Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pain of the Expatriate Pakistanis

Time for Pakistan establishment to show some commitment to secularism and Justice By Vidya Bhushan Rawat It was raining heavily when I boarded the bus no 7 from square one to Toronto Airport to catch my flight back to Delhi. After several stops, I saw Anwar Bhai boarding the bus. It was relief for me as I wanted to meet him before leaving but our schedule were such that it was difficult. Anwar Bhai was born in Lucknow city but became a Pakistani citizen due to accident of circumstances. Pakistan could not attract him much and he migrated to Canada with his family. Speaking to him was a treat as he had so many memories of Delhi and Lucknow that one would always want to listen to him. He is a freak of the Hindustani movies being produced in Bombay which we claim to be ‘Hindi Movies’. ‘Why do we call them as Hindi movies, he says. ‘None of the old days writers, actors ever knew Hindi. The fact is they always wrote their script in Urdu and represented the great Hindustani tehjeeb of the subcontinent’, Anwar Bhai would suggest. He came to meet me at Shamshaad Bhai’s place and we had whole lot of discussion on our relations and the situation in both India and Pakistan. But on that day, when we met at the bus, I saw an anguish and pain in the eyes of Anwar Bhai. He did not know that I was leaving for Delhi but when I informed him that I am leaving for Delhi right now, he became pensive. We sat and chatted for a few minutes before he departed. ‘You see, this is the tragedy of Pakistani expatriates that none of us want to go back to Pakistan. Where shall we go? Are we safe there? It is difficult to live in that country which is in the grip of religious thugs and mafias. When I see you Indians craving to go for your country, I feel how fortunate you are. Each one of us loves our land. ‘I was fortunate to be born and brought up in Lucknow and see the supreme irony I can not even claim to be a citizen of India because I do not possess the relvent papers which got lost, he says. He wanted to say many things but I could realise that he had a lot to say. He narrated me stories of his Hindu neighbours and how they would help each other. India is a model for many of these countries where people help each other. Ofcourse, things are not that easier here I told him yet the people and the unity of Pasmanda Muslims, Dalits, the Adivasis and others is getting stronger day by day, I informed. Similar feelings were expressed by Iqbal bhai who came to drop me at Square one in his taxi. He belonged to Sambhal near Moradabad and would explain to me various things. He had been living in Canada for over 15 years and yet unable to visit his own country for many years. ‘ what do we do after going there. It is becoming risky day by day, he said. The expatriates Pakistanis whose roots are in India are actually praying for good relations between the two countries. They are feeling uprooted from their culture and language. India is providing them a link. The films, the songs, cricket, and politics everything is giving them happiness yet the pain of not being able to see their land is much bigger than any of these. And when they meet friends and compatriots from India, they realise how wrong was partition of India, which actually created artificial borders between three newly created states. Yes, now they are questioning the partition of India and say it was a conspiracy to divide us by the elites. ‘They looted us and gained from our dislocation. What did we get said many of them’, said one of them. Though, I do not personally believe that partition was avoidable as the circumstances that time were completely different and the things have taken a different turn now when the Muslims and others have seen the politics behind partition. There are hundreds of logics who can suggest that Partition was necessary, I said. If I see the condition of Muslims in India, their marginalisation in polity and decision making, I feel it was necessary but when I see the situation in Pakistan today, which can plainly be described as a country in war with itself, and then I say it was absolutely disaster. It did not help either. It was a disaster as many of our friends say seeing the situation today but if that had not happened, don’t we think that the forces of Jehad would have been operating in India demanding for the same. There would have been Hindu fanatics who are still targeting Muslims and Muslim fanatics would have been playing their games easily and we would have been in a much bloody situation today. After years of churning, there is a realisation that hatred does not bring anything. Today, the people of Pakistan have seen what have they got in the name of religion. ‘Well, a friend says, ‘we want to have Kashmir in the name of religion as every locality of Karachi has a collection centre in the name of Jehad in Kashmir. What should the govt do, I asked Butt Saheb, a Kashmiri, who met me at a shop in Toronto? ‘Why has the entire struggle of self respect of Kashmiris have turned into a hatred towards non-Muslims’, I asked. ‘You can not separate the Kashmiri Hindus from the Kashmir Muslims says Butt. You see, my surname is Butt and it reflect that we were originally Pandits who we spell as Bhutt. It is common thread between us. The whole thing has been created by politicians and government. There is tremendous good will among the people on both the sides of border. Though, I live in ‘Azad Kashmir’ yet I am proud to be born in Srinagar’, he says. ‘I asked him when should Pakistan give Azadi to the people in their part of Kashmir? Butt Saheb has not given a thought on this. He only says that it is the politicians who are dividing us. But one very interesting point that he referred was that it was not difficult for him to go to Kashmir as there are so many entry points. He feels proud of being a Kashmiri from Srinagar. Last night, US President Barak Obama declared that Osama Bin Laden is killed by the American troops in Abottabad, a calm military town near Pakistan capital Islamabad. Death of Bin Laden could be described in various ways by commentators. For Americans and their allies he was the person who made women widows, children orphaned and killed innocent, for many in the Islamic world, he was a hero who took on the Non Muslims who were trying to challenge the authority of Islam. It is not that every Muslim supported him but George W Bush’s doctrines of Islamic Fascist actually put the entire Muslim world against him. However, president Obama has been more than careful in describing this as a war against terrorism and not war against Islam. While, we agree that the Americans and others who entered in Iraq or Afghanistan are not there to bring ‘democracy’ which they often describe so proudly, but to serve their own interest, it is also time to look inwardly. Off late, the practice of blaming everything to your opponent seems the best strategy for despots, politicians and those who sale on victim mindset all the time. A victim mindset will never get any one justice but will only create more and more fanatics who at the end will not be damaging to any one but to their own societies. After all, who did Bin Laden kill more? Who are the victims of Talibans? Who are the victims of Gaddafi and Mubaraks? All these despots and fanatics were somewhere created by the American and their notorious agencies like CIA. At the end all of them actually damaged Islam more than they could damage the others. So, when I say we need to look inward, it is because unless our societies are internally stronger, we can not really do justice to our people and fight with the so-called enemy. We will only end up in killing ourselves. We have seen this in Afghanistan and now in Libya, Nigeria, and Bahrain where one ethnicity dominate over the other and unable to provide political alternative. Today, in Pakistan, the situation is grim. In most of these countries the rights of the people are crumpled under the heavy boots of the authoritarian regimes and society is completely collapsed. The morality brigade ensure that women are beaten on the street and do not go out in their own. It is this situation which has compelled many of the people to migrate to west. And coming to the west is a cultural shock to many as most of the immigrants bring their feudal values along with them. Hence, the largest numbers of honoured killings are being witnessed in United Kingdom and Canada. Yes, many of them go unreported. On the eve of Easter when I was travelling from Ottawa to Toronto, I met a Sudanese doctor who had migrated several years back from his country to Canada. With a wife and family, he started his life as a taxi driver and pursued his study in medicine. Sudanese name in the west has become synonymous with Islamic terror and despite humiliation at the airports and at immigration level, people still preferring to leave those isolated heavens of feudal lords where life has virtually become miserable to live. ‘I want to study here and make my life better said, Marry who was along with her husband. ‘We have been here for past 15 years and our children are now accustomed to live in the Western world. These people have allowed us to grow and given us opportunities to taste the success. I would not like to go there in Sudan where people are killing each other in the name of religion. Today, I can drive around and take my children at my own. None can stop me here taking a decision on my life. Why should I go there if as a woman my own identity is never respected’, explains Marry who felt that America would be the last in her list to visit as it humiliate all who are Sudanese. ‘At least, here in Canada we are much safer and not humiliated’, she adds. Two years ago, I met a few Pakistanis in London working with women and girls in UK who were victim of violence. I met Mehjabin, a Gujarati Muslim woman who married to a Pakistani much against the wishes of her family. They would have killed her yet the girl was too bold to handle and they decided to live separately. Yet, when their child was born, her husband forced him to go to learn Arabic and ‘Muslim culture’ which he was unable to respond. One day the boy was so scared with the highhandedness of the Maulvi that he pissed in his pant. The mother got angry with her husband and withdrew the child. The inability of South Asians to mix up with their counterparts in the western societies is creating a big gap in understanding. They want to come out their cultural shock yet fear isolation from the community push them back in the lap of those who want to ghettoise them. They crave for their language, music and traditions and some time turn more conservative. In the case of Pakistani friends, a number of them become depressed with the fact that there is so much to do in Pakistan yet very unfortunately they can not go and do any work for the women and poor there. Pakistan today is on the verge of collapse. Civil society is threatened and politicians are unable to take on the challenge of the religious right wings who are determined to convert Pakistan into another chaotic Islamic nation where women will virtually have no right and people would not be allowed to access the modern world. Speaking with friends and fellow activists in Pakistan makes you feel pensive on how a country has deteriorated. And most of them feel that the ruling establishment in Pakistan actually want such a scenario when democracy fail and military take over. While people have no love for Zia ul Haq kind of military men, definitely many of them have soft corner for Musharraf who they think was modernising Pakistan. The day Mukhtar Mai’s rapist were released on the order of Pakistan Supreme Court, I spoke to a friend in Sindh who was narrating me the growth of fundamentalist in Pakistan and their continuous assault on freedom of expression and religious beliefs. Pakistan is paying a heavy price for its flirtation with the hate mongers. The elite have shifted to other countries and are not bothered about it. The powerful military men who rules have their children abroad and know they are in safe heaven. Mukthar Mai and many like her do not get justice. The other South Asian particularly the caste Hindus try to avoid the Muslims from Pakistan. They would not like to be associated and counted in minorities and Muslims, informed a friend. The common refrain from the South Asian community in UK and USA is to avoid any linkages with Pakistanis. This has given rise to the growth of Hindu right wing among Indian expatriate as this is their fertile time when the anti Muslim propaganda is on full flow and war on terror has indirectly been a war on Islam despite Obama’s tall claim. A large part of this negative feeling for Muslims has happened because of inner power games in Pakistan’s power structure. It is time for them to change their attitude and stop supporting such notorious movement in the name of Islam. At the end it is isolating Muslims and only helping those who want to see them isolated further. We have seen the isolation of Mukthar Mai, and Salmaan Taseer whose death was celebrated by many. It is the meekness of the voices of secularism that the religious fanatics take things for granted and consider their strength. The fears of people like me is that if Pakistan and Bangladesh go to the right wing fundamentalist groups, it will only strengthen the process of radicalisation of other communities too and the end would be chaos and further destruction of lives in South Asia. Islam is not in danger but Muslims are facing persecution because of a few such fanatics. Justification of historic wrongs and blame games will only escalate tension. Ofcourse, things can not improve if the Americans continue to intervene and kill innocents in the Middle East. It will never improve with the hate propaganda of the US machinery who on the one hand call for reconciliation and the other side continue to harbour ill will and misconceived notion towards Muslims and Islam. A Pakistan of Jinnah’s dream can take the lead in it yet every expatriate is looking for that where minorities have equal rights and women do not face the victimisation like Mukthar Mai. Only a government with strong sense of justice to people and secularism can bring Pakistan near to the secular dream of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Is Pakistan establishment prepared for that?

No comments: