Dear people of Pakistan, our politicians may be corrupt looters, but you’re far worse

Published: July 15, 2018
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They say all is fair in love and war, and elections can count as modern-day warfare, which is why some leeway is acceptable for the nastiness that precedes an election.

Election season is never pretty in any part of the world, and Pakistan is no exception. Sleazy comments, tell-all books, personal attacks, we have seemingly witnessed it all in a span of months.

They say all is fair in love and war, and elections can count as modern-day warfare, which is why some leeway is sort of acceptable for the nastiness that precedes an election. However, even wars have rules, and certain events have transpired that – no matter what side you find yourself on – are completely unforgivable. Not only are we getting to witness the true face of our politicians, we are witnessing the true face of the general populace as well – and it’s ugly.

The following are five events from the past week alone that should make us feel ashamed of ourselves:

1. The attack on Junaid Safdar:

It is not a new phenomenon for our nation to take “justice” into its own hands (public lynchings, anyone?). And when it comes to Nawaz Sharif, our people don’t seem to know where to draw the line. Maryam Nawaz’s son Junaid was recently arrested for a scuffle with a worker from an opposing party, but videos soon emerged showing what the scuffle entailed.

A man can be heard screaming rape threats directed at someone’s mother. While it is unclear who was this being directed at, people on social media have alleged that it was against Junaid. However, unsurprisingly, there are many out there defending what is being said in the video, suggesting that Maryam deserves whatever is coming. While we do not condone physical violence or aggression, how can one possibly in good conscience justify a rape threat? Is being charged as a thief enough for our society to justify rape? In a country that still mourns Zainab and countless other victims of rape, being so cavalier and quick to throw around rape threats – especially when pointed at women we do not like – shows where the problem lies.

We all know “honour” makes the Pakistani man’s world go round. That guy allegedly attempted to ‘dishonour’ Junaid by threatening to rape his mother. If this seems like understandable behaviour to anyone, they should really just cease to exist. We already have too many vile human beings in this country; there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate more.

Let’s take a look at events in Junaid’s life, and we know it’s too much too much to ask for, but try being in his shoes for a few seconds:

Grandmother: Pronounced brain dead, fighting for her life

Grandfather: Going to jail

Father: In jail

Mother: Going to jail

On top of all that, you cannot leave your house because every time you do, a mob waiting outside start hurling nasty comments at you and your family. And you just had to say goodbye to your mother, knowing what awaits her, and you’re feeling angry and upset when someone passes a comment that was uncalled for.

If someone passed a rape comment about your mother, what would you do? Would it not boil your blood? Would you not react, like every other human would considering human nature? Would you not want to punch that man?

Yes, Nawaz and Maryam have been charged for corruption. But does that make it okay to harass her children? To punish children for the sins of their parents? To tell a son that his mother should be raped? If this is simply how people behave in the heat of the moment, we have no right to ever call #JusticeFor anyone.

Have you ever wondered why Pakistan is the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women? Because our general public consists of people who either casually throw around rape threats, or people who sit back and defend them.

2. The slut-shaming of Reham Khan

Reham’s controversial book ruffled a lot of feathers, even before its release. Though Reham received a lot of flak (as expected) and became a frequent topic in the national conversation, the dialogue would more often than not progress with misogynistic overtones. Thus, it was not surprising to see misogynistic comments yet again after the release of the actual book.

Yes, the contents of the book are questionable, and the moral ambiguity of the revelations needs to be discussed at length. But why are we incapable of criticising women (or men) without inevitably showing how sexist and misogynist we truly are? Can Reham not be critiqued for the content of her book without people mentioning she is a divorcee? Or claiming that Jemima is better than her? Or taking the route followed by Sheikh Rasheed, and calling her a prostitute?

3.The “emasculation” of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

It is not uncommon to see politicians attack each other, neither is it uncommon to see their followers pick up on that rhetoric and attack other political parties and their supporters. After all, all this is strangely part of a healthy democracy. But as mentioned earlier, there are certain limits that can never be crossed, such as mocking Bilawal for unwarranted reasons – not for his participation in dynasty politics, or his father’s alleged corruption, or his party’s lack of action in Sindh, all of which are legitimate reasons to criticise him. Instead, Bilawal is often mocked for his “femininity”, and he is often labelled either a homosexual or a transgender.

Mocking PPP’s paid content making rounds on national TV, Pakistanis did not hesitate to make fun of Bilawal’s manner of speaking, calling it “girlish” and “transgender-like”.

We celebrate when a member of the transgender community becomes an anchor, or when a school is built for them or even when a law is placed for their protection. However, we do not hesitate to use the same community as a means to demean others. Because at the face of it, Pakistanis want to seem open-minded, kind and accepting. But in reality they always look down upon anyone that does not fit their idea of “perfect”. Because how can a macho, manly male speak so softly?

4. The defeminisation of women

Another revelation to come out of Reham’s infamous tell-all was the allegation that Imran believes Shireen Mazari is “hardly a woman”.

Mazari is often dragged on social media, and was once again not spared as people took up the opportunity to troll her once again and share precisely the extent to which Mazari was “not a woman”. However, when Ayesha Siddiqa, a scholar of South Asian and military affairs, tweeted about this, people quickly began attacking her as well, with personal attacks on her looks being all-too frequent.

5. A mother ridiculed

A video went viral recently where Nawaz’s mother is seen announcing that she will not let her son go to prison and if he is, she will go with him. We understand that many people thought this was a tactic to gain public sympathy. However, it wasn’t justified what people ended up saying about her. Ridiculing her for giving birth to Nawaz, praying that she is never able to stand on her own two feet or even giving death threats revealed the 50 shades of inhumanity in the people of this country. It is a sad state of affairs when a mother is attacked for trying to protect her son. Even mothers of murderers and rapists would protect their sons, any mother would.

However, it is indeed worse that we do not have even an iota of respect for our elderly.

Photo: Screenshot

Photo: Screenshot

The elections are just an excuse for people to bring their worst selves to the table – anyone who has seen the Purge movies can probably relate. It doesn’t matter what party you support, at the end of the day, you all vote for harassment. You get what you vote for, and that is why this country is how it is.

The politicians of your country and the people you elect are reflective of the larger public – after all, the corrupt and greedy politicians we despise so much are all coming from within our own people. If anything, the vile and vulgar comments we see on social media day in and day out make it evident that our people are as bad as our politicians. After all, we can only blame politicians for so much; overtime, we’ve transformed precisely into the politicians we love to hate so much. Case in point: Imran Khan

Or perhaps we were always one and the same. What better way to represent a problematic nation than a problematic politician?

 

Blogs Desk

Blogs Desk

The Express Tribune Blogs desk.

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