There is a lot that Pakistanis are known for. Hospitality. Simplicity. Big Hearts. Narrow minds. Hearty appetites. Superfluous emotions. Vengeance. Betrayal. Loyalty. Indifference. Empathy. Naivety. Shrewdness. Let’s just say we have a touch of everything in our colorful palate of vice and virtue.
But there is something I wish we didn’t have.
Fear of evil. So much so that we can accept it in all its repugnant forms. We can curse it within our hearts, but we can’t openly talk about it. We know it’s there, right beneath our feet, in front of our eyes but it’s always simpler to feign indifference. God forbid, what if an open acknowledgement awakens a well-kept secret, our dust-laden conscience?
It took us a good stretch of decades to come out and speak on certain pressing issues like women’s rights, dowry, poverty, illiteracy, injustice, child labour. But it will take us a lot more to talk about a few other, more dark, even more rotten matters. Social evils that make our stomaches churn with disgust, and our souls twinge with abhorrence. Signs that point towards the end of the world. One of the most vile occurences of evil, rampant across the globe and our country – Child Sexual Abuse.
This is a topic that we can’t even talk about to ourselves, let alone among our families and friends. We love talking about religion. We accept corruption, terrorism and bribery; All much coveted conversations in our smug and mighty drawing rooms. We love pulling at each other’s collars and pointing our nosy fingers into everyone’s business. Why someone got married, why someone didn’t. Why someone had a baby, why someone didn’t. Why someone went abroad for a higher education, or how they got all that money. We love talking about things that don’t concern us. And when it comes to matters that are most important, we lock them all up and throw away the key. For the love of all things pure, we can’t accept evil in its raw, unadulterated form. Our legs quiver when incidents of rape or adultery spew up. And of course sexual abuse of children is our very own Grimm’s tale. A fairy tale. Until now.
As Pakistan turns 68 in just a few days (14th of August), we are all gifted with a sickening incident involving grave physical and mental abuse of more than 200 children in a certain part of the country. An inconceivable story that surprises us to the core, maybe hoping to wake us up and smell the putrid humanity that lives within us. Begging us to see things for what they are. But did it?
No one talked to us about these things when we were children. Before us. And even before them. It was too inappropriate, too much of a taboo to grace our self-righteous tongues. We read about similar incidents happening in other countries,watched real-life horrendous depictions in the movies and uttered our much-loved word, ‘Tauba’, while grasping and releasing both ears in a criss-cross motion (an action showing our utmost shock and contempt over something).
Our habit of denial and ignorance is the result of a long, deep-rooted process, where we are lauded for burying our faeces in the ground, but slandered for pointing out the putrid smell. As a self-professed aware mother of the 21st century, even I can’t bring myself to read the details of the barbarity. Only because it is in my backyard. My own soil. It’s like reading the morbid facts might set forth a string of bad luck. I can’t even talk about it with loves ones or friends. It weighs so heavily on the heart. Thinking that it might break the superficial pact we’ve signed and sealed as citizens of Pakistan; with the opening and closing lines being – “Oh how ridiculous, these things can’t happen in our country!” But something’s got to give. Enough is enough.
I see a considerable amount of outrage in the social media. But it still only amounts to a negligible percentage of the society. Most homes, towns, and villages where such horrendous actions take place stay off the grid. It’s our responsibility, as parents, as teachers, as guardians of children to stay wary of heinous culprits. To keep an eye on suspicious activities. To make children understand the different between kind and malicious people. To give children enough support and confidence to enable them to speak out against any wrongdoing that is brought upon them, irrespective of what useless spectators might say or do.
This time it happened among us, not too far from our own, apparently infallible lives. But what if there is a next time? Can we afford to stay deaf and dumb again?
On this independence day, let’s not swim in useless rhetoric. It’s our duty to breathe life into our garden. Let us vow to bring down anyone who even dares to pluck our budding flowers. It’s our responsibility to break away from senseless taboos and realize the severity, so this never happens again.
Let’s not sing songs of a land that has never been pure, no matter what name we give it. But instead, let’s speak up for what really matters. The future. Our children.