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Re-Silencing the Conscience!

I remember those not-so-old times of my life when I, like many others, had no knowledge about how the State functions, how institutions perform, how different religions work, and no specific questions used to arise as such. It is that time, in our lives, when all of us, including me, are being trained to think in a particular way, and in a particular direction – in the way that ‘son, do not go near the fire, it will burn you’. It was the time when our elders tried to show us the ‘right’ path to lead our lives. We were being taught to deliberate in the way our elders wanted us to; and where every ‘voice of dissent’ used to be crushed.

(Un) fortunately, I was born in a society, which has a history, like almost every other nation, of controlling the thought process of people. I was born in a country where the conscience was compelled to work in a way that our society wished virtuous, and our elders deemed right. A country; where a Governor was publicly killed for siding Aasia bibi, where a sitting judge of Lahore High Court was shot dead in his chamber for deciding an issue of blasphemy in favor of the accused on account of insufficient, where Sabeen Mehmud(s) get(s) the fatal reward for raising voices for the marginalized people of the society, where a dictator told a debater that it was he (the dictator) who has given him (the debater) the right to speak freely, where a special child has no State-run school to get education from, where the subjects of Comparative Religions and Science were banned in the schools, and where the governmental department issues a notification directing all universities of the province to avoid giving ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘anti-cultural’ topics for debate and research.

Affirmative. This is in pursuance of a recently issued notification by the Higher Education Department, Government of Punjab, to ‘request’ all the private and public sector universities, around the province, to avoid “inculcation of anti-cultural and anti-Pakistan” sentiments, and to play constructive role in “nurturing nationalism” among the students (youth) of the country.

A reasonable bystander would always think that open and healthy debates, among the students (at university level, if not at school level), help them grow better, and incline them to think out of the box. This is what has been assumed by every student of our country, in this modern age of fundamental liberties and constitutional rights, until now, when the department issued said notification.

To discuss the scope of the notification, it is pertinent to point out that the terms used in the text of notification are so broad that the question arises where to draw the line? And the next question is who would draw that line? ‘Anti-Pakistan’ may and shall include the State, the State institutions, including Army and the Judiciary, and eventually the elected members of Parliament. Who would then decide what is anti-Pakistan, and what is not? Because (arguably) then you, I, a mullah in the mosque, a bureaucrat in his office, and we all, individually and collectively, are Pakistan.

Similarly, one would not be able to ‘debate’ and ‘research’ against pagri and laacha. One would not be able to sympathize with Shias. One would not allowed to incline towards a Sarrhi and an Ghagra Choli as compared to theshalwar qameez and choridar pajama, in a comparison of two cultures. Since the notification is issued to the universities situated in province of Punjab, only the Punjabi culture will be protected or the Sindhi, Balochi and others are included as well?

After so many years, we, the students, have started to recognize our status in the society, to mend our ways of life, to think broadly and out of the box. We, as a nation, have been trying to not repeat the mistakes that our elders have done. On the contrary, what is being done to us is an attempt to ‘re-silence our conscience’. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi had rightly summed up this situation in his poem:

“Zindagi k jitney darwazay hen mujh par band hen,

Dekhna, had-e nazar se barh kar dekhna b jurm hy,

Sochna, apne aqeedon or yaqeenon se nikal kr sochna b jurm hy,

Kiyun b kehna jurm hy, Kese b kehna jurm hy,

Sans lene ki azaadi tau muyassar hy magar,

Zinda rehne k lye aadmi ko kuch or bhi darker hy,

Or us ‘kuch or bhi’ ka tazkara bhi jurm hy

Aey hunar-mandan-e-aaen-o-siyasat,

Aey khuda-wandaan-e-aiwaan-o-iqtidaar,

Zindagi k naam par bus ik anayat chahye,

Muje in saaray juraiyam ki ijazat chahye”

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