by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 5, Rajab, 1431)
The issue, however, is not merely about death; everyone will die one day. It has to do with the sense of hopelessness that has sapped the people’s will to live, leading them to despair and suicide
When people in a Muslim society are driven to commit suicide because of poverty and hopelessness, it should cause alarm. Life is sacred, and a sacred trust from Allah (swt), the Creator; that is why suicide is haram (forbidden) in Islam. Yet the alarming increase in the number of people committing suicide in Pakistan has caused hardly a ripple. Such insularity, especially among the elites and television talking heads, itself is disturbing. True, every society has a hierarchy of life: the life of the rich and powerful is considered more sacred and valuable than the poor. When a rich person dies, everybody is expected to grieve; a poor man’s death hardly gets noticed.
The issue, however, is not merely about death; everyone will die one day. It has to do with the sense of hopelessness that has sapped the people’s will to live, leading them to despair and suicide. The problem is not lack of resources; Pakistan is endowed with plenty of natural resources. It has water and fertile land and a hardworking population. The real problem is the greed and rapacious lifestyle of the elite; a toxic nexus of feudal lords-cum-industrial barons, army officers and bureaucrats has usurped all the wealth leaving little for the poor. In almost every society, the elites usually grab most of the wealth. Even in the US, the top 1% owns more than 90% of the wealth but there is a safety net for the poor even if there are 40 million people living in poverty and this number is rising. In Pakistan, the situation was not always this bad. Only in the last decade has it deteriorated so rapidly.
Let us consider some of the problems. Lawlessness tops the list but this is the direct result of Pakistan’s surrender to US policies after 9/11 causing major fissures in society. Car and suicide bombings as well as attacks by “militants” can be attributed directly to the US’s so-called war on terror which is essentially a war on Islam and Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. American mercenaries — Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services — are deeply involved in perpetrating many of the crimes, such as car and suicide bombings. America’s aim is to destabilize Pakistan forcing it to give up its nuclear weapons and ultimately break it up. The resistance in Afghanistan has prevented the US from carrying out its agenda fully. America’s military defeat in Afghanistan is now almost certain. Once its forces are driven out of there, the problem of lawlessness in Pakistan will also subside, if not completely disappear.
Pakistan’ real problem is rooted in the elites’ failure to set a directional course for the country’s future and engender a sense of belonging among people. Every Pakistani’s life ambition — rich or poor — is to leave the country. The elites have bank accounts in Switzerland, England, the US, etc, where they have stashed millions of dollars stolen from the country. Their children go to schools and universities in the west. Those that have resources are migrating to Canada, the US and Europe. For the poor, Dubai, Abu Dhabi andSaudi Arabia are destinations of choice to work as labourers in backbreaking jobs in the desert’s scorching heat. There is hardly anyone who wants to remain in Pakistan. So what kind of future can the country have?
It would, however, be unfair to put all the blame on the elites. They are doing what they do best: robbing the country’s resources and remaining totally subservient to their western masters. They cannot imagine a life without being slaves of the West and in turn, they enslave and oppress the poor. But where is the Islamic movement in Pakistan and why has it not challenged this jahili system that is driving people to suicide? The truth is that parts of the Islamic movement that operate as political parties have been co-opted into the same system; in fact these parties, while carrying the “Islamic” label, have also become part of the problem. This explains why the people have little faith in them. The “Islamic” parties are not seen as offering an alternative to the secular parties in Pakistan.
For Pakistan to escape an almost certain death, there must emerge an Islamic movement committed to totally dismantling the present system. For that to happen, there must first be muttaqi leadership that has no personal, class, caste or parochial interests. This leadership must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to inspire the people to do likewise. For decades, the political leadership, including Islamic ones, have betrayed the people, hence their reluctance to follow them.
Time is running out for Pakistan. Is there a muttaqi leadership there? Does Pakistan have anyone of Imam Khomeini’s stature? This is a question the people of Pakistan must answer by looking inwards.