Time running out for us

In last few months, there have been many heinous crimes reported that suggest that our society has become a factory of producing monsters. We may have forgotten but there was a lynching of two innocent brothers by a mob in Sialkot wrongfully blaming them as thieves. There was burning of a newlywed Christian couple in a brick kiln allegedly for committing blasphemy which later turned out to be false allegations. There was broad daylight murder of 34 innocent people that belonged to Ismaili Shia community in Karachi. There were reports of a child pornography ring in Kasur abusing small children. There was the lynching of a young curious and inquisitive student of Mardan university Mashaal Khan who was blamed for committing blasphemy which turned out to be a false charge while his real mistake was to raise questions about his professors and university administration. There were rape and murder of 8 small girls in Kasur and the criminal was finally apprehended through DNA sampling after intense public pressure. Two girls named Asma were murdered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. One was a small girl that became a victim of a juvenile cousin and the other to male chauvinism when she refused a marriage proposal. There was a murder of a young ambitious young man Naseebullah Mehsud in a fake police encounter. There was the corporal punishment of little children by their teachers so much that one child lost his life. There was an incident of a child cutting his hand because the madrassah teacher told him that a hand raised to ask a question about a religious matter should be cut off.

All these crimes suggest one thing that all segments of our society have lost the ethical, moral, humanistic, and religious bearing. These crimes are committed by people that belong to educated as well as uneducated classes. Some criminals are from poor segments of the society while others are from well to do. Some crimes are committed in rural settings while others in urban areas. It is about time we realize that we have become a sick society and if we did not find solutions to reform then we are heading towards a total collapse with far graver consequences. It is important that social scientists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, and writers come together to identify causes of this crisis of the society and develop solutions. I will only share my observations about the causes of this situation which may not necessarily be scientific but at least it may help further the discussion.

Many child psychologists agree that character of a child forms in the first five years. In these initial years, a child is observing actions of parents and many close relatives that he interacts with. Our parents are generally careless about their actions in the presence of an infant child. They watch violent movies with a child in their lap. They engage in domestic disputes in the presence of their infant child. They tell lies and violate traffic laws. They leave their child behind in the care of others. All these actions go into the memory of the child and form his psychological makeup. This careless parenting is the start of a distorted character that gets accentuated as the child grows into an adult.

Usually, at the age of five, a child enters school. In most schools, both public and private, it is not assured that teachers are given training in dealing with small children by understanding their psychological stage of evolution and appropriate education techniques to help the child deal with these new experiences and exposure. Corporal punishment is still used as a tool to etch a lesson on the memory of the child but a lesson coupled with pain can hardly have a positive impact on the character. Th teacher that killed a child through corporal punishment was pardoned by the parents but what about the impact of this incident on other children in the class. These children are endangered to be permanently scarred by this incident and may require psychological help to deal with it. I don’t think any help is provided to them so the probability of future monsters from this event is real and it will be the society to blame for it rather than the children themselves.

In a normal society, it is important that while growing up children learn to be comfortable in dealing with opposite sex and keeping them apart cause abnormality. In our society, it is becoming a norm that separate schools are developed for boys and girls rather than let them interact with each other in co-education setting. This deprives children of developing a better understanding of the opposite sex and they are made conscious of interacting with a total stranger. Since an early age, it is ingrained in their psyche that the only relationship between opposite sexes is sexual rather than human.

Pakistan is a pressure cooker country where the majority of youth lack opportunities to express themselves in arts, sports, politics, and entertainment. Rich kids get an opportunity to travel abroad to unwind themselves and enjoy bounties of life. But middle class and poor family kids are forced to deal with daily uncertainty and stress that takes a toll on their psyche which could sometimes result in mob violence. In a mob a person loses his own individual rationality and ethics as well as does not feel guilt that is associated with an individual act. That was the finding of Gustave Le Bon who was considered an authority on psychological analysis of French Revolution and mob psyche.

One would think that children raised in well to do families that attended expensive private schools and top-tier higher education institutions like IBA Karachi, LUMs, UET, and NED universities would be moderate, humane and tolerant. But it was shocking that some students of these premier institutions committed terrorist attacks. This is a serious situation but many apologists brush it aside as an exception rather than a norm among highly educated. I tend to disagree with that as evidence suggest that a substantially large number of highly educated people are intolerant and hold the extremist view. Son in law of former prime minister is a staunch supporter of religious intolerance. Jamat e Islami which traditionally attracted supporters from educated middle class organized a grand reception for those that were acquitted in Mashaal Khan lynching case. In speeches at that event, it was suggested that Mashaal Khan did commit blasphemy although an investigation committee has already ascertained that it is not true. They rejected this and issued warning that after Mashaal khan no other person will dare to commit blasphemy thereby supporting that mere allegations are enough to kill a person. But JI is not alone a center-left party ANP and its former chief minister of the province embraced these same people and assured them full support. Dharna at Faizabad would not have succeeded if they did have widespread support across the country. Instead of countering this intolerance politicians, especially from large national parties, are appeasing this intolerance rather than standing up to it. Bilawal Zardari and Pakistan people’s party claiming to be champion of tolerance refused to denounce Faizabad dharna and remained silent when the state succumbed to it. Parliament accepted the surrender of the state rather than raise its voice.

We have reached a pivotal juncture where the future of the nation will be decided either through a peaceful reform struggle or a civil war. Every day that passes the window is closing on peaceful transformation. Personally, I will prefer to be lynched like Mashaal Khan rather than succumb to intolerance and be scared by hate mongers.

By Abdul Quayyum khan Kundi