Time heals everything, they say. But the adage holds true only if time really goes by. The tyranny of time is that it loses its healing power if it keeps repeating itself.
In his 1967 masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of seven generations of the fateful Buendia family of the town of Macondo, which was stuck in vicious circle of time. Everything that happened in the imaginary town of Macondo was surreally similar with previous events, bearing an indelible mark of its history and the inescapable past. The past determined the present and events happening in present and future were quite the same despite belonging to different stages of time.
Same seems to be the case with Pakistan.
Modern nation states seem to have moved on from their respective blood-stained pasts:
Despite the universal appeal of French Revolution, the reign of terror that followed the revolutionary events is barely the defining characteristic of contemporary French society.
Germans are ashamed and have distanced themselves from their Nazi past.
Tough questions are being raised in China about the Cultural Revolution and the subsequent killings of millions of Chinese people.
The African-American Civil Rights Movement in the past century in the US has raised serious questions about implementation of United States Declaration of Independence.
Arundhati Roy is calling into question the godlike stature of Mahatma Gandhi in neighbouring India.
Iranian youth is seeking reforms in the electoral process hitherto controlled by the clergy which was the direct product of Iranian Revolution.
The gods of the past ought to be questioned if the goddess of present is to smile. Pakistan, however, is still stuck in 1947.
Time has not passed since then. Pakistan is only recreating itself in its own image over and over again. The blood of the children perished in Peshawar is not different from the blood of those millions of unfortunate souls slaughtered during the tragic events of Partition. It is just the continuation. The baggage of blood is still pulling the strings of the present. The country has failed to get over its painful past. Ideology has come to be so overbearing, so suffocating that it has become impossible for the children to breathe. They are dying.
You know, the generals did not really invent the doctrine of 'strategic depth'. They merely discovered it. It was already there, brewing in the very foundations of Pakistan, waiting to be found out. It was a very simple yet unresolved question: the country got separated from its eastern neighbours because of a distinct religion, but then what about the western neighbours? If religion were to be the basis of nationhood, then why were the western neighbours a different nation despite having belonged to the same religion?
The generals solved the equation towards the end of the Cold War. They called it 'strategic depth'.
The ideology is not new nor is it old. Having roots in nationalistic movement of undivided India, it has taken countless forms from the so-called two-nation theory to national interest, territorial sovereignty, citadel of Islam, strategic depth, and still counting.
They are different shades of the same colour. The ideology will continue to resurface and recreate itself in one form or another.
Actually, there is no such thing in the world as a true ideology – ideologies are seen and analysed in the context of how they operate and influence the present scenarios. The question as to whether or not Jinnah wanted a secular Pakistan is not relevant anymore. This debate is dead and buried under the accumulated debris of 68 long years.
The more pertinent question is how the ideology, in any of its forms, has shaped today’s Pakistan and how it has been used as a paradigm to take decisions on national level.
The only yardstick to have been employed in shaping the country's national narrative since its inception is the ambiguous ideology of Pakistan. Starting from the Bhabhra massacre in Charsadda district of KP in 1949, when around 400 unarmed workers of Khudai Khidmatgar movement were killed by the then provincial government, to the brutal killings of children in Peshawar in 2014 by the Taliban; there is a pattern and method in this madness. Right from the very first day, the country has assumed the role of a security state hell-bent on enforcing and protecting an equivocal cause at the cost of its citizens.
The ludicrous One Unit Scheme was introduced in 1954 on the same pretext of national unity which ultimately led to the separation of East Pakistan and the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Bengalis. The malady afflicting the Koh-i-chiltan in Balochistan is of the same nature that haunted Bangla people in the forests of Sundarbans. The same hegemonic mindset is responsible for the killings of Baloch people that tormented the much larger Bangla population.
Look through: Revisiting 1971: The crow is white, Bengal is Pakistan
The spectre of national security swallowing the people irrespective of ethnicity or creed wears the same green and white cloak with the shades of crimson frozen in time.
Over all these years, this self-destructive and highly exclusivist aspect of the ideology, together with its tinge of religion, has been getting exposed more and more every day.
The notions of a true Pakistani and a true Muslim have been made to appear quite interchangeable in Pakistan. In the name of national interest, people were expelled from of the circle of 'true Pakistanis'. The practice started right after the inception and reached its climax in 1974, when the state assumed the task of excommunicating people out of the 'circle of Islam'.
The Takfiri ideology has made inroads in the society under the auspices of the state. Fuelled by dubious ideology, the obsession of making the countrymen more Pakistani and more Muslim led to delegating powers of excommunication to non-state actors. The policy has proven catastrophic to large segments of society.
Such is the grief, such is the magnitude of each tragedy that it stumps the imagination, before reality rears its ugly head again to reveal something even worse. The recurring cycle of atrocities seldom leaves much space to see outside of it. We are prisoners of a past that keeps coming back again and again in guise of the present.
The present is Taliban and we are completely mistaken if we think that this is the worst that things can get. The past is still alive. The ideology is still breathing.
In Macondo, the most extraordinary events happened in the most mundane, most ordinary manner, during those one hundred years. During our own 68 years of national solitude dictated by the most ambiguous ideology, the extraordinary has come to be the most ordinary in much the same way.
“It rained for four years, eleven months, and two days.” Marquez wrote. The uncanny message in that line can only be matched by the newspaper headlines of the past week: “131 schoolchildren were killed in Peshawar”.