do not divide. conquer.
A man once told me about a folklore from his village, something he said he believed in as a kid. They used to say, every time a man is unjustly killed, the village is overtaken with a mist that doesn’t go away until mid-afternoon the next day.
I asked him what his village must be like now, and he said “Shehzad saab, woh tau doob gaya hoga us mein, raat main bili bhee ghabra jayegi” - [translation: the mist must be so thick now, that at night, even cats will be afraid to walk the roads]
His name is Abdullah, though I referred to him as chacha ji endearingly. He is a kind man, with small aspirations and a big heart. We spent quite a bit of time together in Pakistan, and he had some profound views of the world.
Jokingly, he once told me that he fears for his kid sometimes, “woh itna Allah wala hogaya hay, apnay aap kau bum blast say na uraday” - [He’s become so religious, I hope he doesn’t blow him self up].
But it’s not a joke.
Karachi is burning in the midst of a potent mix of extremist fantasies, violent power struggles and an ideologically confused, shrinking middle class. As the differences that divide us become sharper, as our identities become more distinct, so will our sense of belonging to the same land. Our willingness to persevere as a nation, and our drive to succeed will cease.
On our way to the airport, I asked him why Pakistan was in such dire conditions, and he said everyone is fighting for the same thing, they just don’t know they are.
“Roz panch waqt ka chai aur namaz miljayay, aur humain kya chaheeyay? Yeh sara Pakistan kau yehee chaheeyay. Main pathan hoon, tum muhajir hau, woh musalman aur yeh hindu hai, saab kau ek cheez chaheeyay” - [Tea and the ability to pray, what more do I want? What more does all of Pakistan want? I might be Pashtun, and you might be Muhajir (emigrants from pre-partition India), he might be muslim and that guy could be hindu, but we all want the same thing.]
He could not have said it any better. I left that night, and while I flew over Pakistan, I could not help but hope that we learn to put aside our differences amongst each other and work together. We have forgotten what it means to be a nation, it’s a good time to start remembering.
- Shehzad Akbar