aasia bibi, abdullah shah ghazi, airblue, blasphemy laws, chehlum, data darbar, floods, general kiyani, imran farooq, jolie, jpmc, ku, mqm, munni, new year, pakistan, raza haider, sheila, wikileaks, zardari
February 5, 2010 gave us what can be called a ‘trailer’ of the kind of relentless bombing and bloodshed that was to mark the entire year. Twin blasts in Karachi marked the procession of Chehlum; the first blast targeted at this procession only and the second at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). The country remained in the grip of uncalled for deaths for the better part of the year.
July saw the crash of Airblue flight ED202 in Islamabad, a crash that was termed as the ‘biggest aviation disaster’ in Pakistan’s history. Whether it is actually the biggest or not remained subject to debate, but in terms of fatalities it is the largest; all of the 152 people on board were killed. Now while the families of the victims may want some explanation as to what caused the crash, it is safe to say that the government in this country has a history of concealing the findings of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) from the public. In 1988, President Zia-ul-Haq’s plane became the subject of a mysterious crash still unexplained. In 2003, a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Fokker crashed near Kohat. A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight en route to Lahore from Multan crashed just a few minutes after takeoff in 2006. None of these crashes have had an investigation enough to suffice for the missing pieces of the story pertaining to the crash, the biggest one being ‘why’. Even with the Airblue crash, stories surfaced along the lines of the pilot crashing the aircraft himself because it was actually an American hijacked plane, and the Indians being accused of involvement. It goes without saying that the cause of the crash will remain a mystery forever to the grieving public.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the cherry on the cake would be reporters of local news channels going to houses of those martyred in the Airblue crash and asking the family members “how they feel”. Add to these the simulations of an airplane crashing into the mountains on television channels – because they believe that’s the kind of thing people want to see – and it is safe to say that tact is dead within this country.
The summers of 2010 engulfed Pakistan in one of the worst floods in the country’s history. The rehabilitation and health care facilities for the flood victims were minimal owing to the already scarce resources in the country. Any efforts made to help the flood victims were made by the local public themselves, because the people concerned were missing from the scene. In fact, the President himself was away on a tour of Europe, a move that was criticized by both the local people back home as well as the hosts abroad. Ridiculed enough already, one protestor in Birmingham ended up hurling both his shoes at Asif Ali Zardari, something that the television channels in Pakistan were made to hide, but not before it had come to the public’s eyes anyway.
Taxpayers from all over the world were chipping in to help the Pakistani flood victims, but the wealthy of the country affected turned a bit of a blind eye to the plight of others. The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and famous actress Angelina Jolie, upon her visit to a flood-ravaged Pakistan, spoke about her unease at the lavish interior of the Premier house and the sumptuous meal arranged for her, for which the President’s family was flown in especially from Multan to Islamabad. While some may look at this as an attempt by her just to increase her pr, it goes without saying that what she pointed out was a cause of concern, especially amidst the flood disaster. The concerned authorities in this country are more interested in front page photographs and least bothered about the impending human tragedy at hand. In fact, the meal offered to Jolie could’ve very well fed a considerable amount of the flood victims.
Pakistan receives monsoon rains the same time every year; hence the inundation was not unpredictable. However, in a country dwelling in the throes of corruption, even dealing with the preventable becomes impossible – a phenomenon that will keep on happening again and again.
August saw the assassination of MPA Syed Raza Haider, which led to a complete anarchy in Karachi, with a wave of violence and bloodshed resulting in a significant number of casualties. Another high-profile murder directed at members of the same party, MQM, was that of Dr. Imran Farooq in September. He was murdered in London, and the founder of MQM Altaf Hussain was said to postpone his 57th birthday celebrations in light of this tragedy. Like the country didn’t have enough to worry about already.
Shrine attack was seen in 2010, with a shrine in Lahore and that in Karachi becoming the subject of suicide bombing. The attack on Data Barbar at Lahore left more than hundreds of people injured or dead. The attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazar in Karachi left fewer dead, but just went on to showcase the ruthless bloodshed in Pakistan.
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan state that any person said to defame the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in anyway would be sentenced to death. A Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, was found guilty of this charge and handed a death sentence in November. Controversy shrouded this case, with high-profile politicians advocating for the release of Aasia Bibi and the rectification of the blasphemy laws. While we can’t simply point out the right and wrong in this case, the fact that there were mixed reporters leading to Aasia Bibi’s arrest highlight the need of proper investigations at least, something that a lot of cases in Pakistan seem to be lacking.
The (in)famous Wikileaks website brought forth a lot of startling disclosures about Pakistan. Islamabad has consistently denied the presence of US Special Forces within Pakistan, but Wikileaks says otherwise. General Ashfaq Kiyani, chief of the army, discussed with Americans the possibility of ‘persuading’ (read: forcing) President Zardari to resign, to be replaced by ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan. President Zardari told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that he feared that General Kiyani might “take me out”. Well, this is interesting. The US believed that Pakistani troops were responsible for a series of extra-judicial killings in the Swat valley. Pakistan’s army sat back and let the drone attacks go on, while condemning them in public as a breach of sovereignty. Goes on to show the façade people in empowered positions wear to earn the public’s trust. Wikileaks did indeed provide us with some quite interesting insights as to how our country works, but it still remains to be seen how this information will be used.
‘Munni ki badnami ko Sheila ki jawani se khatra’, blared the headlines on a local news channel. If this is an apt way to describe the influence of two Indian songs on Pakistan, then it really makes one wonder whatever happened to creativity, and whatever happened to our news channels in general.
A bombing in Karachi University (KU) towards the end of December left students in a midst of panic and confusion, and resulted in their exams being postponed. Seriously, it seems like people can’t even study in peace here.
The year 2010 ended with people, including women and children, receiving gunshots while celebrating on New Year’s Eve. What a ‘fitting’ end.
The first month of the new year 2011 hasn’t even come to an end and we already have accounts of a high-profile death and general unrest in the country resulting in a lot of innocent lives being taken.
New year, but same old stories.
Sigh, ‘happy’ new year fellow Pakistanis. Let’s just change the mantra to ‘happy surviving’ instead.