“Were such things here as we do speak about? Or have we eaten on the insane root That takes the reason prisoner?”— Shakespeare, Macbeth

WHILE the dastardly attempt to kill Malala has pricked the conscience of humankind it has also revealed the nature and extent of the cankerous growth within Pakistan’s body politic that is smothering reason.

Those taking exception to sympathy for and solidarity with the courageous girl from Swat have confirmed that in their bid to capture power in Pakistan they are going to respect neither the people’s humanistic instincts nor the spirit of their faiths.

Attempts are being made to prevent the people from identifying the malignancy of which the attack on Malala is merely the latest manifestation. The kind of mental acrobatics being performed by normal-looking gentlemen is a measure of the corruption of the mind that the lust for power can breed.

Short of denying that Malala has been attacked at all or brazen-facedly proclaiming their hatred for womenfolk the high priests of reactionary thought are doing everything they can to confuse the people about a matter of life and death not only for Malala but for the entire next generation, if not for the entire population of this country. And their hangers-on in the media are bent upon abusing the public space for truthful debate and expropriating it for playing foul with reckless abandon.

References are being made to the casualties in drone attacks and other victims of the ongoing conflict in parts of Pakistan. This from a band of people who do not accept the inviolability of all Pakistani citizens’ dignity of person.

They want their audience to ignore the distinction between loss of life in conflict or as a result of accident/disaster and in deliberate, targeted killing. The allegation that the members of civil society now demonstrating solidarity with Malala and her brave parents have never protested against civilian casualties in drone attacks or against the rendition of Pakistani citizens to the US/Nato forces is a figment of sick minds.

The born-yesterday chroniclers of our history have forgotten how single acts of individual perfidy or courage become precursors of epoch-making events. They do not care to tell us why the desecration of Hamza’s corpse by Hind became the most gripping tale of barbarism from a battle in which many close companions of the Prophet (PBUH) had fallen and who are rarely remembered.

Dreyfus was not the first Frenchman to suffer long under an insensitive system but his predecessors went unsung for want of a Zola who could utter the two immortalised words, ‘I accuse’. It may be quite possible for these elements in the current situation in Pakistan to attack Iqbal for treating Fatima as the only spark of life in the Muslim ummah while there were many other women who had perished during Italy’s aggression on Libya.

But these are minor matters in the context of the broader design for the indoctrination of the people, especially the youth.

When Malala’s identity as a symbol of knowledge or of women’s aspiration to receive education is challenged the idea is to challenge the authenticity of the concept of education subscribed to by Malala and her ‘misguided’ supporters.

The message to the people is that anything outside the fungus-ridden mind of the preachers of hate is not education, the laws of gravity and motion are not part of knowledge and all sciences are snares spread by the devil to trap the unwary among the servants of the Almighty.

Those who are trying to create doubts about the enormous magnitude of the crime against Malala are known for their repudiation of democracy and the constitution of Pakistan, including its parliament and the judiciary. They belong to the tribe that could blame the leftists for the ouster of Muslim rulers from Spain and who deny that the Quaid-i-Azam ever made his Aug 11, 1947 speech.

Other members of this tribe include a doctor who told the present writer that no jihadi becomes a suicide bomber and all suicide attacks are organised by the ISI to malign the non-violent promoters of Islam, and the university students who argue that girls’ schools are destroyed in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the government for the same reason. Their tactics of blaming the victims of the murderous plots themselves for the crimes are no secret.

But is it fair to blame only the militants and their patrons among the religio-political parties for what has been done to Malala and scores of other people? Or merely the politicians for having kowtowed to Ziaul Haq? How can society absolve itself of the crime of tolerating criminal religiosity, the rise of intolerance of sectarian differences, and of looking unconcernedly at terrorism carried out against the ‘other’?

The roots of the insanity laid bare by the Malala episode lie in the Pakistani ruling elite’s decades-long history of capitulation to the self-appointed ideologues who have tried to cheat the people out of the fruits of freedom and democracy on the one hand, and to turn their religion of peace and reason into a gospel of violence and bigotry on the other.

The short-term remedies everyone is talking about will not guarantee Pakistan’s deliverance from the troubles it has so diligently courted. A complete restructuring of the state in accordance with modern democratic and egalitarian principles is the only route to salvation. To think otherwise will amount to condemning the millions of Malalas of tomorrow to extermination.

Pakistani society is again on trial. Those who attacked Malala and their defenders among the privileged Pakistanis have become desperate out of fear that the people’s tolerance of their bullying tactics and abuse of belief could come to an end. Now the ordinary men and women of Pakistan have to prove that these fears have a basis in reality.

This is the only lesson one can draw from Malala’s indomitable will and the courage of her innocence, and in the fulfilment of this task by civil society lies the hope of Pakistan’s rise as the land of people who have their eyes solely on the future.

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