I cried bitterly today. No, I did not cry for myself neither did I cry for my family or my friends and yet, maybe I did cry for myself, my friends and my family. I cried when I realized how desensitized we have become to allow atrocities committed in our midst without flinching.

Yes, today I cried bitterly while reading an editorial in The News (A tale from the dungeons Monday, January 26, 2009). I cried for myself, my daughters, my sisters, my grand daughters and all the other girls and women living in a country with such little respect for Humanity as a whole and for women in particular. How can we as a nation engage ourselves in any business when there is such terrible torture being meted out to the helpless and the hapless in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?

What if it was your mother who was in that dungeon? What if it was your sister? Or your daughter? What if it was your wife? What if you were poor and helpless and could not help your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife, from the beasts who tortured her as if she was less than human?

Why is it that our law enforcing agencies address only those stories that are picked up by the Western Media? Is how we are perceived by the world more important to us than who we actually are? Do we have no moral standards of our own to measure behavior with? Where is our outrage? Is there one person who will stand up and say ”No! This will not be allowed!”

Why hasn’t the news media covered this cruel act continuously and vigorously so that those who committed it are punished and are made an example of? Do we not understand that Justice denied to one single person in a society is Justice denied to every one of us? The brutalization of one single individual brutalizes us all as a society when we stand by and watch, doing nothing to help. Do we not understand something so very basic? Maybe my diatribe has taken you aback for it is not the first time something as heinous as this terrible torture has been reported in our newspapers. I know for I have read similar reports and turned the page of the newspaper in disgust at the animals who could do such a terrible thing and get away with it. I stopped writing about the poor girls who were victims of the miscalled ‘honor’ killings because I could not stand the constant ache in my heart when I thought and wrote of them. It never occurred to me that I was complicit by my silence; we are all guilty when we see a crime committed and remain silent, fearful of our own safety. We are all guilty.

Why did I cry so bitterly today when I read the editorial in The News? What was so different this time? Were the actions more brutal? No, for I have heard of worse. Was the helpless victim more innocent? No, for they were all innocent. What was the difference then between all those other news reports and this particular one? The difference unfortunately is so simple it is soul shattering. The difference is simply that I have lived in the USA for some years now and the armor that we in Pakistan grow to protect ourselves with has worn thin. I now live in a society that will not allow what we in Pakistan do. I now live in a place where people are actually considerate of strangers, immaterial whether they are rich or poor, man, woman or child. Unfortunately the thought frequently comes to my mind that even animals are treated more humanely in the USA than some people are treated in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Cats and dogs sleep in softer beds, eat more nourishing food; get better medical care the human beings in Pakistan. Abuse of animals in the West can land a person in jail or having to pay a hefty fine; what happens to the thousands that abuse human beings in Pakistan? What happened to the abusers of so many women and children in Pakistan?

A civilization is measured by how the people, ordinary people, treat the weakest and most helpless amongst them; how do we in Pakistan rate ourselves?

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