Taking Refuge in Words and #Hashtags



The latest MQM fiasco has mostly focused on the issues of law and order. Rangers raided and sealed 90 after MQM activists carried out attacks against media houses in Karachi – an inexcusable action by anyone but especially by a democratic political party, though sadly not an unusual one. PTI workers have been known to attack media workers include female reporters and PMLN workers have also indulged in attacking journalists. Any attacks on media are condemnable and attackers must be punished accordingly. However it is the underlying issue behind all of these attacks that requires our immediate attention.

There is no justification for inciting violence, and the leader of a political party especially should be held accountable for doing so. This does not excuse the actions of attackers, though, who should be able to control themselves and not commit acts of violence. This is where our real problem begins to come into the light. As inexcusable as attacks on media workers, what has really angered the entire nation is what Altaf Hussain said, calling Pakistan “a cancer for entire world”. Such words are inexcusable, and obviously wrong, but they are just words. Actually, the words are so hateful that anyone who is against MQM should welcome them since their only effect could be to discredit the party in the minds of the masses.

This brings up another point that we are missing, though. Altaf Hussain is a Pakistani, born in Karachi, who leads a political party that has significant popular support despite all controversies. What does it take to make someone like him to lash out so viciously against his own country? It is easy enough to repeat claims about MQM’s association with RAW, but this only reinforces the question. If these accusations are true, what has to happen for a major party to turn to an enemy for help? Are we ignoring a serious problem by ignoring these questions?

For years we ignored the complaints of Bengalis in East Pakistan, and when they started getting more angry we blamed it on India. We have ignored the complaints of Baloch, and we blame it all on India. The same has happened in Fata and Gilgit Baltistan. Even if India is working to destabilise Pakistan, shouldn’t we be worried about how many of our fellow countrymen are apparently willing to go along with their plans? What could cause so many people to hate their country so much?

These questions are not part of our response. Instead, we bury our heads in the sand and unleash our own response. We make movies that blame all our problems on India. We label anyone who dares to dissent or ask uncomfortable questions as ‘traitor‘ or ‘anti-Pakistan’. Posters with patriotic slogans appear in the streets, and armies of bots keep hypernationalist slogans trending on social media.

In the streets, frustration and anger continues to build until it boils over. Citizens begin to lose faith in their own country, giving up on Pakistan and choosing to leave. Those who can’t grow more resentful until, if our own establishment is to be believed, they turn to the open arms of foreign agencies. Meanwhile, we continue to seek refuge in words and hashtags, and the cycle continues.


Author: Omar Derawal