When I was growing up in Pakistan, there was only 1 TV station: PTV. It was off most of the day (unless there was a cricket match). It would come on early evening and go until late night. It was, obviously, state run. Radio was state run. News papers were somewhat independent, but still very careful about what they printed. The government effectively placed a giant bubble around Pakistan. Only the very literate and interested individuals actually read magazines and newspapers from outside the country. This, however, meant that the vast majority of the less educated and uneducated were at the mercy of what the government wanted them to know.
Like most 3rd world countries living under an information blockade, people who wanted to find news, found it. The “underground” black market for news, information and entertainment was hardly underground. It was everywhere. But you had to go looking for it. So most people just went looking for Bollywood entertainment. Not news.
In the 90s, satellite dishes began to pop up like mushrooms everywhere. Every house had one. And for the first time ever, every Pakistani could see unfiltered BBC, CNN, and dozens of other entertainment outlets. For the first time, people saw how far behind they were from the rest of the world. India had totally won the more important battle – not for Kashmir, but for evolution. India had opened its currency and its borders to the outside world. The world welcomed them with open arms.
The internet put the nail in the coffin. Students from every walk of life (outside the madrasas, of course) suddenly had hotmail accounts, yahoo accounts and were communicating with the rest of the world. They too want to be a part of the world. No longer were they fed a constant diet of “Pakistan is the best”. Even though they heard it everywhere, they didn’t believe it – they still don’t.
When crazy religious mullas took over Afghanistan, only 2 countries recognized that government. PK and Saudi. In fact, the media portrayed these new leaders as moral, religious individuals who simply wanted to have a “pure” Islamic state. That’s what Pakistan was supposed to be: Pak – pure. So most Pakistanis simply believed that this was a great thing. How can a “pure” Islamic state ever be wrong?
Pakistanis never saw the brutality that was the everyday existence of Afghans. Up until just a couple of months ago, majority of Pakistanis believed that once again, foreigners had fucked up yet another “pure” Islamic state.
But once these religious nuts moved into Pakistan, things seemed kind of ok.
But when they demanded religious law – a lot of Pakistanis woke up and said “hold on…” While many others again believed that there was nothing wrong with sharia.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with Sharia. Or any other religious law for that matter.
These individuals never studied these laws. Plain & simple.
Most Muslim countries do not have “strict” Islamic laws. They have a hybrid system where they pay homage to the laws, but the never carry out. For example, most Islamic countries do not cut off hands of thieves. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen – it’s just not commonplace.
Back to the story: Pakistanis never felt the brutality of a true Islamic law system. It wasn’t until the public airing of a young girl getting flogged in public by “religious” people, that Pakistanis saw what a real Islamic punishment looked like.
Most still have not seen beheaded bodies lying in the town center. That day will never happen. Pakistanis, don’t you know, are actually quite moderate. The huge public uproar against these thugs was swift and uniform. When the media and some pundits sometimes looked the other way and never condemning, nobody came out in defense of the mullas.
No one. For the first time, ever – Pakistanis saw the true face of sharia law and it was ugly.
Pakistanis love their pseudo-religious lifestyle. They want to go to Friday prayer, but they also want to:
- Listen to music
- Dance to music (Punjabi people love to dance)
- Watch western and Bollywood movies
- Many like to drink
- Go to school (especially the girls)
- Get higher education (again, especially the girls)
- Get a shave (especially the men!)
There’s a lot more they love doing that would be outright banned by these mullas. And that’s just too much for Pakistanis to handle. Heck, it was too much for Afghans to handle too!
In summary: I’m glad to be back. And I’m glad that this time around, Pakistanis are standing up for what is right, not what is religious.