“Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu...”
By Hina Hafeezullah Ishaq
October 25, 2013
Perhaps the long years of captivity have caused us to identify with our captors enough to justify their atrocities against us or perhaps we act in the interest of self-preservation
There are days. And then there are more days. Sometimes, I feel that such days have the ability to suck the essence of life out of me. These days weigh down heavy upon my heart and soul, leaving me to wander in a land seeped with blood, where the terrifying whirlwinds carry the agonising shrieks of the dead and the wounded and the crushing wails of grief of those left behind. Yes, these are the days when I am constrained to wonder if there is an end in sight. No more blood. No more torn limbs. No more bodies.
And on such days, I turn to music to find my way back into the rapidly diminishing sane world. Believe me, it is easy to succumb to the dark depths of despair; it is the desperate desire and fight to cling to hope that is the difficult part, when all seems red around you. During my mindless indulgence in inane songs last night, I progressed to Ghazals and then somehow ended up listening to Amrita Pritam’s Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nu. The rendition by Gulzar just captivated my soul, the images that sprang up in my mind’s eye were vivid and heart wrenching. And, steeped in blood.
Blood. How can anyone who has not lost a loved one understand the value of a human life? How can anyone who is even partly human disregard the endless corpses strewn around, what now seems to be all over the country? How can anyone stand in solidarity with those responsible for such atrocities? But, sadly, many do. A few days ago, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman made a televised statement to the effect that his and, probably his party’s hearts, beat in unison with the Taliban. The Taliban, who kill and maim and destroy all vestiges of humanity, who, with premeditated intent, blow innocent human beings to bits, leaving not even a whole body for burial. And Maulana’s heart is one with them.
Years ago, when the backlash of 9/11 started, I happened to see several gruesome videos of the Taliban slaughtering human beings. With the Quran being recited, the executioner, with a butcher’s knife proceeded to cut the victim’s throat. For most of us who even shy away from watching animals being sacrificed on Eid, the sheer thought of a human being butchered is enough to induce vivid nightmares. And, imagine, there are people in this country, at the helm of affairs, whose hearts beat in unity with men who have been condemned by none other than Allah to burn eternally in hell: “Whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense (in the Hereafter) is Hell, therein to abide; and God has utterly condemned him, excluded him from His mercy, and prepared for him a tremendous punishment” (Nisa 4:93).
So, who is to blame? General Ziaul Haq? The Afghan jihad? The huge refugee population? The drug trade, illegal arms and human trafficking? The unchecked and unregulated mushrooming of madrasas, many of which serve as training camps for those vying to get the 72 houris? The lack of equal opportunities, poverty, uninformed Jihadi literature as opposed to fairness in our education system? How about the rise in heinous crimes? Could the kidnappings for ransom and bank and highway robberies be contributing to funding terrorism?
Perhaps it is possible that we have brought this upon ourselves? By not standing up for what is right, by our petty differences and our blatant indifference to others around us, we feel that somehow we are immune, that it cannot happen to us, to our children. When the blast in Anarkali, Lahore, took place a few days ago, my youngest daughter was at her school, which is located at a five-minute walking radius. Within the hour there were rumours of a bomb threat at the Lahore High Court and it was sealed, with my associate and hundreds others inside. In fact, when major blasts in Lahore took place in the past, I and many others I know had been nearby.
Hundreds were killed. As per unofficial data available, since September this year, there have been over 55 bomb blasts in Pakistan: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, FATA, none have been spared. Israr Gandapur, the KP law minister, and dozens of others, were killed and injured in a brutal suicide bombing on Eid. A bus full of employees was targeted by a remote-controlled bomb, leaving nearly 20 dead and over 40 injured. A car bomb exploded in a congested market in Peshawar, resulting in 42 dead and 100 injured. A blast in the Jaffar Express killed seven in Balochistan. There was the horrific church attack, and the list goes on and on. According to unofficial data, nearly 50,000 people, including civilians, security force personnel and insurgents are estimated to have been killed in the past decade as a result of terrorist violence.
Amidst all this the president has promulgated the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, by which amendments have been made to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). I leave the merits of these amendments for another time and question whether promulgating further laws is enough to curb terrorism. Is the answer so simple? How about dealing with those within the system and among us who circumvent the law to facilitate the terrorists or jihadists as they perceive them to be? Maybe our nation has been held hostage for such a long time that some of us have started to empathise with our captors. There may be no physical restraints, but anyone who lived in Pakistan when it ‘lived’ would know the difference.
They would know what freedom felt like, what true laughter sounded like, what it was like to hear the wind sing, what living meant. Why do I feel like my children, and those of most Pakistanis of my generation, who opted to live here or perhaps many who had no choice, have been raised in captivity? Why is their world tainted with blood? Why does the air that they breathe carry the smell of charred flesh? Why do thousands of daughters still weep, awaiting refuge and dignity? Why are corpses strewn not only in Punjab but entire Pakistan? Why are all the rivers flowing with blood? Why is the poison-filled water irrigating our soil? Where have the flutes and ballads gone? When will the graves stop oozing blood? Was not the massacre and mindless bloodshed during the partition enough to last several lifetimes?
A saying that has been attributed to many generals, making its original source obscure, narrates that when the general was asked whether he could forgive the terrorists, he replied, “Only God has the authority to forgive. Our job is to arrange their meeting.” But why is there a moratorium on execution? Why are we obstructing the meeting? Maybe we suffer from the Stockholm syndrome; perhaps the long years of captivity have caused us to identify with our captors enough to justify their atrocities against us or perhaps we act in the interest of self-preservation. Either way, the lines have blurred, or the blood continues to seep into the soil and ooze from the countless graves.
Why do I feel the same need Amrita Pritam felt 66 years ago, to ask Waris Shah to speak from his grave, to add a new page to his book of love? “Ajj aakhan Waris Shah nu kiton qabran vichon bol/Te ajj kitab-e-ishq da koi agla varka phol.”
Hina Hafeezullah Ishaqr is an advocate of the High Court