It’s only 11 odd years but, really; I cannot now even recall a time before 9/11 when the remotest areas of Pakistan were its most peaceful, apart from being the most beautiful. The aggression and the policies we have seen since Ground Zero happened have transformed so much in our part of the world and clouded our minds so completely.
So many of our own citizens have been alienated and numerous divisions created because of policies thrust upon us. We have travelled enough distance from 2001 to look back and analyse objectively if, what seemed the right course at that time, it actually did pay off the dividends it was supposed to. How is it that the writ of the government has shrunk to just a few urban cities, while there is no law and order to speak of in other places? How have so many organisations, hell-bent on capturing power to take this country back 1400 years, found so much space to function, quite apart from the fact that the enemies without also have more manoeuvrability and access?
We seem to be trapped in an ugly situation that is sapping all our strengths and there is nobody in sight who can pull the Houdini Act to have Pakistan wriggle free and revert it to the country it was meant to be. With that background, today the PTI, led from the front by its Chairman Imran Khan, is setting out on a peace march which will culminate tomorrow in South Waziristan. It is a march that has been scoffed at by the sceptics as an unnecessary risk to the lives of those who are a part of it. There have also been various calculated efforts to scare the participants into not going. Then there are the arguments of why South instead of North and so on and so forth.
I think the march is a wonderful idea because, as a Pakistani, it gives me hope. It is a march to bring attention to the plight of this remote corner of the country, which has been all but given up after being branded as extremist. It is also a chance for many Pakistanis to show that they stand in solidarity with their fellow citizens in Waziristan against drone strikes and that they believe that all Pakistani lives have equal rights and value. It is also a march to remind ourselves how hospitable and welcoming the traditional tribal culture always was before it was wronged so callously. It is a positive idea because it is the first real effort by any political party to come out of their comfort zones and provide a deliberate healing touch to a long-festering wound. To quote from Helen Lee: “When you are fearless, what seems impossible for others, will miraculously and effortlessly happen for you. Even when fears do arise know that you have powers to go beyond them.”
The other person who must continue to do what he is planning to do as CEC is Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, better known as ‘Fakhru Bhai’. There are rumours afloat that the PPP government has a strategy in place for his removal so that there could be a plausible delay in the general elections. For all his frailty and gentle appearance, Fakhru Bhai is the real, hard stumbling block between any unfair practices and potential candidates. His age makes him even more appropriate because this chance gives him an opportunity to give Pakistan the gift of fair elections and be remembered well in history. Whatever the results are under him as CEC, they will be acceptable to the majority - I am sure!
In fact, most people also really support the idea of Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim being elevated to the position of caretaker Prime Minister and the appointing of someone else, with his recommendation, as CEC. But the question is: those with countless millions and the same in perks at stake - will they let this happen? So please hang in there Fakhru Bhai, whatever it takes, for the country’s sake. In the present scenario of botched up cricket, the IRI surveys, the power tussles etc, these are the two men who deserve our unconditional support.
Postscript: The Asian Study Group (ASG) is a not-for-profit organisation based in Islamabad, which had its opening event this week for its 39th consecutive year. The ASG showcases Pakistan in all its traditional beauty and diversity to the community as well as diplomats, who are stationed here and who become its members so that they can actually savour a true feel of this country and its people in particular and the region in general. Its President, Mrs Perveen Shaukat Malik, is the force behind this organisation for the past many years. The patron for this year for the ASG is the Turkish Ambassador, H.E. Mustafa Babur Hizlan. The opening event was a lecture and an enthralling slide presentation by Mrs Naheed Jafri Azfar on the history, costumes and jewellery of Balochistan. She turned out to be a gifted storyteller narrating her experiences which took her to interior Balochistan while researching her book that is yet to be published and called “Balochistan: the other side”, a personal narrative of history, culture, costumes and travel. The spark of colours in her clothes, that were modern yet ethnic, and her choice of ethnic jewellery to match, made Naheed Azfar very glamorously watchable too, apart from enthrallingly listenable. As all of us watched the presentation, I could not help but sigh at all that is so wonderful about Balochistan - from where of late there are only sad stories.
    The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.
    Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com