January issue 2009

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

As the clock struck twelve and fireworks, punctuated by the shots of gunfire, rent the air on December 31, it didn’t quite feel like the New Year’s Eve that one has looked forward to every year.

Firepower and gun power have become so much a part of our lives now that any sound akin to it merely sends a chill down one’s spine. A grim reminder of what life in Pakistan has been reduced to by the self-appointed custodians of religion.  Bombings, burnings, beheadings, kidnappings and constant intimidation — all in the name of religion.

And the government seems to be in a state of total paralysis. It’s trundling along without any sense of direction. Its battle with the judiciary is far from over. Its relations with the army and the ISI have, for the most part, been awkward. Its alliance with its main coalition partner is on the downslide and it might be a matter of days before they finally part ways. None of this bodes well for a government that is poised on the brink of a war if the alleged Pakistani perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage are not brought to justice. One wonders how the Zardari government can accede to the Indian demand to hand over the accused, who have allegedly confessed to masterminding the crime, without jeopardising its own survival.

For the extremist lobby has made strategic inroads in every sphere of life, most notably on TV channels. It has found supporters to its cause in some top-notch TV anchors, who are more hard-hitting on this government than they are on the militants who have brought life to a virtual halt in certain parts of the country.

Maulvi Fazlullah’s deputy has decreed that all girls’ schools will be blown up and that women will not be allowed to step out of their homes. Additionally, three major English-medium schools in Peshawar have been blown up. But these anchors are still obsessing about India’s fulminations against Pakistan. Not a talk show about these abominable edicts and actions.

One would like to return to the times when New Year revellers could dance and sing on the streets of Karachi without being shooed away by the cops; and to the summers when middle-income families could spend their children’s holidays in the idyllic Swat valley without the fear of bullets whizzing past. And most of all, to those times when the girl child of this country attended classes in the tribal areas without the fear of her school being bombed, and the young boys could go to a madrassa or a mosque which was not awash with arms and preachers who taught them to kill and handed them guns instead of books.

Will 2009 be that year?

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.