Obama-Osama dilemma: I choose Edhi

Published: May 7, 2011
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Perhaps we can find Mr Edhi as our ideal, who has fought repression by saving rather than taking innocent lives.

The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death was broken to the world by US President Barack Obama on Sunday. However, the covert operation to kill Bin Laden was undertaken thousands of miles away in an upscale town of Pakistan.

On paper, it seems fitting that the country where Bin Laden was hiding should have taken part in the secret operation, but with regards to this particular incident, the US simply did not trust Pakistan.  CIA director Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that Pakistan could jeopardise the mission and “alert the targets” if Islamabad took part in the mission.

Many will cite this incidence as yet another blow to Pakistan’s sovereignty and honour. Initially, President Asif Ali Zardari eagerly informed the world that Pakistan participated in the operation, only to retract his statement later. Furthermore, the contentious allegations of Panetta might be a blot on Pakistan’s credibility but there is no room for whining and self-pity.

The fact that our nation is shown little or no respect is not only due to America’s arrogance and our politician’s misjudgements, but also due to dishonesty on our part. We the people are lazy, ill-informed and inflammatory. Although, this latest episode may have severe repercussions for Pakistan, we as a society had already degenerated to low levels of integrity. Hundreds of people have been killed in Karachi due to the ongoing gang violence; killings and abductions continue in Balochistan; corruption and domestic crime are rampant; the Taliban are on a bombing spree; the list goes on. Our misfortune seems to be a symptom of a wider malice: collective irresponsibility.

Lack of collective responsibility

Angelika Pathak (Amnesty International, South Asia) spoke of her organisation’s inability to help disadvantaged Pakistanis during Protect Human Week at Warwick. She focused on the longstanding issue of innumerable missing people in Pakistan,

“What worries me is the complete non-accountability of those responsible for these missing people,”

Angelika remarked during her talk,

“It is not only unfortunate that families are left clueless about their loved ones, more saddening is the fact that the perpetrators are given refuge in countries like the UK.”

Angelika was accompanied by Nawaz Hanif, a British born Pakistani, whose father spent four years on death row in Pakistan. Hanif exclaimed,

“My father’s only mistake was to help a dying man.”

The family of the man, whom Hanif’s father had helped, registered a FIR against him. After gruelling him for four years, it was found that the deceased was a victim of a family feud and Hanif’s father was finally released.

“Police used to say, “It’s our right to extort money from our wealthy brothers living abroad.” They not only extorted money, they took our father away from us.”

But, Hanif importantly remarked,

“My father’s story ended on a good note. However for many people falsely accused of a crime, the story ends under the hang man’s noose.”

Despite the subsequent governments’ claim of ‘bold’ and ‘radical’ steps to oust injustice, human rights violations take place consistently and we the people have become indifferent. This indifference is yet another symptom of the collective irresponsibility.

Hope for the future

However, not everyone whines and expresses anguish over this bleak scenario. Although the shrines of Sufi saints like Syed Sakhi Sarwar have been brutally attacked, one living saint refuses to bow down to criminal tactics. Peter Oborne of Channel 4 recently wrote a wonderful piece detailing his visit to this saint,

“In the course of my duties as a reporter, I have met presidents, prime ministers and reigning monarchs. Until meeting the Pakistani social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi, I had never met a saint. Within a few moments of shaking hands, I knew I was in the presence of moral and spiritual greatness.”

For decades, Mr Edhi has braved the violent and nihilistic legacy of organised crime, political killings, assault against women and more recently, suicide bombings. He started off his humanitarian organisation ‘Edhi’ by feeding the poor and burying unclaimed dead bodies. Now, his foundation has orphanages, drug rehabilitation centres, women shelters and an ambulance network spread around the country. His servitude to humanitarian work knows no bounds. While we as a nation cannot agree what Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was, Mr Edhi lives that vision.

Peter Oborne accentuated this point in his column,

“The story of Mr Edhi coincides with the history of the Pakistan state. More than any other living figure, he articulates Jinnah’s vision of a country which, while based on Islam, nevertheless offers a welcome for people of all faiths and sects.”

To be sure what Bin Laden and the US has done to Pakistan is perverse. Both have, in their own ways, terrorised Pakistan consistently in the last decade. Killing of innocent civilians, whether it’s done by a man with brown skin, white clothes in a dark cave or a man with white skin, dark clothes, in a the Whitehouse, is reprehensible. But simply feeling sorrowful that the ‘bad guys’ have wronged us again will do us no good. We made ourselves so vulnerable that firebrand individuals and selfish nations made our country their battleground. Therefore, it is us who can (and should) rekindle the Pakistan, as dreamt by our forefathers.

For those who praised Bin Laden’s fight against repression, they were grossly mistaken. Perhaps they can find Mr Edhi as their ideal, who fought repression by saving rather than taking innocent lives.

hassan.maitla

Hassan Talal Maitla

A student of economics at the University of Warwick and the President of the university's Islamic Society

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