step closer to pluralism and tolerance. What we need today is more tolerance and less bigotry. Our state needs to play its part in changing this society for the better. The sooner the state realises this, the better.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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