MY WEEK (Jan. 1998)

When asked to write a column for "My week," I wondered what to write about. After all, what can one have done in Peshawar, in a week (or even in a month or a year, for that matter), that would be of any interest to anyone at all? Especially since it did not even interest me! So here I am, staring at a blank monitor, wishing I had never agreed to write the column and wanting to join my cyber-friends on the Net. In short, feeling as miserable as any writer can, who has not yet broken through a crippling bout of 'writer's block' and has a dead-line to keep.

Finally giving in to temptation, I crept into IRC (Internet Relay Chat) hoping to find something to write about. Although I had an interesting couple of hours chatting with friends, there was still nothing at all that others might like to hear about. So next I went to MAGICMOO (a virtual reality game on the net, for the uninitiated). I hoped I might bump into the Armageddon_Man , he was sure to come up with some thought provoking ideas. Unfortunately he was not there, but Alf and Darthy were. So I asked them for topics I might write on. Since Darthy's advice to write about a beheaded mermaid wasn't the type of 'idea' I was looking for, I decided to skim through the newspapers of the last few days, for ideas. I wish I hadn't.

Every morning I read the Papers out of sheer habit, and frequently I wish I could give it up altogether. Nine times out of ten, the morning paper is sure to cast a pall on my usually optimistic outlook on life. This has been especially true of the last few days. Over the years, the prophecies of doom and gloom about the country's future have been becoming darker and gloomier. Then the Mominpura horror happened.

While reading about the appalling tragedy, I was struck by a strange anomaly. There were three news items, side-by-side, on the front page of "The News". I wonder why the page setter did not notice it. Or then again, maybe he put them there on purpose?

The headlines screamed out the details of the barbarous killings, and next to it was an item saying that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi proudly accepted responsibility for the brutality. But it was the third piece of news that was a gem. It reported the logical insight of our brilliant Prime Minister. He informed us, in all seriousness, that the 'hidden hand' was behind the killings. Being a logical man, he ofcourse gave a very valid reason for the perspicacious announcement. With a judgment unclouded by facts, and in the face of the admission of guilt from the ultra-right Sunnis, it was his carefully reasoned belief that a muslim could not shed the blood of a fellow muslim. Therefore, it HAD to be none other than the ever present 'hidden hand'! (The ubiquitous 'Hidden Hand' is the scapegoat that takes care of all guilt for us Pakistanis, when we are forced to face the ugly side of the culture and society of our otherwise "Squeaky-Clean Land"). That our President, the estimable Mr. Tarar, echoed this nugget of wisdom was no surprise. He is equally wise.

Although the PM's perceptive appraisal will surely ease the work-load of our hard-working police force by narrowing the circle of suspects in murder cases, I find it a little hard to accept.

It is marvelous how we have developed into a fine art, the shifting of all responsibility. No matter what happens, no matter what we do, we come up smelling roses! When anything goes wrong, whether it is the weather, the economy, terrorism or even if the hens don't lay, we cast around until we can pin the blame on someone. Anyone but our selves. Our economy is shattered, because of the nefarious plots of the IMF, the World Bank or the USA. It is never because our 'rulers' are sucking the country dry.

If there is sectarian violence it is the result of a global, anti-Islam plot hatched by the scheming West; RAW; the CIA; the Jews or even the now extinct KHAD. Anyone and everyone is to blame. Everyone, that is, but our selves; because, muslims will never harm a fellow muslim. Our own intolerance, the injustice of our society, the moral and financial corruption in which we languish, are never raised as a possible reason of our gradual decline into anarchy and bankruptcy.

Intolerance is the mindset that half-baked fanatics bring with them when they emerge from the madrassas dotting the country. Violence, it has been said, is born of the desire to escape oneself, and they prove it. Brainwashed and beaten into submission at an early age, these bigoted fanatics do not blink an eye-lid when they kill in the name of the gentlest of all Prophets. They would never understand what Voltaire meant when he said, "To instruct the human race, need one discard humanity? Is the torch of hatred indispensable to show us the truth?"

Outraged beyond words, I read on to find that a learned Maulana tried to justify the massacre. He pointed out that since all shias have good jobs, the jobless sunni boys have no recourse but to join militant groups. One is dumbfounded by his penetratingly astute mind!

That was the last straw. I threw away the papers. My evening has been thoroughly ruined. If the 'hidden hand' doesn't stop spoiling the rest of my day, I will finally strike out at it!

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