Denizens Of a Dystopia

In medieval Europe, crowning of the Lord of Misrule was a tradition for Christmas celebrations. The peasantry drew lots for the title. Wearing a paper crown and dressed like a jester, the Lord of Misrule had the authority to change or make rules for his (mis)ruling tenure. He also had carte blanche to enjoy any pleasure he desired.
Our ruling dispensations have been undulating repetitions; a musical chair orchestra like the strands of an incompetent composer. We find familiar chords, some low with subdued manipulations; others blatantly shrill with the maddening opiate of unchecked power. These dispensations have repeatedly crossed known boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
After assuming power in 1958, when Charles de Gaulle made his first visit to embattled French Algeria, he was greeted by cries of ‘Algérie Française’. To these people, torn apart by murderous hostilities, he declared ‘Je vous ai compris’ – I have understood you. Many in the crowd broke into grateful tears. De Gaulle understood them. What more could they ask for? On returning to the comfort of Paris, de Gaulle commented ‘L’Afrique est foutue et l’Algerie avec’ – Africa is lost and Algeria with it.
Algeria was a French colony; our Lords of Misrule have created many fiefdoms within Pakistan. In recent years Musharaff’s Pakistan first and Zardari’s Pakistan khappay bear an eerie resemblance to the de Gaulle phrases. They came with the promise of understanding us, our problems; both were feted and doled out guard-of-honour for leaving the country in ruinous state.
Our ruling dispensations could easily fit any name that describes governance at its worst. However, regressing over the years, one word that describes an imaginary place where people lead dehumanised and fearful lives is what we have made of Pakistan today – dystopia.
In this dystopia, injustice, greed, and violence have become the guiding principles of our Lords of Misrule. State failure is epitomised in how we have regressed to primordial loyalties of ethnicity, sect, clan and mafias rather than a singular national identity as envisaged in the creation of a separate homeland.
The paradox engulfing a majority of us is that we think Pakistan being born on the 27th of Ramazan makes it impervious to the consistent battering it has taken in the last so many years. The fact of the matter is that, over time, it has burnt away the pain preceptor layers of skin, leaving us numb to pain and open to a deluge of fatal maladies.
This Independence Day again reverberated with jeevay jeevay Pakistan, heedless to the fact that Shahnaz Begum from East Pakistan, the voice of the heart-touching and unforgettable song, chose to live in Bangladesh – once an integral part of Pakistan.
As we revel in the notion that we are the chosen ones, not a single day passes which does not confront us with the mockery of this belief. ‘Girl vaccinated nine times contracts polio’ read a recent news heading in these very pages. Let us for a moment forget about the target killings, drones, mafias, bombs and plunder. Does not this single line bear testimony to the degeneration of the very soul of present Pakistan. A part of humanity perishes with each such act. We are seemingly bereft of humanity.
Crackers of old days were means to fun and frolic. Now we live in a dystopia where mayhem-creating grenades are referred to as crackers; endless pools of suicide bombers and target-killers have inexhaustible cannon fodder. Human life has become a mere statistic. What could be more telling than the Sindh AG callously referring to the tragic Karachi death toll as ‘today’s score’ in the highest court of law?
What could be more heart-wrenching than the silent vigil of the Quetta dead and their loved ones for days on end in the bitter cold as the frivolous CM gallivanted in foreign lands? What could be more agonising, more tragic; but then what can one expect from those who merely echo their master’s voice and stance devoid of remorse or pain.
One does not have to be a Nostradamus to predict our plight, each day of the calendar year; target killings, bomb-blasts, crunching poverty, absence of gas in winters and that of electricity in summers. With the advent of monsoon, floods play havoc; as thousands still reel with the ravages caused the preceding year. So the days. Months and seasons come and go, leaving those of us who have to bear the brunt of the same, more fearful than before. A dystopia indeed is what we have tragically made of what was a truly blessed land.
Political reconciliation now sounds like a hateful euphemism – so devastating has been its consequences. The much touted visit to Karachi by the PM and his cabinet culminated in nothing more than honouring the mandate of those very parties who have been held responsible for the death and destruction in Karachi. Honourable PM and stakeholders; how about honouring the lives of the denizens of the dystopia?
Confucius famously said: ‘By three methods we may learn wisdom. First, by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest’. Given his trials and tribulation, any hope of a reincarnated Nawaz Sharif saw its due demise at the lunch he hosted to bid adieu to his partner-in-arms, Zardari.
Nothing could be more nauseating and insulting than the accolades heaped on the outgoing president whose stewardship saw thousands of innocent people suffer and die as the grinning Nero went about playing whatever he is best at. His ‘historic’ term saw crime, corruption and cronyism having the unchecked mandate to purge, pillage and plunder. No ruler could be more insensitive and oblivious – so great was the pain and agony he caused. The PM, however, prayed that Zardari carry forward his mission to work for the country’s ‘prosperity’!
Audaciously sharing cherished memories, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he could still feel the scent of roses presented to him at President Zardari’s London residence. The unkindest cut of all, though, was terming President Zardari’s full term as “an unprecedented, golden chapter in our history”. “It is history in the making”, the PM gushed. For his theatrics, which would have left the Falstaff in a daze, the incumbent prime minister was assured full support for the next five years by his soul-mate.
Each election, before its political demise, we pen the obituary of the Lord of Misrule. Ironically, our history of musical chairs thrives; the jarring symphony plays on.