October Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 13 years ago

The Marriott Hotel blast and what followed was a stark reminder of our many failings as members of a civilised society.

Firstly, with the exception of a few good Samaritans who genuinely wanted to help, it was mostly the ‘tamashbeens’ among us who turned up in droves to catch a glimpse of the burning hotel, impeding the rescue work. Why, one man even showed up with four kids in tow. Was it Disneyworld come to town or what?

And then there was the electronic media, turned out in full force — reporters, cameras et al — and in their desire to get a ringside view, their vans had occupied spaces that should have been left clear for ambulances and rescue teams. What’s worse, some cameras were zooming in on critically injured patients, very obviously in great pain and trying to shield their blood-soaked faces from the prying eyes of the camera. Just how insensitive can one get? Some photographers even managed to sneak into what should’ve been prohibited territory — right outside the emergency ward — blocking the passage of incoming patients on stretchers.

And as if that wasn’t all, anchors and analysts inside the studios of TV channels were giving their own spin to the story. One analyst/politician even remarked that had the government restored the judges, the Marriott blast would not have happened (Did he see a judge’s hand in it?). And then there were the usual experts (read suspects) raving and ranting about how the US — and on occasion, India — was responsible for the Marriott, and every bomb blast in the country. Not a word of condemnation for the perpetrators of the dastardly crime.

For a long time now, this group of people, comprising politicians, intelligence sleuths and religious leaders, have been glorifying the crimes of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the name of Islam.

What Islam, might one ask? The beheadings of innocent people who don’t subscribe to their views, the filming of these videos for public viewing, the kidnappings of Chinese and Polish engineers who are engaged in development work in the country and the gunning down of their poor drivers who are only earning a living, the arson attacks on video shops, the burning down of girls’ schools, depriving children of polio vaccines by attacking medical teams and, above all, using 14- and 16-year-olds to carry out suicide bombings — is this Islam?

The heads of religious parties like the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam have a lot to answer for. As do political parties like the PML-N, who have always held a soft spot for religious parties. This is not the time to settle scores, play games or indulge in political brinkmanship

It’s a time for serious reflection on the future direction of this country, which is sinking bit by bit

Yesterday, it was the Marriott on fire, tomorrow the whole country could be in flames. Are we then going to be fighting over the ashes?

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