By: Fahd Husain
As the flames licked her body, the bloodcurdling shrieks of Amina in Muzaffargarh reverberated across the power centres of Punjab, echoing off shiny flyovers, illuminated underpasses and gleaming metro stations of Lahore. Her flesh burned, her soul burned. She struggled in sheer agony against her pain, her torment, and her existence as a citizen of Pakistan.
And then she let go. Yes, she let go of her being, of her hopes and dreams. She let go of her loved ones and her cruel fate. She let go of her will to fight her tormentors and their protectors; she let go of all that mattered, and slowly slipped into eternal sleep.
Amina was extinguished. The lights on the glitzy flyovers of Lahore burnt bright. The irony is revoltingly uncomplicated.
She was raped by the State.
And now the State has kicked into vigilante mode. The rough and ready chief minister (CM) of Punjab hopped onto his plane — as he usually does — and did a political para-drop onto Amina’s home. He then sat on the floor with her parents — as he usually does — and consoled their grief. Once satiated, the CM savaged the cops — as he usually does — and bloodied them with his trademark verbal whipping. Venting, arrests, suspensions and transfers done, the CM hopped back onto his plane — as he usually does — and whizzed back to Lahore, flying over flyovers burning bright in the gleaming March sun.
This charade of the State is playing itself out yet again. An all-powerful State ripping apart the Social Contract, and the lives of the citizens it is contracted to defend and safeguard. Why? Is the concept of the State so hard for the State to grasp? Is the responsibility and duty of the State so impossibly difficult for the State to comprehend? Is this really that hard?
Buried deep within this rot is a sickness of the mind. A sickness bred over decades — and perhaps, even longer — that visualises governance through the prism of naked power: he who wields the stick, must use it. And so, naturally, the stick falls on those who cannot hurt you back. Rights are trampled, self-respect is violated and dignity torn to shreds as the State asserts itself against those it is meant to shelter. Life is considered cheap, and therefore, dealt with accordingly.
The State turns grotesque. It invests in bricks and mortar, not in human beings. It spends on projects, not on institutions. It focuses on infrastructure, not on reform. It prizes concrete structure, not human life.
It becomes a predator State. It feeds on its own children, and grows fat on their flesh. This predator wears a uniform, holds a gun and has a licence to use violence against the hapless citizens. This predator wears a judicial robe and has a licence to skew justice and skewer the justice seekers. This predator sanctions the repression of women and wants laws that allow little girls to be married off to old men. This predator allows the persecution of minorities, exploitation of the weak and ravaging of the law by the powerful.
This predator is sick in the mind.
What else to call a State that allows little babies to die of starvation in Thar; that drives teenage girls to immolate themselves with petrol; and that permits care-giving nurses to be beaten savagely on the roads? What else to call this State other than utterly sick?
This sickness reigns across the four provinces. It manifests itself in daily incidents of brutality, injustice and State-perpetuated excesses. This sickness blinds the State to its core responsibility of nurturing its children, not murdering them. It propels the State to modernise roads instead of modernising minds. The sickness makes the State brittle and rough, instead of soft and caring.
The State is powerful and so is the sickness. But you know what is even more powerful? The determination of the citizens to fight back. Amina fought this battle on the streets of Muzaffargarh. She lost. But one day, the citizens of Pakistan will win. And at that moment, the name of Amina will be in their minds — and on their lips.