Freedom at midnight – that was the name of a very readable and researched book on the partition of India by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. I am reminded of it because our collective midnight is not giving way to dawn and our trials and tribulations continue unabated, 65 years on. As the song goes ‘chun liya mai nai tujey, sara jahan rehney dia’! It is not as if we do not protest or do not want better for ourselves or are children of a lesser God.

The media and the establishment in both India and Pakistan prevail against every effort to iron out the differences and get on with giving the struggling and unwashed millions of both countries a future, as was proven once again at the session of the United Nations earlier this week. Despite their personal inclinations, the Prime Ministers of both countries could not commit to taking peace talks forward. Something or the other happens to blow up, literally, the chances for talking peace just as a timeline for doing so is arrived at. And this, despite being Siamese twins connected at the hip!

Ours has become a region which is being manipulated by the faceless and faithless with an incomprehensible agenda. Even though every incident where innocent lives are targeted drains and saddens us, it is the responsibility of the state to respond with fresh resolve to every incident. The state is all powerful and must never be seen to be wavering or tiring or shying away from its core responsibilities. But, alas, the voices of the state are those who have been elected to govern and who, invariably, manage to say the wrong things based on personal assumptions. Peace is a need but peace that is sought from a position of strength not weakness.

There have been movements in Pakistan which people have whole heartedly supported like that of restoration of the rule of law and the ideal of change in the elections but after every successful culmination we are confronted with an even more damaging scenario. It’s a vicious cycle which lacks clear-headed leadership. For better or worse, a self-appointed leader like Zia-ul Haq at least knew his direction and made no apologies for it. Enlightened democrats like Bhutto and self appointed like Musharraf  succumbed too much to the obscurantisms and resultantly achieved nothing. They gave in to the whims of the clergy despite having the majority of people support them, for some strange secret reasons. In the ultimate analysis they lost out on everything. Na Khuda hi mila na visaal e sanam.

It is about doing the right thing. There is just nothing right about recognizing those who unabashedly and cruelly snuff out Pakistani lives wherever they can and attack from behind in the most cowardly fashion. Their attacks are sudden and cruel and have no rules or ethics. It is they who are keeping us firmly tied to our horrific midnight with no let-up in sight. It is distressing to note that anybody who is anybody is trying to get out of the country for securer, if not greener, pastures. Even after having voted for change. Our loss is the gain of other nations as proven by countless Pakistanis who excel at what they are doing in so many countries of the world. It seems to be sinking in that no amount of outrage is going to get the needed action. Because even at the biggest tragedy like the recent attack on the church in Peshawar and the bus taking ordinary people home from work, the leaders continue with their personal point scoring. There is nobody who we can all look up to for statesmanship and stand behind with our sheer numbers.

It is said that the process is evolving and that things will get better as we go along. I cannot agree with this because it is so visible that while the process is taking its own sweet time to evolve we are losing our ability to be tolerant with a scary march of extremism gaining momentum and dictating how we behave and react. The case of a sensational projection of a private school teaching its students comparative religions for better understanding and knowledge is a case in point. The many attacks on little girls also speak of a dastardly mind set. It is further frustrating that no culprit gets caught and punished. As a woman and as a citizen the impact of these incidents is almost soul-destroying. You want to crawl into a safe place which locks out these horrendous stories and visuals, which you thought were a part of history books like the Mongol vandalisation of Islamic historical artifacts, books and cities. But all of that, now, right here in our midst and in the present century is terrifying, to say the least.

Post Script: Talking about Pakistanis, there is one at the centre of every story it seems. The movie based on Lady Diana and Dr. Hasnat’s association has been released. What Samina Rizwan, friend based in Dubai, wrote is worth sharing. ‘It is yet another hijacking of a beautiful love story of an intensely desirable woman and a crass invasion of privacy of a gracious man who refused to sell her out. – Naomi Watts is no Di and Naveen Andrews no Hasnat’. She further adds that Naveen Andrews does no justice to the good looking Dr. Hasnat who was from Jhelum, which is a bit of a personal issue for both me and Samina as we originate from there and can vouch for how nice looking the bulk of our Jhelumi men are!

The writer is a public relations and event management professional  based in Islamabad.