Light and dark

Four different news items: three of them show the dark side of Pakistan while one of them - interlinked with the three in a way - shows how there are people who still give us hope in these difficult times.

One: ‘10 thalassemic children get HIV from transfusions’ (Dawn). The story says: “At least 10 children - between the ages of 5 and 16 - already afflicted with thalassemia, have tested positive for the HIV virus after allegedly receiving a transfusion of infected blood.” This story highlights how neglected our healthcare system is and how much more needs to be done. Ten lives of innocent children have been ruined because of medical, nay criminal, negligence. We do not know how many more lives have been destroyed in the same manner because nobody reported them. Just the other day, a friend was discussing how corruption is prevalent in the health sector in Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab. Unfortunately, such stories rarely make it to our talk shows because human interest stories do not get enough ratings. Imran Khan’s dharna would surely get more ratings than a story on the healthcare system so most of our anchorpersons would rather do a political show.

Two: ‘Visually impaired protesters baton-charged’ (Dawn). According to the story, “Representatives of people with special needs accused police of beating up and manhandling the protesters to stop them from raising their demands on The International Day of Persons with Disabilities.” Ironic, is it not, that on a day when the world highlights issues faced by people with disabilities, our policemen beat the very people who had come out to raise their voice for their rights. It was shocking to see the footage of blind people being baton-charged by policemen. This incident was so appalling that no government spokesperson could say anything except condemn police brutality. People with disabilities already have to face countless difficulties every single day in a country like ours but this inhumane treatment shows how little we care for them.

Three: ‘Police open blasphemy investigation against Junaid Jamshed’ (Newsweek Pakistan). The story states: “Police on Tuesday opened a blasphemy investigation against pop star turned evangelical Muslim Junaid Jamshed after he was caught on camera making allegedly disparaging remarks about one of the wives of Islam’s Prophet.” Some of you may remember Pakistani hit single, ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ by Vital Signs. Junaid Jamshed was the lead vocalist. He is now affiliated with the Tableeghi Jamaat. The video in question shows his misogynist comments about women in general, where he also narrates an incident about Hazrat Ayesha (RA). Jamshed has been known to make misogynistic comments in the past but has never been called out by the religious right for his misogyny. Those who filed the case against him are people who condone misogyny but considered his negative comments about Hazrat Ayesha (RA) blasphemous. Even the Jamaat and Jamshed’s mentor Maulana Tariq Jamil had to distance themselves from Jamshed, who was quick to apologise. It remains to be seen whether his apology will be accepted or not. If it is accepted, it would certainly be asked why others accused of alleged blasphemy cannot be pardoned. The debate on blasphemy laws should certainly be reopened.

Four: ‘Asma Jahangir receives Right Livelihood Award’ (AP). It was indeed a proud moment for Pakistan. This year, Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize while Asma Jahangir won the ‘alternative Nobel’. Ms Jahangir is an inspiration for many, including me. She is courageous and never shies away from risking her life for the marginalised. As I wrote at the beginning of my column, Asma ji’s life gives us hope that despite the injustice in Pakistan, there are people who continue to raise their voice against the status quo and make a difference.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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