Don’t cry for sovereignty - Shafqat Mahmood - Friday, March 18, 2011

Source :

We are a people for whom honour matters. We are also a people ready to do anything for money. How does one reconcile the two? The release of Raymond Davis is a terrible jolt to our sense of honour. Yet, our law allows even a murder to be settled by paying blood money.

Our sense of honour is deeply ruffled when the US tells us to do this or that. And just in the last 10 years we have accepted from this heathen imperialist power around 12 billion dollars. Getting hurt and angry is our right. Getting money is our right. Or so it seems.

We live in a strange twilight zone where honour and avarice, bluster and servitude, denial and desire coexist without disturbing each other. What else would account for our consistent anger against the United States and our constant desire for its support?

Those sounding most offended in the aftermath of the Davis release were the main collaborators of the US during the Afghan war of the eighties. If it was our cause, why did we not do it alone? Our then president scoffed at the three billion offered in return for our services, calling it peanuts.

We demanded more, felt we deserved it, haggled like carpet dealers to up the price. After the wages were agreed upon, we called it a jihad. Got ignorant poor kids from collaborative seminaries – for a price, of course – and sent them into the killing fields of Afghanistan.

To give a halo of respectability to this mercenary venture, we draped meaningless nonsense in strategic clothes. We sometimes called it “PIA,” Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, imagining a union as if they were our satellites. Or fished out hollow concepts such as strategic depth, to give the patina of Great Game to a crass business deal.

Now the same people see nothing but evil in the US. Frothing at the mouth, they call all our rulers quislings – carefully avoiding their progenitors – who have sold themselves to the great white monster for money. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, or what is good for the goose not being good for the gander. I can keep flushing out cliches but the filth on their garments will never wash away.

Then there are the latter-day jihadis using their keyboards as medieval swords scything through infidels. They see treachery everywhere except in the institution they have deemed themselves to defend and speak for. They have no explanation for why a court or two courts, in a demented hurry, forgave all and allowed the dastardly Davis to flee the land of the pure.

Their carefully contrived fury is unleashed on everyone except the torchbearers of justice. The simple fact is that if we are guilty of dishonour, we all are. Or if we have placed expediency ahead of quixotic valour, we all must take the credit – or blame. There is no point in singling anyone out.

We are physicians much in need of healing. Before we go out and tell the world to take a hike, we have to see where we stand. Fractured from within, challenged from the outside, unable to pay our bills, we are substituting anger for lack of performance.

Or sacrifice. Nations like China that stood up to the world for twenty five years after the revolution, paid for their honour with blood. When they did not have enough to eat, they died of starvation rather than beg. When they could not get steel to build machines, they melted their plates and spoons across the nation, to create a bare minimum. And so on.

This is what sacrifice means. This is what getting respect takes. In our case, for one day there was shortage of petroleum in Karachi and we started to riot. Imagine if it is stopped for a month or two, because we decided that we are not going to beg for money to pay for it.

It is ridiculous to talk of honour with an extended hand, palms open. This high-flown rhetoric in our land comes only from those whose bellies are full. Ask the poor who serve you, work for you, pander and humour you, take every insult without hitting back, what a luxury honour is.

Who says we should not have honour or protect our sovereignty? We must, but it cannot be done with angry words alone or pointless demonstrations. We have to stand up for what we believe in. Particularly the full bellied, who are the most incensed.

The solution is not complicated, it is not molecular biology. Start paying your share to keep this nation afloat. No one is asking for outlandish sacrifices. No one is saying sell everything and give it to the nation. Just pay your reasonable share. If you have income, from whatever source, even if agriculture, pay a part of it to protect your honour and sovereignty.

Then, all your talk will have meaning. You will have a stake in this country, not just in an ideational sense but because you will be a partner in its upkeep. Then the notion of the collective will feel real and not just a mental construct that gives you a sense of identity. It is like building a house, not by watching from the wayside but brick by brick with your own hands. It is that sense of ownership which is needed, and over time will replace hollow patriotism.

Once we are able to pay our bills, then sovereignty will come too. No crash course would be needed. It is not a mythical concept that needs to be learnt. It is a state of being that comes from not being beholden to anyone. It is the confidence that standing by oneself gives. Alas, we have a long way to get there.

Until such time, let us do a clear-eyed analysis of what we can and cannot do. We are earning one hundred rupees and spending two. We will have to either stop spending or start earning. If we cannot do either we will have no other choice but to borrow or seek outright handouts. As long as we are doing that, we would not be able to stand up to anyone.

I am saddened by the way the Davis saga has ended. Not because I blame the government for going ahead with it. It had little choice given the circumstances. But because it was like a mirror showing me our shortcomings.

What this realisation should lead to is not chest-beating but a determination to do better. If this leadership is a failure, let us try to get another one. Or, better still, not wait but start doing what is right for the nation in our little sphere.

If we all come together, we cannot fail. If we don’t, there is no point in crying for sovereignty.


No comments:

Post a Comment