“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” – George Orwell (Animal Farm)
The phrase is from George Orwell’s allegorical novella ‘Animal Farm’. A group of animals establishes a commune to safeguard the rights of animals proposing Seven Commandments. One of which reads: “All animals are equal”. Years later, the period marked with treachery, nepotism and betrayal, the Seven Commandments are reduced to a single phrase: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
At the risk of sounding snob, let me say that hyper nationalism is the biggest farce of hitherto history that leads to jingoism, demagoguery and even mass destruction, when it comes to the people who do not fit to the sanctioned definition of nation and thus made outcast. Hyper nationalism paves the way to violent conflict that has claimed well over 100 million people in the twentieth century. Vague premises of definition of a nation have lead to suggest that the phenomenon itself is devoid of any substantial foundations given that the very term of a nation has been shrewdly manipulated in the name of race, culture, religion and politics.
A classic example that may be put forward in this regard is persecution of two distinct groups of Kurdish and Shia people in the Middle East where the former has been despised and annihilated on purely racial basis, while the latter is deemed fit for killing owing to the religious beliefs. The driving force behind the apartheid that fuels the violence is prevalent structure of oligarchies that draws the power from manipulating and provoking the nationalist sentiments of masses. Even the democratic and secular Turkey has this horrible history when it comes to dealing with minority Kurdish people.
In Pakistan’s case the question of less-equal-than-others is a paradox per se, given that the country itself came into being in the name of protecting the rights of a sizeable minority i.e. Muslims. Amongst the few first expeditions that state, itself carved out of Majority, embarked on was to synthesize diverse ethnic and religious identities into a collective national identity, by hook or by crook. The venture necessitated a strong centralized power structure with little, if any, representation of majority section of society, let alone the pariahs. The state, since then, has left no stone unturned to impose a superficial national identity built upon the debris of millions not-so-befitting for sanctioned definition of nation. Right from Bacha Khan to G.M.Syed including Sajjad Zaheer, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Syed Hassan Nasir, Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman, there’s a long list of traitors who would, otherwise, be embraced as assets of community if it were not about contrived nationalism.
If anything can be held responsible for the wretched condition of minorities in Pakistan, be it ethnic or religious i.e. Baloch, Shia, Ahmedis, Pukhtun, Christians etc, that would be security state’s unperceptive and blind pursuit of hegemonic nationalism that primarily emanates from India centric and strategic depth policies. At this juncture of our national history, it is fairly safe to claim that persecution of minorities in Pakistan is largely a byproduct of these preposterous policies. This is not to say that society, in and of itself, was completely pure of ethnic and religious prejudices, but these biases have been systematically made hey resulting into throwing the society into dark abyss of bigotry and xenophobia. The religion has been employed as a tool and ethnicity as a weapon. If Baloch are bearing the brunt of hegemonic policies of the state, then on the other hand Shias are being mass murdered across the country due to state’s Jihadist approach deemed requisite to so-called national interest – both are the victims of same mindset. No respite for those who have been made less-equal-than-others.
Tyranny and historical revisionism go hand in hand. A lot more than spilling the blood of innocent people is requisite to sustain the authoritarianism in the name of national interest and history proves to be the most vulnerable prey. As Plato’s dictum goes that, “those who tell the stories also hold the power”. History has been maneuvered in Pakistan like anything to give breaths to narratives authorized by the state. From syllabus of schools to mass media, each and every source of information bears the signature of particular mindset that has whatsoever no space for outcast – lie is the official truth and rhetoric is the official fact. This dangerous manipulation of the facts has come to be an insensitive public discourse for which many have coined the term ‘selective morality’. The morality that eschews each and everything not in line with popularly held beliefs and embraces what usually fed to it.
NATO attack on Salala check post may well stir up the controlled public opinion, but released video of soldiers being slaughtered by the Taliban fails to grab the attention of even the handful. To elaborate further that playing upon the Salala attack serves whose purpose, might be absurd. The death of Arfa Karim, child prodigy, may well throw the masses to mourning and rightly so, but inhumane killing of two dozen Shia mourners in Khanpur on the same day is dealt with utmost apathy. One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to comprehend that Arfa Karim adds to the hollow nationalism of those who have miserably failed to provide even the basic education to half of the population. While, on the other hand, the killings of Shias just don’t go with the illusionary image of a peaceful and tolerant Pakistan, propagated day in and day out, where minorities are not at all despised. Mutilated and bullet riddled bodies of Baloch people may not be deemed worthy of some space in press or electronic media. On the contrary a self-righteous anchor, Maya Khan, attracts the attention of whole lot of self proclaimed liberals raising the voice against media’s intrusion into private life. Duplicity is abundant in our part of world.
The madness doesn’t stop here. What come under the stern scrutiny of state nourished mindset are religious and ethnic symbols and concepts of minorities. Even at times the identity becomes taboo for them. The collective consciousness of people, evolved over the times of oppression, spurns to recognize the identity of even those unfortunate souls who are killed by virtue of very identity. Target killing of Shias in Karachi and Quetta is a glaring example. The media largely acts to overshadow the Shia identity of the victims and even otherwise sane sections of society succumb to play down the identity of victims viciously terming them as Pakistani or humans. The phenomenon serves the purpose only to reinforce the might of unnaturally imposed national identity. The situation has so much in common with Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel ‘Brave New World’ in which establishment of the state orders the people to lop off the tops of all crosses (the symbol of Christianity) to make them Ts (the symbol of Henry Ford’s Model T) in order to get rid of diverse symbols and identities of religions and people.
Some have deliberately been made less equal than others. Some, who have roots in this soil. Some, who are not ready to abandon their identities, come what may. Some, who have done great things for this land and will continue to do so. Some, who are equally sons of the soil. Some, who still embrace the boulevard of broken dreams. Some, who are not only Pakistani but also Baloch, Pukhtun, Shia, Ahmedi and Christians. Some, who simply want to be treated as equal as others.