By: Bushra Zulfiqar
I was in Islamabad when I first heard the news of UK based Pakistani students being arrested by the British police on charges of terrorism. As the details came out, it was nine of them arrested in anti-terror raids from different parts of England and as the Prime Minister Brown termed were guilty of hatching a very big plot against the UK. Being myself a Pakistani studying in England, my first reaction was that of disbelief and shock to say the least. I was completely aware of the academic, financial and logistical struggle it involves to become a student in Britain. But then more than that the Pakistanis are an extra ordinary community in the Britain, have been so for decades now. Out of a sixty million population in UK, there are two million Muslims and about 900,000 of them are of Pakistani origin. Not just the British but the whole world can never become oblivious to their proud achievements and rich contributions in the fields of economics, law, medicine, sciences, history, culture, arts and research. But for these caught Pakistani students, they were not only kept in the illegal custody of the British authorities for thirteen days but were also physically and mentally tortured. They were not allowed to contact their families back home who quite understandably faced an immensely difficult period. And on one fine morning after thirteen days of interrogation and intelligence checks, these students were released by the embarrassed authorities as no charge could be proven against them.
It disturbed me, deeply. It disturbed me as a Muslim, as a Pakistani and as the educated youth of Pakistan. I knew from day one that this was not us, it could not be us, any one of us. Though in the last few years some unfortunate incidents have made Pakistanis vulnerable to terrorist suspections but as someone who was born and brought up in Pakistan, I have complete faith in the fundamental building blocks for the state and nation of Pakistan. Our country was born on the highest pedestals of human excellence. It promised complete tolerance, peaceful co-existence of multiple religious/ethnic/sectarian beliefs, a pluralistic social order, freedom of thought and expression, egalitarianism and a democratic form of governance. We as a nation are completely and deadly against all forms of violence be it political, social or economic. We are an extremely peace loving nation which does not approve of the minutest acts of extremism.. We are a victim of this menace. We are a victim because we have lost thousands of our innocent citizens including men and women, children, youngsters and elders in cruel and insane suicide bombings in our markets, schools, mosques, parks and other public places. We are a victim because we have lost hundreds of our brave soldiers, the sons of our soil in attacks on military consignments, their offices and official residences. We hate blood and dead bodies, the brutality un-nerves us and the loss of our loved ones infuriates us. We cannot relate ourselves in any which way to terrorism, we cannot imagine the killings of innocent people in our wildest thoughts for this is not what are made up of. We neither represent nor can stand this inhumanity under any circumstances. We as a nation and as the educated youth of Pakistan do not scum and subscribe to the narrowly, pathetically, untruly, unfairly and fallaciously interpreted version of our extremely beautiful and most serene religion of Islam, which has an extraordinary tradition of humanity, tolerance, brotherhood and love. As a Muslim, it is a most painful experience we as a civilization have been subjected to. It saddens and shocks us to witness such shameless interpretations of Islam to suit interests of gaining political mileage and power. Pakistan has been enriched by some of the biggest Sufi Saints of the century who have spent their entire lives spreading the love and light of a universal love for humanity regardless of class, caste, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, age, social status or economic background. Millions of Pakistanis today find solace in their teachings and have followed their paths for achieving human excellence, positive thinking, real emancipation and enlightenment. We do not connect with terrorism, at all.
The seeds of extremism were sowed by a host of parasitic powers to suit the then geo-political and strategic interests of the sole super power. The evil forces of terrorism and religious intolerance were fuelled by a destructive alliance of the west with the then military dictatorship in Pakistan. The effects of their power hungry agendas still effect us, all of us and everywhere, in Swat and in the UK. My heart goes out to the millions of Pakistani who have lost their loved ones, their schools and their homes to this harsh, deadly war which has been convened due to reasons completely alien to them. I feel guilty to see those faces of young girls and boys who have been displaced from the beautiful Swat valley which was once and ironically enough not long ago know as the tourists’ paradise. Their eyes have pinching questions and their gaze has pain, cold pain. Pain which reflects war and the deaths and destruction it brings. I look at the men and women and something inside me freezes, I literally hear screams which are too loud to be heard. They get merged with the images of dead bodies and blood in the marriot hotel bombing and the picture gets blurred. Reluctantly, I try to look away, putting both my hands on my ears because I think they have heard enough of painful screams over the last two years and they cannot take any more. But I cannot look away; I cannot become indifferent to the pain of my fellow Pakistanis, to my sisters and to my brothers. I cannot be insensitive to the cost they have and are still paying for the sins they have never committed. I includes me, it includes you, it includes all of us who belong to the same soil, who were born and brought up in the territory of Pakistan and who are lucky and privileged to proudly claim it as their country. It is sad truth that the pain brought by terrorism unites all of us in a strong way because each one of us is at a loss, of one kind or the other.
As for the arrested Pakistani students, I want those students to know that Pakistan has not lost faith in you, it never will. We, the Pakistani nation and particularly it’s youth are proud of you. But please do not let this incident effect you in a way that you undermine even in the slightest way our collective principles and moral ideals as Muslims, as Pakistanis and as the educated youth of Pakistan. It should only strengthen our resolve to defeat extremism by helping our fellow Pakistanis who are not effectes but survivors of this war against terror and by letting the world see that we are one, we always were and will remain so forever. I have complete faith that the collective realization of this massive responsibility on us through the might of our pen and strength of resolve will let us once again reach the heights of our long lost glory. In solidarity with each other…
(The writer is a Pakistani studying at the London School of Economics and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)