Have some mercy, Pakistan!

Published: August 23, 2012
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This 11-year-old Christian girl is a victim of intolerance and that too in her own country. PHOTO: REUTERS

For 65 years, Pakistanis have struggled to agree on an identity that defines us as a nation. However, a sickening incident that occurred on Friday could serve as a reminder of the one thing no sane, literate person can question.

An 11-year-old Christian girl in Islamabad was booked for blasphemy after being accused of burning a Noorani Qaida, a booklet used to familiarise children with Arabic as written in the Quran. The girl is believed to have Down Syndrome. While enough to explain and even forgive her for her actions if they are true, it did not save her or her mother from being thrashed by a reactionary mob.

Now, while most adults with Down Syndrome have severely diminished IQs, often below the level required to establish a ‘sound mind’ for the purpose of trial or even basic everyday functions, some children and adults who suffer from the genetic condition are able to live full lives and even do ‘normal’ jobs.

There is a caveat though. This only applies to people who are able to get access to proper therapy and support, which doesn’t come cheap.

This girl, however, lived in a slum. The only support she would have gotten, if any, would be from her family and mostly likely in form of moral support not monetary. She is a victim, not a criminal. She is a victim of poverty. She is a victim of illiteracy. But most of all, she is a victim of intolerance and that too in her own country.

There are more than seven billion people in the world. Over a quarter of them live in poverty.

Hoping for those motivated by hatred to just kill each other off won’t work and is far too ambitious, because the world is their recruitment ground.

At some level, there will always be sociopaths. There will always be intolerant people. There will always be corruption. But in the same way, there will always be good in people as well.

With real literacy, not just the ability to read and write one’s own name, but a clear, even if only limited, understanding of science, arts, philosophy, and of course culture, we can combat and hopefully minimise the impact of evil and all the negative aura surrounding us. Unfortunately, to do even that, we must be able to agree on major issues when we live in a world where even the most minor issue creates a polarised divide.

We argue over our primary identity in a similar manner. Is it Pakistani? Punjabi? Pakhtun? Sindhi? Balochi? Muslim? Sunni? Shia?

The answer to this paramount question? None of the above.

Our identity must be based on the one thing no one can change, and that no one can hide.

Our identity, is our humanity.

We must accept that regardless of skin colour, religion, education or income level, every life is meant to be spent in the pursuit of happiness, earthly or divine. Hate can never breed joy but joy can trump hate.

And with apologies to the late John Lennon,

‘Imagine all the people living life in peace. You might say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one’.

Peace is everyone’s silent wish and we must strive to attain it by reviving the human inside of us.

Read more by Vaqas here or follow him on Twitter @vasghar

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.