Are we Pakistanis victims of fundamentalism, extremism, and intolerance at the hands of right-wing individuals, peoples, and religiously bent political parties? While the Governor of the most populous province in Pakistan may have been assassinated - a penance way beyond the crime of merely suggesting changes to a manmade law - there also abound many other incidents suggesting a creeping, lurking public fear of increasing intolerance. However, we remain proud somewhat ashamedly of the strides Pakistan and our society has taken towards westernisation, generally believed to be the “way forward”!
In the times when I was growing up, visual and hence mental exposure was limited, and strict mental bounds were firm boundaries. As children and as adolescents, our options from one all the way up to umpteen whilst watching television were wholly and solely PTV. The mushroom growth of dish antennas and cable TV opened up young minds, forever varying their impressionable thought processes without any check or balance. Not to mention the Internet, censored across many Muslim countries, but not in Pakistan. For lack of another word, despite vulgar content, bordering sometimes on profanity, so far no mullah - unlike clerics in other Muslim countries - even so much as hinted in disfavour of cable TV or of censuring the Internet.
When suicide attacks happen on Juma congregations and upon funerals, it remains difficult for me, at least, to assume they are carried out by religious parties, whose lifelong strife is to bring people to the mosques more regularly.
Pakistan has the distinction of having a ‘man’ in saree on TV in the garb of “enlightened moderation”. As a journalist once wrote: “If this is the idea of ‘enlightened moderation’, someone please place a finger on the dimmer!” The mullahs are taking it in stride.
While the poor watch, wait, and worry in the capacities of drivers of cars, and guards patrolling the gates, and tired labourers, public display, encouragement, and consumption of contraband items like alcohol are commonplace. Not any dissent so far from the so-called mullahs.
Scantily attired Pakistani female fashion models walk the ramp and are watched by many a million. At the time that I grew up in Lahore, most fashion contests were “ladies only”. We have moved a long, long way from the Pakistan circa the 1980s.
Admittedly, there may be greater fundamentalism permeating the society now, rather than did ever before. However, there is also far greater predominantly Western imported and, sometimes, quite stretched aping of ideals, to merge into the Western code of life. What may be required is to tread the fine line, rather than being up in arms against the so-called extremists. In diversity, may be growth; in diversity may be greater learning. The Western economic systems; the foreign policy; the social strife is likely to increase with time within nations that expect us to tow their line. Much better to support Pakistan, look inward for soul-searching.
It may be termed a privilege to be the citizens of a country, wherein - barring foreign intervention - people are seldom questioned along lifestyle and may, as proven, choose to operate anywhere across the entire spectrum offered.
Are we Pakistanis honestly victims of fundamentalism, extremism, and intolerance at the hands of right-wing individuals, peoples, and religiously bent political parties?
The writer worked at progressively senior levels of responsibility at various banks, including ABN-AMRO; Habib Bank AG Zurich; HBL; and NIB, and now is an independent teacher-cum-consultant.
Email: taimurtsh@gmail.com