Last Monday, the parents of university student Shahzeb Khan, whose death sparked an outrage against the abuse of power by the wealthy and the landed in Pakistan, decided to pardon the culprits responsible for the murder of their son.
The family filed an affidavit with the court several days ago pardoning the men accused of killing their only son.
But as the young (and now pardoned) culprits came out of the courtroom smiling triumphantly and waving victory signs as if they were some mutant versions of the great Nelson Mandela, local TV channels and social media sites erupted with outrage and condemnation.
This anger was entirely understandable because a concerted campaign against the alleged culprits had been passionately initiated in the electronic media and on social websites. So when the mother of the unfortunate young victim was reported to have pardoned the culprits, the news arrived as a rude shock to a lot of Pakistanis.
But it was equally disconcerting to witness the way the electronic media responded to the news.
Since myopia in most matters relating to ideology and morality remains the prevailing mindset among the now more-vocal-than-ever urban classes in this country, TV anchors and reporters came down hard on the victim’s mother.
But since she was not a CIA agent, ‘liberal fascist’, someone from a minority sect or religion, or any other such socio-political parasite, the outraged media began hammering her for being a ‘bad mother’, a ‘dishonest woman’, and an insult to motherhood.
So-called religious scholars and the ulema were invited by the TV channels to lash out at her, and legal experts gazed intensely into their navels while questioning the court’s role in accepting the pardon.
Alas, as one saw the mother being reduced to becoming a vicious, heartless vamp, one wondered. I mean, if she was (reportedly) forced by influential elements to pardon the killer of her own son and thus became a villain in the story, how is she any different from a mother (Aafia Siddiqui) who (reportedly) dumped her husband, abandoned her kids, escaped to fight a jihad in Afghanistan and ended up in an American jail?
Yet, to the media Shahzeb’s mother is a cold-blooded woman and another mother, Aafia Siddiqui, is a petite soul who became a victim of US imperialism, bigotry and conspiracy. How so?
On the day the heartless vamp pardoned her only son’s vicious killers, members of the armed forces, the government and the opposition parties were drafting a resolution that called for immediate ‘peace talks’ with armed extremist groups.
Now, God willing, this (albeit wishy-washy) idea of talks with rabid militants actually manages to bring peace, this would automatically mean that the state, government and people of Pakistan have decided to forgive the deaths of over 50,000 Pakistani civilians, politicians, soldiers and policemen slaughtered in the country’s war against armed extremists.
Well, as the experts and purveyors of peace talks in this context will tell you, the ceasefire and the forgiving bit will at least ensure that no more Pakistanis are killed in their mosques, shrines and markets by the overtly and trigger-happy faithful.
Let’s hope that’s exactly what the resolution achieves and that’s what the electronic media was applauding and euphorically hoping for. Fair enough.
But, then, if peace with the extremists would mean the collective forgiveness of the tens of thousands of parents who lost their loved ones at the hands of the extremists and of the hundreds killed (as collateral damage) in US drone attacks, how on earth is the act of forgiveness in this regard of one mother any worse?
Rest assured I too was deeply disappointed at the way the Shahzeb case finally panned out. But call it a weakness, I just cannot hail one act of forgetting and forgiving and denounce the other. I cannot call one mother a greedy, heartless vamp and the other ‘qaum ki beti’ (daughter of the nation).
Either we should be willing and honest enough to condemn acts of violence (and bad motherhood) and of forgiveness and compromise across the board or simply keep mum, unless we want to go on proving that not only are we entirely confused, but also as a nation and state we have actually turned moral hypocrisy into a glorified, knee-jerk art.