Protesters condemn the death of Naqibullah Mehsud, whose family say he was killed by police in a so-called "encounter killing" in Karachi, Pakistan, on January 22. Photo: Reuters /Akhtar Soomro
Protesters condemn the death of Naqibullah Mehsud, whose family say he was killed by police in a so-called "encounter killing" in Karachi, Pakistan, on January 22. Photo: Reuters /Akhtar Soomro

In civilized nations, people are free, enjoy basic rights and civil liberties, and, most important, are not afraid of their governments. Rather, their governments are afraid of them: If the state is unable to protect the rights and liberties of its citizens, it might result in massive agitation or even the end of their rule by forcing early elections.

Unfortunately, when it comes to basic human rights and civil liberties, Pakistan is at least 100 years behind the modern world. It is a country where rights and liberties are defined by the constitution, but in reality the state within the state decides what rights or liberties should be granted to its citizens. As a result, the citizens are left on their own, not only to try to stay alive but also to remain silent on the atrocities and human-rights abuses in their society.

On Monday, Mohammad Khan, the father of Naqeebullah Mehsud, died in a hospital waiting for the state to give him justice for his slain son. He was suffering from cancer, but even so he knocked on every door to seek justice for his murdered son. But probably he was asking too much. Rao Anwar, the Karachi policeman who allegedly killed Naqeebullah and hundreds of other innocent citizens extrajudicially, is a blue-eyed boy of the deep state, so it is not possible that he can be brought to justice.

The same is the case with Iqbal Lala, the father of Mashal Khan, who was lynched in Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan by a mob on the accusation of blasphemy. Most of the people who attacked Mashal were set free by the court. Iqbal Lala participated in a student solidarity march held last Friday to commemorate the loss of his son, and our shameless state booked him and other participants on charges of sedition.

On Monday evening, Dawn News, publisher of the most credible newspaper in the country, was besieged by a mob chanting against the paper for publishing the story about London Bridge attacker Usman Khan and establishing his Pakistani origin. The mob forced the Islamabad office of Dawn News to apologize publicly for its reporting. It did not come as a surprise that not even a single person in the mob was arrested for virtually putting Dawn News under siege and for openly terming the publication a foreign agent and a traitor.

In Karachi, a woman named Dua Mangi was kidnapped and her boyfriend was shot dead, but her whereabouts are unknown and her abductors are roaming freely. In Mansehra, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a four-year-old girl named Jannat was raped and then thrown into a dry well where she fought for her life for three days and finally succumbed to her injuries after locals found her and moved her to a nearby hospital, where the needed life-saving medicines and equipment were not available. In Pakistan such incidents happen on a regular basis: Every other day news of a minor or a woman being raped and murdered appears in the media.

Every now and then dissenting journalists, human-rights activists, and media groups are termed traitors or blasphemers, while citizens go missing on a regular basis, but the ruling elite other than issuing a statement to condemn these kinds of incidents does nothing to bring the culprits to the justice or to take measures to stop such events happening in the future. The political elite is busy fighting for power while the deep state is busy conquering democracy and protecting people like Rao Anwar, the perpetrators of the Sahiwal massacre and the former dictator General Pervez Musharraf.

The larger segment of Pakistani society believes in the treason and blasphemy propaganda of the current government and the deep state. It still thinks that the West is conspiring against Pakistan and deliberately highlighting the issues of human-rights abuses, curbs on the press and the progressive voices who they say are active for the West’s interests for money and other benefits. Even in war-torn countries like Iraq or Syria, it is very hard to find such a delusional mindset, where the majority of the population is brainwashed in such a way that it cannot think beyond the rotten narratives of blasphemy and treason.

Only a society of heartless people can tolerate watching the father of a murdered son die without getting justice. It can only be possible in a society of living dead that instead of the state apologizing to Iqbal Lala for its failure to protect his son from being lynched by religious fanatics, it registers a case against him for sedition. Only a society of hypocrites and brainwashed masses instead of accepting the reality about the London Bridge attacker can attack the publication that was inaugurated by the founding father of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Only opportunistic and blind people can approve of Rao Anwar being protected by the deep state and never question why he is still not being brought to justice. Only a slave mindset can endorse the enforced disappearances of the citizens of their own country.

Perhaps only a society living in the medieval ages can rape children and women, kill their fellow citizens in the name of blasphemy and treason, and yet trumpet that they are the chosen nation of God. The nexus of the deep state, the ruling elite and the mullahs has turned this country into a place where only slaves to prejudice and one-sided narratives against the world are allowed to live according to the rules set by this troika.

The rule of law, value for human life, the yearning for knowledge, challenging distorted facts and rotten traditions and living a life with personal and civil liberties are all still just dreams for many. The question is how long a society with such a damaged mindset can survive, and how long the state will keep enslaving its own citizens with propaganda.

A state busy manufacturing false narratives against dissenting voices and keeping its citizens hostage in the name of religious interpretations created by the mullahs and denying human rights and liberties to its own people by declaring them sins or forbidden by God can hardly sustain itself.

As the famous American novelist Cormac McCarthy in his novel The Road wrote, “Where men can’t live, gods fare no better.” It is time that the gods of this country realize that by creating fear and denying basic rights and justice to the masses they are gradually moving toward their own self-destruction.

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  1. Imad Zafar, after I read this article written by you, I wondered whether you thought the Government of Pakistan had no idea in 2011 that living next to Pakistan’s “West Point”, Pakistan Military Acadamy, in Abbottabad, was Osama bin Laden?

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