Death in fire: Learning from Raja Khan

Published: October 27, 2011
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In Tunisia, a case of self immolation led to a revolution - could this happen in Pakistan too?

Raja Khan, a father of two, ended his life after committing self-immolation in front of Parliament House on a day when the entire government machinery was focused on the funeral of former PPP chairperson Nusrat Bhutto.

The day was officially declared a national holiday and the entire leadership had rushed to Garhi Khuda Bux to attend the funeral.

It would be safe to assume that most of them had gone not only to express their sympathies but also to make their presence felt with the ruling party and the Bhutto family.

Raja Khan, on the other hand, was a frustrated young man, who came all the way from Naushero Feroze in Sindh to Islamabad with the hope of meeting his area’s MNA, Syed Zafar Ali Shah. He also hoped that if he was able to meet him he would be given a job.

However, despite days of efforts, he was unable to meet his own MNA and decided to eventually take his own life.

The man was so frustrated that he preferred to die in pain rather than go back and face his family.

The tragedy of Raja Khan is not different from that of Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor who set himself on fire in Tunisia on December 17 last year when the municipal administration confiscated his push-cart, which he used to sell fruits and vegetables to earn a living.

The flames that enveloped Bouaizizi’s body did not stop at his death, but engulfed the regime of the then Tunisian President Zainul Abideen ben Ali and then spread to dictatorial regimes in several other Middle Eastern and North African countries.

Revolution washed away decades-old dictatorial regimes and the despots are either dead, locked up, or still battling for survival in the face of mounting protests against their regimes.

It is high time for the Pakistani ruling elite to ponder and learn a lesson from this tragedy, as the blood of Raja Khan could incite public anger in Pakistan and spread the flames of frustration and revolt across the country. This  is because the ground realities concerning governance are no different from the Middle East. People are extremely frustrated and there is great anger because of unemployment, poverty, injustice and  bad governance.

Peer Muhammad

Peer Muhammad

A correspondent for The Express Tribune in Islamabad.

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