Pakistan’s inhumanity is robbing our children of their innocence

Published: August 30, 2016
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From a very young age of three, my son was made aware of the fact that school would be closed if there was a rally or strike. I’m very sure he didn’t quite understand what a rally or strike was but for him it was a happy day because it meant a day off from school. PHOTO: THEGLOSS.COM

The other day, my son wrote a story about a king and a prisoner who wanted to kill the king. The prisoner made an extraordinary gun and wanted to shoot the king to avenge his imprisonment. After two attempts the captive was successful in murdering the king. When my son finished reading his story out to me, I was literally in a state of panic. I asked him to stop writing stories that mention guns or killings and warned him against sharing them at school. He innocently informed me that he had already shown it to his teacher and that she was okay with it.

Photo: Beenish Hashwani

My son was born in 2007, when the country was relatively more secure. Or maybe it wasn’t, but our children were not directly at risk in the happenings that took place. Two years later, like any other two-year-old, my son started going to school.

I clearly remember that it was in December when schools in Karachi first began to receive threats, forcing them to be shut down. The elite private schools established email systems and processes for children to do their homework and compensate for missed school days.

From the young age of three, my son was made aware of the fact that school would be closed if there was a rally or strike. I’m sure he didn’t quite understand what a rally or strike was, but for him it was an exciting prospect because it meant a day off from school.

He was then exposed to the horrors of the airport attack, because it put us in a quandary for our trip to Disney World, with me panicking over what would become of our plans.

And then the most traumatic of all events came when the innocent children of the Army Public School were killed and, as a parent, my heart fell to the pit of my stomach in utter empathy and helplessness. I felt dreadful. The attack and the sheer brutality of it is indescribable. I remember being awake till three in the morning, following up on each and every personal account and detail of the young children killed – for no actual reason. All I remember is crying continuously and uncontrollably during that time. There was no consolation, none whatsoever. It was the worst imaginable nightmare for every single mother in Pakistan.

After the APS attack, schools took their own security to a whole different level. Barbed wires were placed around school walls, metal detectors installed at gates and security with guns and rifles were placed outside schools. Resuming the school routine after the APS incident seemed more like returning to a prison rather than an educational institution. Instead of inculcating creativity, schools made eager-to-learn children undergo strict security drills and practise evacuation in case of APS influenced attacks.

It was this background and upbringing that my son took with him when we moved to Adelaide in South Australia. We do consider ourselves fortunate to be able to provide our son with a more positive environment where he can pursue his studies and learn without having to worry about security issues. Atleast, that is what I had thought!

Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that no matter where you go or live, you will always be traced down to your origins, which I am always mindful of. Speaking casually of bomb attacks, guns, killings and murders is not the norm here. Rather, it can raise suspicion and that is the last thing a new migrant would like to arouse. So, I had to very carefully explain to my son that he couldn’t refer to things like bombs and guns in his everyday conversations at school.

My unconfirmed fears turned true when the young boy in the USA was taken away by the FBI for making a clock that looked like a bomb. And once again, I reiterated to my son that he cannot talk about such issues in public.

In the morning when I drive my son to school, I provide him with filtered news updates about Pakistan. I will tell him about the recent rains, a fire that broke out at Gul Plaza and newly opened eating joints. But I consciously omit mentioning the recent spate of kidnappings in Lahore, the horrendous Quetta attack and other similar events. I try as much as possible to mention only the good things happening back home, trying to draw a connection to his home country that is not completely gloomy, but one with hope and happiness.

The point here is, regardless of whether I live in Pakistan or not, my fear is intact regarding the safety of my son and his future. In Pakistan, it was from terrorists and other radical elements and now it is from his origin, his faith and his childhood exposure to elements that were too advanced for his tender age to comprehend.

Beenish Hashwani

Beenish Hashwani

The author has over 15 years of development work experience in the Asia Pacific region and has a keen interest in world affairs, human rights and changing social dynamics.

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

  • Phantom

    You are attempting to brain wash your child and turn him into a robot…this can have a negative impact on him…Recommend

  • Ainy

    This is very heart breaking…..that was the last day when I firmly decided to leave Pakistan and that was black day when terrorists storm APS Peshawar. the images of that day still haunts me. though I left Pakistan and living in very peaceful country. but its not by choice its alternative. I.e. want a better place for my kid.Recommend

  • SOHAIB HANIF

    Looks like one confused mom please quit running from every non normal thing in the world and then one day u may guide ur child instead of living his life for himRecommend

  • Milind A

    She’s not running from non-normal things… She’s insulating him from the harsh and uncomfortable things of life. There’s a time for sharing non-normal things with your child and her child is not there yet. Let her child have a happy childhood free of stress and worries, rather than maturing him early.Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    This is Pakistan. Then comes ZAB. He divided Pakistan in two so that he can grab power. West Pakistani Military killed 3 Million East Pakistani, mostly East Pakistani Professional Intellectuals. And few years later he was taken. What a country? Jinnah is still turning over in his grave. Humanity died 69 years ago.Recommend

  • MR.X

    These things happen and he should know about them. See the west so many single moms there and they are raising feminized boys there. Masculinity is being discouraged through media, schools etc. having a negative impact on societyRecommend

  • omaranis

    encourage him don’t discourage him, his mind is his to be free, don’t weigh him down with your fears and prejudices.Recommend

  • omaranis

    all the video games he will play, most of the movies and tv he will watch, including cartoons are laced with graphic images of dismemberment and blood, just teach him to differentiate between games and real life.Recommend