Our lovely im­age

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Kamran Shafi

JUST back from a trip to lovely old Eng­land - oh how I love Eng­land! - and the usual ex­pe­ri­ences: the im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer at Heathrow fall­ing off her chair at the mere sight of my green pass­port, then get­ting up and af­ter brush­ing off her clothes set­tling down for a de­tailed scru­tiny, re­fer­ring to her com­puter, suss­ing me out for the nth time, and so on.

All with the great­est cour­tesy and re­spect I must add.But do we even know, in­deed do we even ac­cept, the trep­i­da­tion with which we are seen in other coun­tries, that the name we have given our­selves, by our own ac­tions most of all, is not a very good one? Do we ever pause and think why it is that in the time it takes an im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer to process one of us, his or her col­leagues process up to seven or eight pass­ports of other coun­tries, yes, in­clud­ing In­dia?

These are im­por­tant ques­tions which we Pak­ista­nis must ask our­selves, about which later. Let us first of all go to the lat­est ou­trage, nay mon­stros­ity, which we have chucked at the world - the sen­tence of death pro­nounced upon Aa­sia Bibi a poor Chris­tian woman of Sheikhupura district for a crime she sim­ply could not have com­mit­ted.

I mean, for heaven's sake, don't we know our own coun­try, our own Sheikhupura, our own peo­ple? Is it at all pos­si­ble that a Chris­tian woman, be­long­ing to a tiny mi­nor­ity which is al­ready se­verely tor­mented by the very vast ma­jor­ity, its Mus­lim neigh­bours, would com­mit blas­phemy in the man­ner al­leged?

Ev­ery sin­gle time that a Chris­tian has been ac­cused of blas­phemy I have said that the per­son should first of all be taken to a psy­chi­a­trist to de­ter­mine whether he or she is men­tally sound. For it makes no sense at all for mem­bers of the weak and dis­pos­sessed Chris­tian com­mu­nity to com­mit this crime in this hard and piti­less coun­try.

As to the spe­cific charges in Aa­sia's case that she com­mit­ted blas­phemy af­ter some Mus­lim women work­ing in the fields with her re­fused to drink wa­ter from her glass, she would not on her own of­fer her glass in the first place. For, as yet an­other ex­am­ple of our in­tol­er­ance, in­deed plain hypocrisy, it is not done that a Mus­lim would use a Chris­tian's uten­sils to drink or eat from. (And we have the gall to blame Hin­duism for the caste sys­tem!) Ae hookah peenh alay

Two anec­dotes come to mind. Once, in those far-off days when I was farm­ing in Sheikhupura district, I was su­per­vis­ing some work in a field next to a track which led from our vil­lage to the next one. A man pass­ing by saw a hookah be­long­ing to one of my work­ers and asked if it was (lit­er­ally) 'smoke­able', in Pun­jabi "".

I did not un­der­stand the ques­tion so asked what the man had said. "He is ask­ing if this is hookah be­longs to a Chris­tian," one of them said. I then said to the man that ours was a Chris­tian vil­lage; that if he wanted to smoke the hookah he was wel­come, oth­er­wise he should be on his way. The fel­low qui­etly sat down on his haunches and af­ter a sat­is­fy­ing smoke walked on to his vil­lage. wan­gaar wan­gaar degh

The sec­ond was when I had asked for a , a great sys­tem preva­lent in all farm­ing so­ci­eties in which neigh­bour­ing farm­ers gather to help one of their num­ber get ur­gent work out of the way quickly. In Pun­jab, the farmer who asks for cooks a or two to pro­vide sus­te­nance to his helpers. munshi

It was at lunchtime that I no­ticed ev­ery­body else tuck­ing away into their food and young Mehnga, Baba Qadir's son, sit­ting a lit­tle way away, not eat­ing. When I asked why, my took me aside and said in low tones that Mehnga was wait­ing for his lit­tle brother to bring him his own plate so that he could eat.

Since all of them were eat­ing out of my crock­ery, I im­me­di­ately served Mehnga my­self, and then an­nounced that the plates be­ing used were those that had been eaten from by Chris­tians many times, in­deed, my Amer­i­can and Ger­man and Swiss and Brit friends who would of­ten come for week­ends to my farm, some­times for ex­tended lunches, and which ev­ery­one present knew about.

What was it about Mehnga, I asked, the colour of his skin that he was not eat­ing with them? There was not a squeak out of any one of them, I can tell you, and never again any such non­sense in Kot Hyat Khan.

So then, it is sim­ply not pos­si­ble that Aa­sia Bibi her­self in­sisted that her Mus­lim co-work­ers drink from her glass, and when they did not, com­mit blas­phemy. It is time that this hor­ren­dous law was amended to make it less harsh and one-sided. For we know that it has very of­ten been used to vic­timise op­po­nents and peo­ple who do not con­form to the dic­tates of some­one, not only Chris­tian but many Mus­lim un­for­tu­nates too.

Let us all of us then, sup­port the coura­geous Sherry Rehman in her ef­forts to amend the blas­phemy laws by tabling a pri­vate mem­bers' bill in the Na­tional Assem­bly. Let us pe­ti­tion our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to sup­port this amend­ment so that the Damo­cles sword hang­ing above our poor and pow­er­less mi­nori­ties is re­moved once and for all. We must en­sure that what hap­pened to so many Pak­ista­nis such as lit­tle Rehmat Masih's un­cle, Man­zoor Masih, who was shot dead in broad day­light while wait­ing for a bus af­ter his nephew's court hear­ing); or to Jus­tice Arif Iqbal Bhatti who was shot dead af­ter ac­quit­ting Rehmat Masih. n

Let us trans­form Pak­istan from an ugly and cruel and mer­ci­less coun­try to one that is beau­ti­ful and kind and com­pas­sion­ate.

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