Violent Thougts: Assassination Attempt on Musharraf? And the Violence Within Us.

Posted on December 19, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice
41 Comments
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Adil Najam

I blog from Islamabad airport.

My flight to Karachi has been delayed, which means that my first meeting of the day will have to be canceled. But that is not what weighs heavy on my mind. What worries me today is all the talk of violence of one kind or another that seems to be all I have been hearing around me. My blood pressure seems to always sit on edge, but all the more so when all anyone can seem to talk about is violence.

The latest, of course, is the carefully leaked story about the attempted assassination plot of Gen. Musharraf by Sheikh Omar, the killer of journalist Daniel Pearl. Beyond relief that the plot was a failure, I do not wish to comment on this story. I have no reason to believe that the story is false, but it smells – no, stinks – so much of a planted leak that I would rather not give much more satisfaction to the “planters” than I already have.

Much more than that I worry about all the jingoism and and chest-beating I have been dished out on the “war clouds” with India.

Was is a horrible thing. And war with India would be very horrible, indeed. But I worry less about that because I do not think there will be war. This hype seems manufactured by TV talk show hosts on both sides of the border who seem to be having great fun (yes, I use the word advisedly) with their chest beating and naara baazi. What does worry me, however, is the fact that we are all so worked up about a war that is not happening and unlikely to happen, but so very content with the wars that are real, ongoing and killing Pakistanis every day. Everyone seems ready to thump their chests in hollow patriotism about the the tensions with India on the Eastern front, while the drones continue to pound our Western flank. Even more than that the Taliban’s war against Pakistan rages strong as ever. Nearly 2000 Pakistanis have been killed in in real war against Paksitan already, andonly this year. Why, I wonder why, are the real deaths of real Pakistanis ignored while foretold threats of the future amuse our sensibilities?

But this, too, has become routine. Denial it may be, but we can learn to tune out the noise.

What I cannot tune out right now is the noise around me earlier today as I entered the airport here in Islamabad. Its Hajj season so the place was teeming with people as the ‘welcoming delegations’ descended on the airport along with the returning Hajis. As I rushed in, a person a few feet from me brushed into another. Before one knew what had happened, they were exchanging punches. Not only them, but now three others were involved in what seemed to be a growing fistfight over nothing with most of the punches hitting the bystanders.

Naive that I am, I tried to break the fighting parties apart and ask for calm. In the process I got a few punches on myself, but more importantly I realized that everyone – including the growing throng of spectators – was now more mad at me for trying to break up the fight than at any of the fighters! And I thought that such reaction to those talking of peace happens only on blogs!

As I picked up by bags (and now aching shoulder) I wondered if maybe this ‘small’ and ‘individual’ violence in society is therapeutic. Maybe it is a way to deal with the larger insecurities and institutional violence around us. Or, maybe just maybe, it is systemic – an emblem of the larger violence within all of us. I certainly hope it is not the later. My faith in the goodness of ordinary people remains firm. But I wonder what all the violence and talk of violence around us is doing to us!

And, so, I sit here at the departure lounge. They just announced that my plane that had earlier been delayed two hours, is now delayed another two hours. The guy next to me announces that he is fried! So are the meetings that I was going to Karachi for. But that is not what gives me heartache right now. Yes, my shoulder still hurts from the punches I got. But what hurts much more and much more deeply in my head as well as my heart is the reminder that the violence we live with is not just in the headlines. The violence is all around us. Maybe, even within us.

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41 responses to “Violent Thougts: Assassination Attempt on Musharraf? And the Violence Within Us.”

  1. Riazulhassan says:

    Yes, this culture of considering violence to be glorious does magnify what is NOT a human instinct but an animal instinct.

  2. BUNTY says:

    @Hanif Q

    Pakistan WAS the World Cricket Champion and no we are NOT an economic superpower and Moon made out of Cheese! Geez! I think its definitely you who has been smoking charas lately!!

    Sorry maybe I am not that bright but whats your point?? if any at all?

    Its peaceniks and idealists like you who think that basic nature of humans can be changed by just blogging about it!

    And don’t tell me lemme guess, its folks like you and a few others here who believe that goodness is the predominant human nature!

    I think that Adil article is more off-the-cuff feeler of an idealist who sometimes looses sight of what life and reality around us actually is!

  3. Aurangzeb Haneef says:

    Dear Adil,
    I have also thought about this question: Is violence within us? I grew up in the 80s when Afghan war was in full swing. News from that front and deteriorating ethnic situation in Karachi made news that can only be categorized as violent. Apart from these two perpetual occurences, constant tension with India made militant heroism part of our school curricula. On top of that everyday frustrations for people in terms of unemployment, ever-rising inflation, lack of social justice and security makes people edgy. Yes, violence was all around us and still is. But is it within us? Some sociologists would say Yes. When it stays too long around us it seeps into us. Some have called it “Deep Culture” which is defined as “Collective Subconcious of a Society”. Is the collective subconcious of pakistani people so used to and prone to violence that it has become painfully the conscious? I would not go far and declare that. I think on the street where you can find many instances of violence, people are generally peaceful despite of so many odds that they overcome everyday. There is clealry hope.

  4. Saeeduzzaman says:

    Dr. Najam, saw your commentary on Dawn TV’s morning show today. Yo were brilliant and right on target. I hope someone at the foreign office was listening and would follow your advice on how to handle this crisis.

  5. Taimur says:

    Mr. Najam, I hope your shoulder is feeling better now. On behalf of all of us I thank you for doing the right thing. To many others would not have done so. I think the most remarkable sentence in this post is this:

    “My faith in the goodness of ordinary people remains firm.”

    I think it is this sentiment that makes you and this site so authentically Pakistani.

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