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Yesterday, some men put a vulture in a cage and ran across our cities, crying: “Here is a singing bird, hear its songs.” We jumped with excitement, shouting, “Yes, we see a beautiful singing bird.” But vultures don’t sing. They wait. Twenty-three down, 200 injured. Many more to follow. The cage-door will open when the desired number is reached. Only then we will hear the song. The song of death. “I go back to my homeland once a while, not to meet friends or relatives but to see the lonely tree of the village graveyard which moans at night,” said the old man, scratching his bald head with a dirty finger. The king said to the story-telling princess, “I no longer believe in ‘Thousand and One Nights,’ finish your story or not, we will behead you in the morning.” Scherezad and Dunyazad cried all night but found no relief. In the morning, they dug the earth hoping to find an elf that would rescue them. The elf did not but the royal decapitator came and said, “Thank you for digging the grave. Now be ready to die.” So the sisters could not finish their stories which now hang between the earth and the sky, not knowing where to go. But what ultimate losers are we, who were neither with the two sisters nor with their slayer. We believed we could escape our fate if we did nothing and waited for the night to be over. The night is not over. We grope in the dark, trying to account for more than 40,000 violent deaths in the last 10 years. And there were more than 3,500 slaves of the one-eyed Ifrit who blew themselves up. So that we could live? No, they wanted to kill as many as they could, so that they could have 72 virgins. More than 6,000 soldiers also died because they were never told whose side they were on. So when the dawn came, it was false. The door to paradise never opened. And the virgins went where there were streams of milk and honey. But our suicide-bombers went nowhere. They are hanging between the earth and the sky like the stories from ‘Thousand and One Nights.’ Now a deep, dark sea is calling us. And the winds that we thought will bring relief, put dust into our eyes. The red-hot sun gives no respite. There are vultures all around us, waiting for the final act of weakness to tear our eyes out. And we think there is still a way out, that we can escape the final judgment by disguising hate as divine love. Where was love yesterday? What act of kindness did we witness during this killer rage that ran wild all day? Did we look into the eyes of those who did not want to die but had to? Hear the persistent call of this deep, dark sea. The night of retribution is upon us. We have committed the ultimate sin of self-denial. Now we are hollow shells. The water is calling us. There is a sea behind us and ahead of us. “If the boat turns to the right gate, prepare for a wedding. But if it turns left, execute the queen,” Henry VIII said to his soldiers. “Rest in peace,” he said to his wives as they waited for their groom under the ground. Sinbad escaped ghouls and goblins, deep seas and yellow deserts but not Scherezad. She had to fake a story a night to survive. The writers of ‘Thousand and One Nights’ want us to believe otherwise but our Scherezads are married to suicide-bombers who take them to the havens. And their stories remain unfinished. Save yourself if you can. It is a sea you face, a deep, roaring sea. Hear it breathing. It knows no end. And waits for us. We may have heard flowing water before but this is a flood. Flood? Yes, because the Indus is dry. Flood in a dry river? Yes, it is a flood. When the river dried, we built our homes on the riverbed. We thought we had turned the tide; tamed the river. But we could not even tame the vulture, which waits patiently for the cage-door to open. Yet, we thought we tamed the river. Have we tamed the river? What are we scared of then? “Hear the water's call and save yourself from its wrath,” said the old man who was on Noah’s boat, he was found dead with a Phoenician sailor and lived among the slaves of Africa brought to the American shores. He swam across the Indus too, looking for blind dolphins but polluted water deformed the dolphins. The fish are diseased. We eat toxic chemicals and fish that were dead before they were caught. But who are we scared of? And why? The sea, the flood or ourselves? Are we afraid of our own wrath? Of what is buried deep inside us? What are we afraid of and why? What’s inside us is our enemy and is waiting for the right time to strike. The flowing water calls us, daring us to escape. But escape to what? And from what? Where are the safe shores? What we see is the eye of the storm. It is no shore. No escape route. And the storm waits for us, patiently because time is on its side. It can remain hidden in the deep, dark sea, waiting for the right time to turn the sea upside down. We save ourselves from its claws? But how? The sea, the storm and the shore are all traps that death has set for us. So how do we escape them? No one has. In the effort to escape, we are moving towards the deep sea. We are under the water's trance. And we are moving towards the end. So how do you save ourselves, and from what?  
The author is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC

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Anwar Iqbal is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.

Comments (23) Closed

Bilal Sep 24, 2012 07:39am
Couldn't agree more!
armaan Sep 23, 2012 04:41pm
yes, u too right.
armaan Sep 23, 2012 04:43pm
yes, you right
Ahmed Sep 24, 2012 12:00pm
Why dont you tell the western countries not to have any kind of diplomatic relations with us or go to a court if they have a problem with muslims? Are they allowed to attack us whenever they have a problem with us? P.S: i guess America is still looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What a pity!
vvd Sep 22, 2012 12:05pm
Whom the Gods want to destroy ,they first make them mad.This is so true of the pathetic Pakistanis who are bent on committing suicide.Not one constructive act or vision for the future.Only display of wanton anger against self & destruction of public property.Your future is a big zero & your "NUCLEAR ASSETS" will not bail you out.
Gyan Sep 22, 2012 02:57pm
I am an Indian Hindu living in Mumbai and though many Pakistanis might not believe, but I do not hate muslims. Rather, I have dozens of Muslim friends at home and workplace.I fail to understand the logic here. Govt encourages protest by declaring a national holiday, hoping the nature of protest to be peaceful.South Asian Govts knows very well that given the culture of total lack of discipline (here education do not make any difference unlike west), the protests can easily become violent and then the Govt machinery uses force to kill the same people whom they wanted to come on to streets!!! Will the Pakistani people, who always question the motives of Indian, American & Israeli govt may demand answers from their Govt? They should, but it will not happen. For Pakistanis elites it is always other countries who is to be blamed for death of muslims.The fact is, Pakistani Govt is also responsible for death of many innocent poor muslims.
raika45 Sep 22, 2012 01:19pm
What irony.A people of a religion looking for a separate state,found it but yet for what? Instead of putting their energy into developing it, they decided to give preference to their religion.Like an old Hindi movie, out came the trouble creators into this "family". In the movie, the good triumphs over the trouble creators.In your case, your hopes and aspirations of a prosperous and a happy Pakistan is slipping out of your hands.Self vested interests for their own benefit be they the rulers, aspiring politicians or zameen dars have their hands on your throats that look for nirvana.
Ahmed Khan Sep 22, 2012 05:54pm
And the "silent majority" in Pakistan will remain silent, and allow hooligans and criminals in the garb of religious leaders and Mullahs and madrassa teachers to destroy pakistan as a country and a society. They will also destroy the good name of "Islam" a religion of peace. Keep on sleeping the government and the silent majority of Pskistan!
armaan Sep 23, 2012 03:10pm
very well written
Faisal Ahmed Sep 22, 2012 08:34pm
A beautiful elegy for Pakistan
Agha Ata Sep 23, 2012 01:30pm
I am not worried of vultures. They will never eat me unless you have killed me.
Humanist Sep 23, 2012 04:39am
Whenever religion will be given importance, it will create a civil war, destruction and mass-murder. If Muslims don't like a particular film, book, or cartoon etc., they should refuse to see the film, boycot the book, refuse to read the particular newspaper; or go to the court and legally proceed against such publication. However, reacting as criminals and murders or destruction does not prove Islam to be a true religion, or religion of peace, however, on the contrary ...
tahirahussain Sep 23, 2012 04:33am
, powerfull and well-written article
TAHIRA. Hussain Sep 23, 2012 04:32am
powerfull and well-written article.
Khan Sep 23, 2012 03:48am
Nothing can fix this unless we start from controlling our population rate .... this demonstrators were mainly from those few thousands who were either from Madrassas or those from government run colleges and religious party workers. While I must agree that some content needs changing but that is very little that is often not even read as it's related to subjects that are given a single read a day or two before exams but It is more about changing the way we teach in Govt run educational institutes where emphasize is on memorizing thus they lake knowledge and creative minds later in life. All of the problems that we face today can be addressed but only if we either have a strong leadership (elected) or change of strategy from the Army, who can change curriculum & education system by investing more in education sector since current standard is getting worse day by day, due to low wages no one chose teaching as profession any more and only bad apples are left in the basket even in private run schools. Empower the minorities by providing them best education and giving them more jobs opportunities. Electronic media has to play its role to educate the masses and shaping their opinion. Strong economy is must for providing jobs to unemployed youth and for that better relations with neighbors although sealing border for unauthorized activities. Sep 23, 2012 02:19am
Most Muslims firmly believe that all this violence is essential to protect their religion. In other words, all this killing and mayhem is gonna go on untill the mass begins to realize that they are actually doing more harm to their religion than that silly, cheap and meaningless movie. So, one needs to ask a question: who is the real culprit who is denigrating Islam? The answer is simple: IT IS US, BABY. IT IS ALWAYS US!
AHA Sep 23, 2012 01:09pm
Good advice, but I think we have capitulated already. There are very few who can think properly, and they are left with no strength.
Mohammed Irfan Sep 24, 2012 09:15am
Try writing about the hollacaust in a way that is unaceptible to the USA and and then see if you can get it it published or make a movie. |You would soon find out there is NO such thing as FREEDOM OF SPEECH when its against them. I think there have to be ground rules and laws regarding all sensitive issues and NO religion must be allowed be mocked by anyone. LIVE AND LET LIVE.
Gerry D'Cunha Sep 24, 2012 09:42am
wd: 100% correct - your comment makes a lot of sense
Samir Gupta Sep 22, 2012 01:33pm
In the current mayhem let us not lose sight of the solution to these problems. Comprehensive reform of the education proicess including that of the content and the delivery infrastructure. Hope someone is listening
jay komerath Sep 24, 2012 12:55am
Excellent article,as a cure for this rabid islamism the author should also promote Education,and History as it happened with all its nuaces,and seperate religion and politics-by the way,what happened to the MULLAH WHO TRIED TO FRAME THE YOUNG HINDU GIRL-DID HE GET AWAY?
NAVEED IQBAL Sep 22, 2012 06:18pm
Ridiculously beautiful and a very very scary piece Anwar Iqbal.We have come places,places of death and darkness.Shadows loom and vultures fly over our heads.Yet we believe we will cleanse the world by defeating the infidels.Little we know that the infidel lies and lives within each of us.Let's just all be infidels,why don't we be? .At the end of this witch hunt,we will discover that it was only us fighting against each other and there was no infidel to begin with. Avoid the disappointment and be an infidel.Long live the infidels.
W Ahmed Sep 22, 2012 06:31pm
Beautifully expressed Anwar, almost lyrical if the facts were not so terrifying . You articulated the pain and frustration of all so well....... only if there was anyone listening!