A numbness to murder

Published: May 28, 2014
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Both professionals were killed because they belonged to the sects different than those of their murderers. Both shared the common denomination of being the wrong kind of Muslims.

The murder on a mundane Monday morning was as meaningless as the murder on a tedious Tuesday morning. The details, however, differ in terms of bullet count.

Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar, an Ahmadi cardiologist based in the United States was visiting Pakistan to carry out voluntary work at a local hospital. On Monday morning, May 26, 2014, he was shot 11 times while he was visiting a cemetery in the town of Chenab Nagar.

On the other hand, Professor Shabbir Hussain Shah was a student service director at the University of Gujrat and a Shia by sect. On Tuesday morning, November 19, 2013, the bullets spewed on him when he was about to reach the university campus were countless.

These two murders are as meaningless to reason as they are meaningful to the murderers. Both professionals were killed because they belonged to sects different than those of their murderers. Both fell prey to the vicious on-going murder campaigns against Shias and Ahmadis. Both bore the brunt of their state’s inaction during the rising incidents of religiously motivated targeted killings of professionals. Both shared the common denomination of being the wrong kind of Muslims.

However, the most horrifying aspect of the whole state of affairs lies in the futility of the murders that have come to be an everyday phenomenon. Massacres have never been so inconspicuous before. Internalisation of violence is so axiomatic that it can only be defined in terms of numbness. Intellectuals and professionals have always been the foremost target throughout history when it comes to repressing the voices of dissent. But in this case, it is not even dissent that has brought the horrors of death upon the slain. It is merely their existence that has become their unforgiveable crime.

There are people who speak from the valley of death. They harbinger the new dawn for which they perished. They unite the living from their resting place and show them the path forward. And then there are those who go to eternal oblivion just after they are dead. They don’t speak to the living. Their eternal silence constitutes the dead conscience of those who are still living in this mortal world. The absence of their memory haunts the society forever. Ours fall under the latter category, those who are numerous and forgotten. Not only have we lost them but the count too. What we do possess though is the bullet count.

During the distant afternoons when Professor Shah would speak about Marxism’s relevance in modern times during Thinkers Forum’s gatherings in Gujrat, he never would have even imagined being gunned down because of his name or his belief. Similarly, when Dr Mehdi was volunteering for the second time at the Tahir Heart Institute, a hospital specialising in cardiac treatment, he never would have thought of getting shot because of his faith. But then, survival in the land of the pure is coupled with the cross you are bearing. This is all too similar to the Star of David put on the sleeves of Jews for identification purposes during the Holocaust by the Nazis. This was also done irrespective of their professions.

Messiahs have been murdered for not what they had done but for what they were. They do not speak to the living from their resting place. They will be joined by many very soon and they will fall silent collectively only to haunt the living with their silence. Piles upon piles of lives are destined to go wasted as long as the meta-narrative of hate and intolerance exists, until the state keeps excommunicating people and playing God, until spewing venom on pulpits is allowed. Such are the inconsequential murders of our times.

Until then, it is obligatory for poets to write poetry of pain, for perpetual pain has a right to poetic expression. Until then, it is necessary for benign observers to keep track of the trickle of blood that flows from under the doors, streets and keeps following the spear. Until then, it is imperative for writers to fearfully write about the withering innocence. Until then, it is essential for the living to keep breathing unashamedly.

After the 1995 massacre in Karachi on the occasion of Ayub Khan’s election, no one but Faiz Ahmed Faiz could enliven the unspeakable futility of the blood spilled in vain.

“Na razamgah mein barsa ke moatbir hota,

Kisi alam pe raqm ho ke mushtehar hota,

Pukarta raha beaasra, yatim lahu”

(It did not flow in the battlefield to win public acclaim,

Nor did it wet the battle flag to broadcast its fame,

It was the poor, orphaned blood, it cried out in vain)

Suleman Akhtar

Suleman Akhtar

A mechanical engineer belonging to Gujrat.

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