Jul 24, 2020
Riding out to Tirah over the weekend before Eid-ul-Azha, reminded me about all what is right and wrong about Pakistan.
Tirah valley stretches through Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai Agency, in our beloved Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. While deciding this to be a destination for a weekend adventure ride from Islamabad our aim was simple—get back on the road and discover a part of Pakistan which by all research and intel was breathtakingly beautiful and not spoiled by tourism, yet. Hidden in that was a subliminal desire about looking at how people of the area are rebuilding lives after the insurgents have left. Returning people and returning lives are stories best read with one’s own eyes.
Yes, Tirah Valley is beautiful! Yes, the people are busy rebuilding lives. Yes, security, or a modicum of it has returned. Yes, the army and the local lashkars have done a great job in clearing out the insurgents. Has normalcy or a semblance of it returned? No.
Look below the veneer and you see three things knowing at the roots of life and peace and prosperity returning. Corruption, pulpits, and injustice. The same three things eating the roots of Pakistan.
The roads that lead you there are littered with corruption. Corrupt institutions in cahoots with more corrupt institutions being manipulated by even more corrupt people. It is not the heady scent of a bumper Marijuana crop that exalts your senses rather the stench of rotting human souls which makes you wonder how the denizens breath and carry on normal lives. That, Pakistan cannot even ensure proper road to its citizens a few hours from its capital and cannot smell this stench is telling evidence of a failed state and its derelict and dysfunctional institutions.
Scattered aplenty amongst this stench and poverty are gleaming mosques—each outdoing the other’s splendor. There seems to be race to adopt bespoke personal interpretations of religion and gather the largest flock. Easy to do, given the absence of education—the sheep! Dig deeper and you find that there is no Pakistani narrative, only that of the local pulpit. The pulpit that pits its followers against the neighboring pulpit. Pakistan, the land of the pure and the nation formed in the name of Islam has no writ on these pulpits. Yes, these pulpits are multiplying, and their mosques are gleaming just like fool’s gold, built with monies that add to the stench in the name of salvation hereafter. Life is a living hell.
The people trying to rebuild their lives are sincere and the youth still have the heady euphoria of a victory recently past. They struggle to find a narrative and even more to find justice which protects their dreams and their yearn for their land. The corrupt road builder is in cahoots with the corrupt policeman who present corrupted facts to the corrupt judge who takes bribes from the youth while the local imam bows to all the corrupt gods and chastises the youth—for their desire to be alive! The people live in hell. The hell of insecurity and injustice. Where is the government, they ask? Check post after check post after check post after check post—of corruption, of pulpits, of injustice.
They wake up one day and fight with the local army check post, being sold the night before to the only unifying narrative—that of the injustice that Pakistan has done to their lives. You know the rest, and so does Pakistan.