It was Shakespeare who said in ‘The Tempest’: “Those are pearls that were his eyes”. So powerful was the impact of the line that T S Eliot repeated in ‘The Waste Land’: “I Remember/Those are pearls that were his eyes”.
Eliot goes on to catch a comparable image in ‘The Burial of the Dead’, albeit in greater detail:
There is shadow under this red rock,/ (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),/ And I will show you something different from either/ Your shadow at morning striding behind you,/ Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you:/ I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
The eyes having been gouged from a human face and fear in a handful of dust are powerful images stalking the human mind. Suffering from such affliction may bring one to a pass where, despite possessing the relevant faculties, one may be unable to use them. The shadow of fear may be the refrain to use the power of sight to speak the truth. In essence, this is a feeling that reflects the onset, even accentuation of a virtual comatose state which numbs the human mind to varying degrees of inaction and, consequently, the mere routine of living is deprived of meaning and purposefulness.
As a nation, we have often suffered from one or the other such ailment but, more recently, this sufferance has assumed grave proportions. It appears that society is plagued with the twin scourge of blindness and fear. But it is not blindness that has made us afraid as much as fear that has driven us blind, either as a natural consequence thereof or as a contrived means to escape the unleashing of terror by the state.
With people being forcibly taken away for eliciting their confessional statements, all of society seems to have become a hostage in the grip of unseen powers that exercise control without either being visible or held to account. These forces lurk in the shadows only with their silhouettes decipherable, but the stock and substance of their beings evade human sight.
At this juncture, every institution appears to be at their disposal, obeying their orders without as much as a stir. The possibilities whether one does it after being deprived of sight, or one is forced to stay quiet out of fear, reside in the domain of conjecture. Both possibilities are cogent realities, and no matter which one is pursued, the conclusion would be the same: that life has travelled well beyond the precincts of what can be managed without the fear of reprisals.
But there are some fortunate ones who not only enjoy the liberty of handling their affairs to their absolute satisfaction; they have also been granted the freedom to hurl threats, abuse, and invective at others they consider inimical to the attainment of their goals and implementation of their agendas.
Only a few days ago when the Peshawar High Court (PHC) suspended the ECP order to withhold the allotment of an election symbol to the PTI, one heard the head of a political party threatening the chief justice to refrain from giving such judgments, or his life would be endangered, and he would be forced to leave the province. Absolutely nothing stirred to establish the writ of the court and the security of those who still dare obey the dictates of their conscience and the call of their duty.
The state, by and large, is visible only when wrapped in the apparel of violence and intolerance. Notwithstanding the constitution, rule of law, and whatever may remain of morality, those in power assert that it is their will that has to be obeyed, no questions asked, while those at the receiving end suffer the draconian consequences of such attitudes in utter silence. Even a hint of complaint can evoke grievous consequences.
Yet, there are moments symbolizing perseverance when the human spirit ascends, and fear is reduced to being a bystander. The young girls and boys and their senior mentors who have been confined behind bars for almost six months now have lit a heroic trail with their bravery and grit. Suffering the excesses of the state and unjustly deprived of their freedom, they have refused to compromise on their principles. The morning that beckons them from afar shall soon draw near when they shall bask in its glory and relive with pride their time in shackles and the justness of their cause which would drive them ashore.
With their unmatched fortitude and their faith, they have paved the way to what Pakistan should have become a long time ago: a genuinely independent and sovereign country free to make decisions that would be to its benefit and the benefit of its people who, for all the years they have lived, have survived on the fringes of existence. Deprived of even their most basic needs of life, their dignity has been routinely badgered, and their self-respect criminally brutalized. They are treated as if they neither have brains to think with, nor emotions to cry at their abominable deprivations. They are supposed to survive as slaves to cater to the lusts of their anointed masters whose egos are bloated over illicit heaps of pelf they have accumulated through their years in power.
But nature has a course of its own. Those who had felt certain that the sun would never set on their citadel of power can now see a change taking shape gradually. It may yet be far, but its sounds are audible, and its effects discernible. It is also that its traditional beneficiaries are trying to cast different spots on their beings so that they would not be recognized for their past deeds and could escape into the safety of a future.
One cannot predict one’s destiny, but it is the draconian cruelty of the beneficiary elite that has spurred the advent of a new morning for the country and a new future for its people – a future that had remained a dream since that fateful day when Pakistan emerged on the face of the world as a separate country, free from the colonial fetters. The transition proved to be temporary as, soon thereafter, the hitherto foreign imposed rule was replaced with domestic colonization by its own people at the helm.
It has taken over seven decades to jolt this hold and usher in a change that would alter the shape of the country to what it was dreamt to have become. Neither are the people afraid of the lurking fear nor are they blind to the reality that is taking shape. They are its catalysts and there is nothing that will now stop them from savouring the pride in taking Pakistan to its cherished destination.
The writer is the information secretary of the PTI, and a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets/posts @RaoofHasan