Drowning, Not Waving

By Sonya Rehman

With the KSE crashing to 636 points on Monday and being labeled as the ‘worst-ever single day slump in KSE history’ and with student factions, lawyers, and human rights activists raking up little storms of rallies across the country, ever since the state of emergency within Pakistan was announced, it only makes one thing appear all the more evident…that this country as a whole, my friends, is thoroughly bipolar.

As soon as the local and international news channels were blocked – hilariously enough, the cable operators replaced CNN with Super Comedy (!) and the local news channels with Indian channels – airing shows of retarded mother-in-laws (with their insatiable appetites to eradicate their son’s wives) and old school Indian flicks featuring Mithun, Bachan ol’ boy and shiny, disco balls.

So instead of being able to tune into CNN, Aljazeera and/or BBC, I found myself watching Jay Leno (with his endless chin), poking fun at Congress and monkey-man, Bush. Now that’s what you call democracy.
But apart from the channel blockage at home, abroad; the international media finds itself in a delicious little tizzy – foreign channels and publications are apparently having a field day with little Pakistan (in its signature fetal position), splashed across its screens and newspapers. What fun.

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One can just picture Pakistan – with saucer-shaped eyes (in a straight-jacket) leaning over a table – across from its therapist (in this case, the international public at large) – saying; “But doc, I’m not crazy…do I look crazy? Here, have a grenade!”

Are we waving, not drowning? Or is it the other way around? And while we’re at it, whoever told Benny Bhutto to go gallivanting around town in her caravan? What is this, a freaking circus? A ‘walk with us, and get your limbs blown off for free’ joyride?!

She had the suicide attacks coming, so what gives? It’s been a bad end to a relatively ‘okay’ 2007 for the country, really. What a way to wrap up the year and welcome 2008. Ghastly.

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Rally at LUMS

Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a well-known journalist, and known for his pretty ‘out there, in your face’ articles, stated: “I will not take this so-called lawyer’s movement and all these young protesting preppies and aunties of the so-called civil society seriously until or unless I see the common man, or the man on the street come out. He’s missing in the equation. Too busy living his life and amused by all the commotion being made by the press.” True that, where is the ‘common man’ anyway?

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LUMS

But what I find fascinating is this: the youth of Pakistan, has finally woken up after a very long siesta in the sun, gotten together and have actually put themselves out there. From LUMS, NCA, students in Islamabad, and Pakistani grad students in Columbia, New York!

Forget about their ‘cause’ for now – too many grey areas in that one – and forget about making generalizations – because sure, some may just be ‘tagging along’ during street rallies and acting like pseudo little Che Guevera’s getting their heads thwacked with police batons, but others, genuinely feel about the country’s current state of affairs. I can vouch for that.

In New York, students at Columbia University put together a small demonstration, and one of their organizers, Bilal Tanweer, in an email to me, stated: “Our protest went really well. On a short notice of a few hours, over fifty people from all over New York City and New Jersey responded and came to the protest.”

Getting in touch with other students (over email) at universities abroad, their answers were passionate and diverse. Amna Khawar, a grad student at NYU, wrote: “I don’t know what to really tell you. Pakistan is in the news everyday here but all for the wrong reasons. I don’t know how credible Musharraf’s reasoning for the emergency rule is considering that the Supreme Court was going to make a verdict regarding whether he could be President or not. The emergency rule seems to have aggravated the situation within the country further.”

Having graduated from Stanford, and now currently residing in Islamabad, Uzair Khan states: “It’s unfortunate that it had to come to this! But I don’t think immediate elections are the answer.  Pakistan is in such a deep security crisis that politicians with a progressive outlook can no longer campaign without the threat of suicide bombers attacking their gatherings and taking innocent lives. Only leaders that are not a direct threat to terrorist cells in Pakistan will be able to hold mass gatherings. Fair elections cannot be held in such a volatile environment”.

Another fantastic reply came from Kanita Ahmed (also a student at Columbia who took part in the New York rally), she stated: “In my opinion, the current situation is deplorable. Emergency is a rather obvious ploy to undermine the judiciary and grab power. People have been saying that perhaps Emergency is not a completely bad; things had been getting out of hand with the militants in the North. What I don’t understand is how setting up a police state that targets lawyers, judges, students, professors, philanthropists, human rights activists, the press and free speech is helping to heal the schisms that have splintered Pakistan since Musharraf ‘took control’. The protest had a rather modest turnout of about fifty, but they were fifty very spirited people.”

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A rally organized by Pakistani students at Columbia University

But perhaps, the most interesting answer came from someone called Ali Latif (at Ryerson, in Canada), who on a community (on ‘Facebook’) vehemently wrote: “Guys, you are talking as if the previous politicians were all saints. They were all crooks – PAKISTAN IS NOT READY FOR DEMOCRACY! Democracy in Pakistan means rich uneducated politicians buying their way into power by deceiving seventy percent of the illiterate population. Democracy is valid in a country like England or USA where the people are educated. The voting system is fair and the politicians don’t OWN people who vote for them. Free media was never in Pakistan until Musharraf introduced it to the people. Before Musharraf there was only PTV which sang praises of whoever the current government was! Our court system was the most messed up system ever. There was no such thing as law…somebody had to put his or her foot down to all this chaos and Musharraf happened to be the one…now the politicians of Pakistan are playing the ‘we want democracy card’ so they can get back their monkey business.”

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Students protest in Islamabad

Word up is that the state of emergency is due to continue for another thirty days – so for now, kiss goodbye to local news…and in it’s place? Some good old Jay Leno, cheap Indian dramas and Cartoon Network to keep you sane!

Instep Today, The News

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