Crime, cricket and clothes - Sana Bucha - Sunday, March 27, 2011

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Last Sunday, Pakistanis woke up celebrating. Pakistan had beat the Aussies in the World Cup to secure the top spot in Group A. Revenge was sweet! After all, this victory came after 34 World Cup matches. Amongst this jubilation, however, there were some disappointed few who could not believe that a recently launched Lawn exhibition had been wiped clean its very first day. And amid this bitter-sweet feeling there was one little detail that didn’t catch the eye of many. At least 12 people lost their lives in different parts of Karachi owing to target killing. These are the three Cs that have dominated the lives of Pakistanis the past few weeks: Crime, Cricket and Clothes. And how diverse these three Cs are – from dancing on the streets as united Pakistanis, to dying on the streets as nameless citizens of a lesser God.

The leader of the opposition, who apparently boycotted the parliamentary address of the president, believes that Zardari spoke of a different Pakistan. I’m surprised that Chaudhry Nisar felt this disconnect now. This severed connection has been present since time immemorial and it’s not just the president’s inability to attach himself to his people. We are all part of this disconnect. Estranged and self-obsessed, our existence lays divided. And these are serious divisions. They are pulling us apart, separating us from our very own, and this time there are no man-made borders in between. The division lies within.

Our class-consciousness relegates us to the elite sidelines and keeps the less affluent at bay. Ask people – not from the world of news and politics – about Raymond Davis and you will be surprised to receive an ‘I-really-don’t-care’ response. It actually makes no difference to their life whether Davis goes or stays. For some, Davis is not the real cause of worry. Others feel that the rising prices of petrol, increased hours of load-shedding and general insecurity in the country is what keeps them on the edge.

Ask other Pakistanis about Earth Hour and they will mock the idea of switching off extra lights for an hour. ‘As if that’s going to help save the planet’! Yes, it isn’t much and awareness alone won’t achieve much - but that only means we should do more, not less. But stripping us off our social as well as personal responsibility are our leaders who have always encouraged divisions for their own benefit. Sometimes in the name of “Jaag Punjabi Jaag”, at other times in the name of “Sindhi Topi and Ajrak”, “Pakhthunistan” and more recently in the name of “Baloch Liberation”.

Political divisions are not an uncommon phenomenon. However, in Pakistan, these divisions are not just at a provincial or sectarian level, the dotted line exists between residents of the same city. So, if 14 people were killed in Karachi on a certain day, people across the bridge hardly noticed. They were too busy purchasing designer lawns. Or sitting in front of their 60-inch LCD screens enjoying the quarter-final between Pakistan and West Indies. A few miles away, many cricket lovers sat across a 14-inch television screen enjoying the match just as much however, the bullet sounds were too loud and too close for them to ignore. Undoubtedly, it’s cricket that binds this nation together. Unfortunately, pain and loss are always mourned alone.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a cricket buff myself and will not hesitate to attend a lawn exhibition. However, I am not immune to the pain of this city yet. I can see beyond the large billboards showcasing a certain lawn print to the Chipa and Edhi shrouds over dead bodies of those targeted for reasons that are only clear to political parties who cannot make up their minds about proposing or opposing the present set-up. How many more people have to die in our own city for us to give a damn?

Some intellectuals term it the resilience of this nation. But resilience is accepting the problem and not giving up your lifestyle because someone or something threatens it. At times, I fear Pakistanis have gone beyond being resilient to being plain indifferent and ignorant.

I would think of a fashion show being held in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul as an act of resilience. Knowing the threat of holding a so-called liberal event in the heart of the Taliban stronghold could be classified as an act of resilience. However, a similar fashion extravaganza in Karachi the same week as target killings reached a total of a 100 people in four days can only be described as insensitivity. Or to put it mildly, we’ve become used to it. This is reminiscent of the not so distant past when casualties in Kashmir would make headlines top of the hour on state-run television, till we reached the stage when our eyebrows wouldn’t knot up in concern anymore.

Resilient or indifferent, Karachi – the city of lights – is losing blood every day. Whether at the hands of the bhatta mafias, due to ethnic violence, or simply intolerance. The coalition government in power gives a 10-day deadline to the ruling government to set things right. Meanwhile, people die. The government’s other coalition partner in the city watches from the sidelines. And more people die. The ruling government manages to keep its coalition intact. But people continue to die. Notwithstanding the grave security situation in the city, the provincial interior minister stays indoors and enjoys the match. All the while the security around his house remains vigilant and the generator stays on standby. While Mr Mirza makes the most of a bad situation in the city, homes around his mansion stay safe too: perhaps the only nonviolent area in the whole of Karachi.

Unbeknownst to the violence raging in Karachi – perhaps due to an olive branch being extended towards him – in Islamabad, Imran Khan has decided to stage a three-day sit-in until the drone strikes end. Khan along with the Jamaat-e-Islami also led a protest against Davis’ release recently. That’s our problem right there. We want to address our Ds even before we manage to sort out our Cs. Alphabetical order please. Let’s get our own house in order first, before we take on the international big guns. It’s not always about saving the country – that is being taken care of by our powerful army – it’s about saving the community, the society and the people that inhabit it. And if crime remains the most dominating C; clothes and cricket would prove to be mere distractions that keep us from foreseeing our own destruction.

The writer works for Geo TV.

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