Waking up on a Monday morning is an ordeal in any case; waking up to ghastly news is a double whammy. Picking up the newspaper on a Sunday is easier – you can easily forego the news section and go directly to the magazine (or sports section if you are a man) and have breakfast in peace. But no such luck on a Monday. On Mondays, you have to grow up and read the news as it happened the day before.
I braced myself and picked up the Monday edition of Dawn and saw that while US President Obama ruled out deploying troops inside Pakistan, his Defence Secretary Robert Gates clearly stated that Pakistan needs to do more otherwise US troops will have to take matters in their own hands. Does this mean that Obama was speaking for the world media while Gates was speaking to the people who are running, or rather attempting to run, the country called Pakistan?
Another news item reports that a former nazim, district police officer and three other people were killed in Lower Dir – an area adjacent to the troubled Swat valley – while resisting the kidnapping of a local bank manager. In Khyber Agency, 10 khasadars and six religious activists were kidnapped. The Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam accused Taliban militants of the crime. It seems that army forces and civilians were not enough of a target and now the Taliban are spreading their wings and targeting other Islamist groups.
The front page proved to be too dreadful, so I turned the page only to learn that Pakistan is one of the least popular countries in the world and keeps sterling company with Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Israel.
National news turned out to be a disaster, full of stories about crime against women. In Dadu, a young girl was gang-raped and killed. In Sukkur, a jirga decided to marry off two girls – one of them a minor – to punish their brother, while a mother of two in Layyah fears for her life after being accused of having an extra-marital affair, a punishable crime in Pakistan. What these news stories suggest is that in case you escape regular siege-and-hostage situations and frequent suicide bombings and if you happen to be a woman, chances are, you may not survive the alternative justice system, discriminatory laws and good ol’ patriarchy and misogyny.
The newspaper also carried a report about the YouTube video of ATM robbery incidents in Karachi that are being circulated via email and Facebook: people armed with pistols can be seen robbing citizens using ATM machines. The message the clip gives to people is that working hard is pointless – just get hold of a weapon of your choice and rob anyone at will, safe in the knowledge that no one will apprehend you.
A sad picture of a child working in a recycling plant in Hyderabad and the Economic & Business Review’s analysis of economic doom and the Pakistani rupees’ abysmal standing against world currencies completed the dismal picture. I shook my head and skimmed through the paper once more, looking desperately for just one positive report, but failed to find any good news.
Putting aside the paper, I switched on the TV and witnessed what was perhaps the most disturbing live footage of armed terrorists attacking a police training academy in Lahore. Even though police recaptured the academy with the help of army and paramilitary forces after an eight-hour siege, it left questions about the vulnerability of our security apparatus and the government’s will to bolster it.
While the country is in complete chaos, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is doing his bit to increase European tourism in Pakistan by bringing his firang friends from university – in identical outfits of white kurta-pajama complete with a red silk shawl more appropriate for a mehndi function – to attend daddy’s address to the parliament. We have heard of disaster tourism and poverty tourism in the past, but Bilawal takes the cake for innovative thinking and introducing political tourism in Pakistan.
At times when the country needs a leader to takes charge and do something to combat militancy, everyone from the president to the coterie of ministers are busy issuing rhetorical messages. Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world where the president and prime minister only ‘condemn’ acts of terror instead of taking concrete actions against them. Someone needs to tell them that condemnation just won’t cut it anymore.
Originally written for Dawn.com