The three days of mourning
A bunch of carefree schoolboys , joyfully playing cricket is always a happy sight to come across. But playing cricket on a Wednesday morning, when they should have been at their schools is not a comforting thought. I gathered some courage and got close to a boy standing at the long off position to inquire about this truant behaviour. “ aap ko maloonm nahin key 57 Molana mar geay heiN aor hum ko teen din ki chuttee mil gai hey”, he said with a broad grin just before diving off towards a fast approaching boundary shot.
There is very little evidence to suggest that the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) celebrated his birthday in his own life time. It would have therefore come to him as a rude shock that his followers would one day come up with such morbid and violent rituals to commemorate this peaceful occasion. This Rabi-ul-Awwal has been particularly harsh. One could gather very little sleep in the first ten days, as the contractors of Islam had their loud speakers operating at full blast for most part of the day and night. Where does one seek refuge from these destroyers of public peace. There are five of them in my immediate neighbourhood, all of different shades of ‘fiqhas’, competing for maximum market share, loudest volume, and harshest vocal cords.
Numbers and marketing play a pivotal role in the politics of religion. Which brand of religion can attract the largest crowd, the biggest congregation or the longest rally is what matters. In his excitement of collecting a large captive audience, a Karachi mosque manager managed to pack some ten thousand women and children in a three story building, which had just one gate for entry and exit. While the Lord loves his people, clearly He would prefer to stand by his own principles, one of them so well explained by Bernoulli, that describes the behaviour and the chaos inside a venturi. Thirty women and children died in a stampede that lasted no more than twenty eight minutes. The gate keepers did not allow rescue teams to enter for fear of causing disrespect or dishonour to the needy trampled females. One wonders if a female rescue team would be allowed to rescue males in a similar situation. The Government has enough money to build a water fountain worth Rs. 225 million, but not enough money to buy rescue ambulances for its ordinary citizens. The ordinary citizens must simply die on such occasions. The family receives Rupees one hundred thousand, and an official statement that the dead would hopefully end up in heavens. (for that is where all Shaheeds go).
Muslims in this part of the world can hardly be referred to as Muslims any longer. In this country being a Muslim is not considered good enough, unless supplemented by an extra appendix of one or the other Fikha. The law of this (uncalled for Islamic) Republic requires people to declare their category of Fikha even for financial and banking purposes. Clearly being Muslim is not adequate. Come 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal, and the followers of one Fikha decide to hold a still larger congregation at Nishtar Park. Their opponents decide to blow them out of the park by a massive suicide attack, that takes out the entire top leadership plus another fifty odd followers in one go. The Government has once again no police, no ambulances, no rescue teams and no emergency services to handle such situations. Interestingly it took only thirty minutes for the Chief Minister to announce the standard package of Rs. one hundred thousand compensation to the family of dead, Rs. fifty thousand to the injured and Rs. twenty thousand to the bruised. An hour later a British citizen announces a three day mourning, an advise readily and happily picked up by the local government and issued as a formal order of three day official mourning.
The children will joyfully play cricket for three days. Much of the business will remain shut. The leaders would nauseatingly pronounce the same old hackneyed platitudes. The enquiry will yield the same result as all the previous inquiries have done so inconclusively. Pakistan will slide behind the rest of the world by yet another three days. A city can never handle an emergency if it can not handle its routine daily situations. The religious mafia needs to be brought within the fold of law and civic obligations. Religious rallies, gatherings and rituals that hinder public life need to be regulated. The public torture by the use of loudspeakers must be eliminated. (That also goes for the use of this equipment during night long wedding ceremonies.) The city must create an integrated disaster management system consisting of fire brigades, ambulances, medical services, volunteers, police services, rescue teams and other similar services. All buildings must be required to have built-in safety systems (number of exits, fire fighting equipment, electrical approvals, gas safety valves, shut off valves, access control etc.) It is time we start behaving like a responsible state and create systems that provide safety of life and property to every citizen. It is time that we conclusively get rid of the archaic mindset of appeasement measures such as doling out standard monetary packages backed up by three day mourning periods. The state must not be allowed to relinquish its responsibility and take refuge behind a demeaning compensation of a hundred thousand rupees. Can the citizens of Karachi look forward to institutions that will take pro-active measures to eliminate or reduce violence and provide professional and caring emergency services. It is time to stop hiding our incompetent governance behind the façade of “three days of official mourning”.