Can a roar be melodious? Yes it can, when tens of thousands of people scream with joy. That’s music, pure and simple. A tune composed in passion, vocalised in emotion and performed in unison by a crowd that shares nothing except the unalloyed happiness of the moment.
And this moment is awash in colours that shimmer with the vibrancy of life. Red, blue, yellow dance to a thumping beat as they pay homage to the primacy of green. And what a green it is, carpeted across the arena with velvety smoothness and bathed in the bright hues of magnetic illumination. A strange spell hangs in the air, weaving 20,000 ecstatic people into a singularity that roars, waves and sways with an infectious rhythm.
Boom! For a second frozen in time, there is stunned pause in the arena. Just long enough to miss a beat. But no more. The bowler runs in, flings the bowl and — whack! Willow hits leather, and a roar erupts. Somewhere within the bowels of the arena, the DJ cranks up the volume, and mania erupts like an angry volcano. The bang outside is drowned out by the passion inside. The game goes on.
As does life. The Pakistan-Zimbabwe second One-Day International on Friday mirrored the resilience of Pakistanis against the backdrop of incessant mayhem. Inside the stadium, it was Pakistan the way it was, and how it should be. Cricket, citizens and sheer joy. Outside, ruled the harshness of now, birthed by decades of failed policy experiments and toxic ideologies that should have been buried deep under the earth. This contrast inside and outside the Gaddafi Stadium on the balmy Friday evening should never have existed: tens of thousands of joyous Pakistani men, women and children, guarded by tens of thousands of uniformed Pakistani policemen.
And yet, there was a bang. Yet, death knocked at the gates.
Heartbreak, it seems, is never far away. As Team Pakistan chased a modest Zimbabwean total, cheered by fans drenched in passion, their fellow citizens in Mastung were drenched in blood. Shot to death by ‘unknown’ assailants after being kidnapped from their Karachi-bound bus, these hapless citizens of the Islamic Republic were executed because of their sect or ethnicity. They became the latest in a long list of victims butchered in the name of some sick belief or the other.
On Friday, Pakistan won the match, but yet again lost the war.
Hundreds of thousands of law-enforcement people are fighting this war. Every weapon at the State’s disposal is breathing fire on the enemy and every tactic is being employed to crush these merchants of death. Still, we are losing. How many more Pakistanis have to die before we decide to win? A hundred thousand? A million? Five million? Is there a threshold of pain for Pakistan? A limit to how many men, women and children we bury before we say ‘enough is enough’?
Look at the men in the photograph. Look at their grim faces and sullen eyes. They look like men who know they are losing. At least, some of them do. And they also know why. But they are too afraid to say so. They do not have the guts; they do not have the courage to look themselves in the mirror and say aloud: “We are losing because of men like us.”
It is a meeting at the Prime Minister’s House atop the hill in Islamabad. This house is spread over acres, overlooking the scenic Margallas on one side and the urban sprawl of the capital on the other. The plush environs boast of rolling green gardens perfumed by roses and jasmines that are lovingly nurtured in their fertile earthen beds by an army of gardeners. In the PM House, the air is serene and the view is sublime. Here every wish is catered for by liveried staff that glides across carpeted floors delicately holding silverware laden with culinary delights. Power dwells in comfort here.
And it is here that the uniformed men told the civilians that the National Action Plan has become a joke. A sick, morbid joke that has no punch line. The government has bled away its resolve. So have the provincial governments. All the points among the 20-odd included in the National Action Plan that needed political decisions have been waylaid by the political leadership. They dare not touch the madrassas; they dare not question their funding; they dare not leash the people who run them; and they dare not ever question their funding and their curriculum. These men have thrown us to the wolves in order to safeguard their political interests. They will build shiny motorways over our graves. Bring on the mortar; the dead will fend for themselves.
Pakistanis are being butchered like animals, and these men will not lift a finger. Look at them. Look at their faces. Hear their meaningless words and their empty rhetoric. It’s a farce. And this farce is being played out for political spoils. These men know they must take on the apologist lobby and its infrastructure, but they will do nothing while blood flows on the streets of Karachi, Peshawar and Mastung. Just look at them sitting pretty in their palaces and going through the motions of governance while Pakistanis are shot, hacked and beheaded.
You expect them to lead this war? Win this war? They cannot even defend their own minister against the hordes. See how they scurry away when someone says ‘boo’.
So go ahead and curse yourself for being burdened with a leadership that buried its spine in the barren mountains of Chaghi. Go ahead and brace yourself for wanton butchery to roam this land. Go ahead and save yourself and your children from the wrath of the hordes that infest our mountains and our legislatures. And yes, go ahead and pray for a time when you are led by men and women who have the courage, the conviction and the clarity to take tough decisions and tougher actions against those who kill us for who we are and what we want to be.
Oh, and next time you meet our elected leaders, go ahead and say ‘boo’!
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2015.