A letter to the prime minister: My neighbour was killed, Sir, will I be killed too?

Published: May 20, 2014

Millions of harmless men, such as these, die each day and it breaks my heart to see this harmless man’s family in pain.I want to stay back and help my people, but, Sir, I am so scared.

Millions of harmless men, such as these, die each day and it breaks my heart to see this harmless man’s family in pain.I want to stay back and help my people, but, Sir, I am so scared. Dear Mr Prime Minister, can you please cure us of this fear we all Pakistanis have. PHOTO:AFP

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

My neighbour was shot yesterday. I heard cries erupt all over the house, when the news of his death was conveyed to his loved ones. He was a simple man, taking care of a family of four. One wonders why anyone would want to kill someone so harmless.

People say he was shot because of his sect. But, I guess that is not so important to you. Why would my neighbour or I be important? Millions of harmless men, such as these, die each day and it breaks my heart to see this harmless man’s family in pain.

But that is not why I wrote to you.

The purpose of this letter was to discuss a fear I harbour.  A fear that has incapacitated me so deeply, my hands shiver, as I write about it. I know you are not a psychiatrist, but my psychiatrist thinks only you have the answer to my fears.

The last time I remember being fine, Mr Prime Minister, was when President Musharraf was the President of this country. I remember walking on the streets without any palpitations. Then the elections took place and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) came into power. Those were the days in which the seeds of this excruciating fear were being sown deep into my heart. The fear that has kept me up for many nights; a fear of the unknown; a fear that encompasses many Pakistanis, such as my neighbour who like many others was killed in cold blood.

During this regime, every time a member of my family walked out of the house, my heart skipped a beat. My eyes would glue themselves to the clock, slowly ticking away every minute, waiting for them to come home safe and sound. Every minute felt like it was a day long, Mr Prime Minister.

Every time an unknown number flashed across my cell phone screen I would break into a sweat. Every buzz made me think of the worst, every ring made me think that the person calling bore bad news. Every time a motorcyclist crossed my path I would look at him with suspicion and anxiety. Every time I was out on the road my mind would start imagining what it would feel like to have a bullet penetrate through my body. I caught myself thinking how much it would hurt, or whether it would kill me before I would have time to feel the pain. I was scared, Mr Prime Minister. Right up to the last days of the PPP’s governance, I was living in a state of extreme paranoia. Television, as you may already know, was not much of a distraction with its hourly tickers of tragic bulletins.

Then it was election time again and this time you became our prime minister. I was secretly hoping for change, a cure for my paranoia. I thought you would bring that sense of security back, Mr Prime Minister. It has been a year and I still live in extreme fear. Fear for my life, fear for the lives of my family, friends and acquaintances.

Last week I graduated with a degree in medicine, Mr Prime Minister. I topped my class which leads me to believe that I am capable of doing great things for this country.

I want to stay back and help my people, Mr Prime Minister. I dream of a big hospital for the poor but, Sir, I am so scared. If I become a famous personality in this land, will it increase the chances of that bullet penetrating through me?  The one I’ve imagined countless times?

The image of Dr Haider Raza doesn’t leave my mind, Sir. He was shot a few days ago for the mere crime of helping his countrymen. I sometimes wonder whether you would even care if I left this country. Would it bother you, Mr Prime Minister?

Sir, I don’t need a laptop. I need a cure for this fear. It is eating me up inside and I am writing to you in a state of tremendous helplessness. I know you are busy but I do not know who else to ask.

I want to walk freely on the roads again. I want to do great things for this country, Mr Prime Minister. And I need your help, Sir. Can you help? Can you cure me of this fear?

I await your response eagerly, Sir.


Fearful citizens of Pakistan

Saba Fatima Ali

Saba Fatima Ali

A final year medical student at Dow Medical College. She tweets @SabaFatimaAli (twitter.com/SabaFatimaAli)

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