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Murder, we all wrote

Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
People are surprised and have been asking as to how this is possible. I am surprised that they are surprised. Looking around, as I write this I find myself living in a private bubble. The electricity that powers my house is from private means, the water that I use has been bought in bottles and a private tanker, the education that my child is receiving has been bought privately and I live and work in a private, gated community. What is my daily interaction with the state apart from living in its geographical contours?I might be dismissed on account of belonging to a minority. Let’s talk about the so called majority. When a catastrophe hits, private institutions are the first to reach the effected be it an earthquake, accident, flood or fire. There are relief wings of banned, militant organizations but also private organizations like Edhi, Chippa are the first to reach in an emergency. The state is nowhere to seen providing relief in an emergency. Self-help or “Apni madad aap kay’teht” principle is being taught to youngsters by the government as well as in numerous leadership trainings that are being organized at breathneck speed to make use of Pakistan’s “youth bulge.” Some segments of this “bulge” is becoming an infected underbelly as Mardan showed. Take for example the provision of standardized education. A quick look at the statistics presents a very grim picture; 47 percent of the children aged between 5 and 16 years in the country are out of school. Despite the incumbent government’s promise of increasing the share of education allocation to 4 percent, the government only spends 2.68 percent of the GDP on education. Similarly, Pakistan spends even less than one percent of GDP on health. The infant mortality rate, life expectancy and maternal mortality rate in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world. There is a shortage of more than 9 million housing units in the country. By not providing standardized education, health and housing facilities, the state has already absolved its self of its responsibilities.-Continued.
The state has taught us the golden principle of ‘every man for himself.’ So if you want to arrange for good education of your children, send them to a private sector institution or you can also try your luck looking for a NGO, charity or church run school or you also have the option of sending your children to a madrassah. Similarly, when it comes to provision of health, there are many private medical institutions in the country and also those being run by NGOs, charities and others. If you are experiencing load shedding then try getting a generator or uninterrupted power supply for your house.

Given the reality of governance absence in some cases and failure in others together with the self help principle being emphasised by all and sundry, why are we surprised then when “justice” is also dispensed by a mob? State has the sole monopoly over violence but when state is absent in health, education, basic services, and then why is it surprised when it is not considered in any equation regarding peace and violence?

The sacred bond between citizens and the state is broken when its institutions fail to fulfil their basic needs.

Mardan has outraged citizens, media and political parties. In a welcome move, the National Assembly also passed a resolution condemning the murder. There has been a lot of progress in the case with a majority of accused under custody. The calls of reviewing the law and its implementation are once again making people believe that a positive change is in the offing.

That’s all good. In fact, if I were in a generous mood, I would even label it progress as there was a time when there would be a deafening silence against such mob acts. Having said, this, let me now ask: If Mardan is indeed a “narrative changer” and a “litmus test” that has “galvanised “ the nation to demand justice, let us put our feet to the fire. Two names. Asia Bibi and Junaid Hafeez. Both languishing in Pakistani jails. One a non-Muslim, Pakistani citizen whose state failed to educate or protect her. The other a Muslim, young teacher who was educated by both Pakistan and American states but which the former failed to protect. In a way, we could say that the blasphemy accusation is almost an equaliser of sorts.

While a son has been lost, a mother and another son can be reclaimed by life and Pakistan even now.

The state needs to prove that the law of the land and provision of security and access to justice to citizens is still its prerogative.

Until this happens, it is not enough to only suspend, dismiss or even arrest. Till Asia Bibi and Junaid Hafeez languish in jail, all of us are to blame.It is a case of Murder, we wrote.

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