When silence is betrayal – Raoof Hasan

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“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners” – Albert Camus

There are times which are critically important in the evolution of states and nations. Like the present times are for Pakistan.

Much has happened in the last few years. Much continues to happen. What is important is to ascertain the extent to which the people, the ordinary people, are involved and whether they have taken a moral position for or against what appears to be reshaping the country. Among other things, this is the one crucial factor that may actually pinpoint the ultimate direction the country might take which will also determine the fate of its people.

I say this because, in the not-so-distant past, there has been much to dilute the lines dividing right from wrong. It appears that the distinction not only does not exist in the current parlance, it is not even considered important. In fact, there appears to be a fiery battle raging against the very existence of this distinction – consequently hoping that it may resurface to regulate our interactions may sound like a distant dream.

In the process, multiple versions of a narrative of falsehood have been fabricated which have penetrated the societal layers. It makes one scared not only about the current dismal state, but the degenerative trends that continue to engulf us further. Soon we will be so deeply sunk in their putridity we won’t even realise that there is a world that exists beyond these afflictions – a world where the line separating good from evil may still exist and may even be considered an essential constituent of living.

Watching the morbid spectacle of practising this art of distortion every evening on television screens is depressing. It generates a feeling of alienation from one’s surroundings. A deep urge takes over to walk away when a variety of people, wearing various deceptive garbs, are seen trying wickedly to justify the inglorious indulgences of their leaders. And they do so unashamedly, saying that this is actually the art of politics: making people believe that whatever was ever done was for their good alone when, in reality, they never figured in the equation at all. They were always at the receiving end of these gross atrocities committed in the name of progress and development. The money that was avowedly spent for the betterment of the poor was actually siphoned off to perpetually enhance the illicit earnings of their leaders who, after ruling the country from time to time, fled it to enjoy the loot.

Anywhere else, this would create a riot. Why not in Pakistan? Why do people stay so aloof from these gross manipulations at their exclusive expense? Or is it that they have become so used to such humiliating conduct that they have accepted it as the new normal, thus imperilling their and their families’ future permanently? And what can be done to extricate them from this deep stupor and sensitise them to their rights and responsibilities: rights because this country belongs to them as much as it belongs to these tribes of looters and plunderers, and responsibilities because, unless they step into the forefront and start putting things right, they will never have a say in fashioning the future of a country which will give them an equal opportunity to grow and prosper.

Some of the initiatives that Prime Minister Khan’s government has unfurled in the past couple of years are aimed at creating space and opportunities for the impoverished sections of society. His decision not to lock down the country during the height of the pandemic, building shelters for the homeless, provision of health cards to the poor and substantive financial support for the stressed communities to build their homes, the Ehsaas programme to provide help during stressful times, and a number of other such projects are exclusively meant for the uplift of the marginalised sections who have, forever, languished under an unjust and inequitable system which has worked to the advantage of the rich sections of society alone. The underlying spirit of all these programmes introduced by Prime Minister Khan has been compassion for those who need the government support. This reflects a paradigm shift from previous policies which only crippled the disadvantaged sections further.

People are the ultimate arbiters of their fate. So, why are they silent? Why do they assimilate a horrid and verbose misrepresentation of facts of the present compared to the past? And, despite knowing the truth, why is it that the pontiffs (read anchors) not only allow such deception and mendacity to play on in their programmes, they even become complicit in promoting a distorted perception? And why do writers prefer remaining blind to the truth and keep hammering a manufactured image to hide the criminal indulgences of past rulers?

Not only does this attitude provide the wrong optics for the way things are, it also contributes ominously into misleading people, thus making it difficult for them to sift right from wrong. Everything plunges into the grey where good is lost behind a spate of ill-orchestrated harangues and the false is projected as beneficial for the people.

While societal reactions are rather shallow, the role that our educated people play in fabricating these hideous images is doing a massive disservice to the country. In the end, it is the people who should step forth to put it right. After all, it is their future which is at stake. As Martin Luther King Junior once said, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal”. That time is now.