By Nadeem F. Paracha
Pakistanis have an almost instinctive tendency to deflect and escape an ugly truth with an equally ugly fantasy. Most of us jump into fantastic, muddy rabbit holes when confronted by the reality in which groups of unhinged men go about inflicting some of the most atrocious acts of terror and carnage in our bazaars, places of worship and shrines.
We allow ourselves to fall further down the hole when indigenous extremist organisations proudly own up to their atrocities, as we freefall our way down the fissure in stunned silence. But as we hit the ground of the imaginary world that lies beneath this hole, the great fall triggers in us an incoherent series of babblings about ‘foreign hands’ and assorted conspiracies against the Islamic republic.
Decades of engineered ‘education’ and propaganda that the state of Pakistan, the media and schools have dished out has conditioned us to at once become vocal and animated when words like India, Israel and United Sates are spoken, but we simply have no clue or indication about exactly how to respond to the terrible deeds of people and organisations who are doing so in the name of religion and a so-called ‘jihad’.
Many Pakistanis can be seen jumping and shouting and going hoarse in the throat discussing India and the United State’s nefarious designs in the region, but the same people then go all quiet (if not downright sheepish), when some psycho flag wavers of faith and jihad take responsibility of an appalling act of terror. As most of us then go about like zombies spouting meaningless pearls of delusion, such as ‘it can’t be us’ or ‘these can’t be Muslims’, the many monsters that clearly lurk among us and are Muslims, go about their business thriving and planning their gruesome acts in our mountains, hills and cities.
Though we are ready to keep a constant eye on lofty drawing room topics like ‘geopolitics’ and ‘corruption’, and exercise our minds through all sorts of mental gymnastics while talking about such issues, a thick murky glaze suddenly descends upon the same constant eyes when it comes to talking about terrorism and faith-based extremism. Then all we can see are certain delusions that lurk like shadows in our own conditioned heads.
Busy bouncing about in our own heads (the rabbit hole), and constructing diabolical conspiratorial fantasies, we thus fail to recognise and accept a stark external reality pregnant with evidence that yes, these merciless monsters who blow up our markets and places of worship are very much the consequence of our own follies and arrogance. Created to first safeguard the pious, innocent Islamic republic from the godless ways of communist invaders, and then to look after our so-called ‘geopolitical interests’ in Afghanistan and Kashmir, these men-turned-monsters now run amok in our own streets and mountains, treating every other Pakistani as an infidel deserving the most gruesome destruction and death.
How can a people who so proudly boast of being so brave and manly, react like a whimpering wind in the face of a local extremist and sectarian organisation claiming responsibility of a terrorist attack? Are we simply cowards who are ready to go all ballistic about the corruption, misdeeds and ‘blasphemous’ ways of people who we know cannot retaliate, but look the other way when the time comes to confront the truth about demons posing as our faith’s true manifestations?
Like cowards who when bothered by pangs of shame and double standards, we then start with all our lofty, empty boastings and muscle flexing, bowing at the altar of our proud nuclear arsenal, and how we are ready to go to war with anti-Islam forces. It is amazing how we seem to know exactly what is happening in Gaza, Kashmir and Iraq, and exactly why convicted felons like Aafia Siddiqui are ‘innocent,’ but begin sounding like a confused lot when it comes to the violence and destruction taking place in the name of religion in our own country.
But, of course, it is not only the confusion and the denying state of mind of the Pakistani people that continues to provide various openings for extremism to rudely penetrate our society and politics. Certain powerful state institutions are perhaps among the culprits. Shaken by the collapse of the ‘two nation theory’ after the disastrous 1971 civil war in the former East Pakistan, the state began a concerted campaign to erode and destroy everything that it blamed for Pakistan’s break-up: democracy, pluralism, secularism, liberalism, socialism, etc.; everything but the truth or the fact that it was not these but the state’s own incompetence, adventurism and myopic ideology that undid the ‘old’ Pakistan.