There has always been a huge cult of ignorance around the globe and Pakistan is no different. In fact, this is a country where being ignorant is seen as a guarantee of smooth sailing, as the larger chunk of the population feels threatened by knowledge and critical thinking. The result is political and economic turmoil as the society is hell-bent on self-destruction, not ready to get rid of the chains tied to them in the name of patriotism, self-created religious interpretations and a rotten social order that exploits the weaker members of society and gives impunity to the influential. Since ignorance is considered a quality in Pakistan, the current PTI regime despite its miserable performance is still defended by its blind cult followers.
Ever since Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came to power, the country has only seen crisis after crisis with no relief or solution in sight. Right now the country is facing a shortage of wheat, and the common masses are standing in lines for hours to get a bag of flour to feed themselves. People already burdened with a surge in prices of everyday commodities are finding it tough even to exist in these circumstances, but the political elite and the military establishment are busy playing cat-and-mouse games with each other.
Prime Minister Imran Khan is on a visit to Switzerland to attend the sessions of the World Economic Forum (WEF), where he will be meeting world leaders including US President Donald Trump. But although Khan will join other world leaders for a photo session, in reality Pakistan has no say in world affairs because of its economic dependence on major global players such as the US, China, the UK and Saudi Arabia, while the masses bear the brunt of failed economic policies.
Unfortunately, it is not Khan and his backers alone who are to blame: The entire political breed is busy protecting its own vested financial and political interests, and every single player is focused on ousting one another from the power chessboard. The main opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after getting relief from the establishment are exploiting the current political and economic turmoil to their own advantage, as they too have completely forgotten the sufferings of the masses.
In fact, their “opposition” is limited to Twitter and the television channels, while behind the curtains they are busy scheming to oust PTI from the central and Punjab governments. Now the question arises: What good will it be for the masses if a puppet like Khan is replaced by another puppet like Shahbaz Sharif or Bilawal Bhutto? It is evident that other than sloganeering, none of the current political leaders have the ability to turn the tables by not only ending the hegemony of the establishment but also by refusing to be dictated to by Washington and Riyadh. The prevailing crisis is not limited to political and economic turmoil; the space for freedom of speech is shrinking, while state abductions of its own citizens and sex crimes, including child rape, are also on the rise.
On Monday a human-rights activist from the Hazara community, Jalila Haider, was detained at Lahore Airport by the authorities and kept under their custody for seven hours. There was no case against her but she was not allowed to travel. When the news of her detention at the airport went viral on social media, the authorities told her that she had been accused by the spy agencies of engaging in “anti-state activities.” This clearly shows that the state itself is afraid of the people who raise questions and speak out against the political and social oppression in society.
Any sane state proudly encourages dissenting voices as they are the ones who save the entire society from inertia and keep it alive by pinpointing the wrong policies of the state. However, this is not the case in Pakistan. Haider’s case reflects the current curbs on freedom of speech in Pakistan.
On Sunday in Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an eight-year-old girl was raped and murdered. She was not the first child to suffer such a fate – this has become a norm now, and even when such crimes are reported, the so-called political elite and the military establishment that actually controls the country have no time to address the issue and do something about it.
According to reports, every day seven children are sexually abused in Pakistan, and this figure is only based on the reported incidents – most of these kinds of crimes go unreported. However, the likes of PTI, the PPP and PML have no time to address this issue, and after every incident of a child being raped and killed, typical statements of condolences with the grieved families are issued. The growing incidence of child rape is the direct result of the elite, both political and non-political, using religious clerics and religious doctrines to get their interests served while in the process, they use religion to suppress basic instincts and not allowing sex education. Unfortunately, most of the non-governmental organizations and think-tanks in Pakistan are either minting money in the name of human rights or are proxies of the establishment and political elite and serving their purposes.
So the situation right now is that from governance to the economy and from social issues to basic human rights, Pakistan is facing a severe crisis, but the state has no time to address this as it is too busy fighting proxy wars for Washington and Riyadh while the political elite is eyeing the throne. The lust to control the proceedings by the establishment and the political elite has brought self-inflicted crises on the country, and to reshape the political and social narratives will require decades of effort. But the problem remains that the ruling elite has no capacity to address the issue while the invisible forces are happy to weaken the political discourse and controlling the social discourse through the use of religious interpretations suited to them.
In a nutshell, the political breed is happy that it has a blind cult following who for the sake of temporary gains or for their party affiliations will always worship their political idols, while the invisible forces are even happier, as minds devoid of critical thinking and brainwashed in the name of patriotism and the self-created religious narratives will always consider freedom as a sin and will be content to remain in a cage, thinking they are free when they actually are slaves.
In a country that produces fake intellectuals, fake think-tanks, fake journalism, fake political leadership, and fake social and political narratives, and where the establishment is moving the proceedings from behind the curtains, ignorance is not a crime, but is in fact considered a quality, as it allows brainwashed minds to become part of the exploitative and unjust political and social orders.