Oct 20, 2011

Glow of hope

Sadaf Shahid “Tonight is the night of power. Angels descend on earth and all prayers are answered”, said a friend of mine to her 22-year-old undergrad son, home for the summer break. “What should I pray for?”Asked Hamza, switching the television off. “Anything you like – happiness, success, forgiveness and a long healthy life” replied my friend. “Do you pray for me, Amma?” He asked pensively. “What kind of a question is that Hamza, mothers may forget to pray for themselves, but they always pray for their children and a mother’s prayers are always answered”. To which he replied, “What about all those boys who were kidnapped, tortured and killed? Didn’t their mothers pray for them? Does anybody deserve to die such a terrible death?” My friend was taken aback but maintained her composure. “Hamza, God has given man the power to choose between right and wrong. He has given us free will. This was not their ordained destiny but they became victims of people who chose to be wrong”. She was quite surprised at this new side to the young man known for his carefree attitude and cheerfulness. This was a different Hamza, made grim by what he saw around him. “You know what disturbs me most when I am in college? People only know Pakistan as the land of death; no one talks about our hospitality, our resilience and many wonderful qualities that we have. I feel as if we have crossed the Rubicon – we neither recognise nor fight our enemies, but have declared war against our own countrymen, our brothers in faith. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I am very scared; I have never felt this fear before. I want to go back, ALIVE!” Terrorism has occurred throughout history but today the world is experiencing its global rebirth. Writer Boaz Ganor highlights in his book “Modern warfare and the psychological trauma” that the purpose of terror is not only to destabilise the government but also to wage psychological warfare. It undermines the sense of security among the targeted population and disrupts everyday life, harming not only the economic machinery but also the individual’s ability to function in everyday life. It is indiscriminate and the identities of the victims, in most cases, are irrelevant to the perpetrator. The use of modern equipment has made this easier. In comparison to the damage done to property and economy, the resounding echo by the media, magnifies the message undermining people’s morale, reducing their confidence and sense of personal security, spreading panic, anxiety and depression, especially amongst the children and the youth. The perpetrators are aware of this and use this strategy effectively. Ganor further states that these terror traders don’t seem to be interested in the number of deaths; it could be three, thirteen, thirty-three, three hundred or even three thousand. They are more interested in the psychological impact. Whether their aims are political, religious or military, the psychological damage they inflict has far reaching consequences. In order to destroy a country, it is sufficient to paralyse its backbone i.e. its economy and the confidence of its people. The feeling of fear has become real to the extent that we feel stalked by the spectre of violent death, kidnapping, carjacking, mobile snatching etc. Constant fear traumatises the brain and creates excessive anxiety. The society is fragmented into frightened individuals unable to go about their daily lives. Security outweighs all other concerns. The attacks are mostly targeted at places a common man identifies with, so that the immediate reaction is “I was there just yesterday”; “My brother works in the next block”; “I take the same route everyday”. The tendency to personalise works to the criminal’s advantage. The message that is conveyed is imminent and dangerous – ‘It could have been me’. This was the overriding fear after the bomb blast outside schools in Karachi’s Saba Avenue that “It could have been my children!” The prevailing situation has successfully conveyed the message that life is no longer sacred. Women constantly call their husbands and children for no apparent reason. What they are actually confirming is that they are safe. Terrorism has become a global phenomenon. No country is unaffected. Take the example of the recent riots in England. The damage to property and looting was immense but the death toll was less as compared to other regions. Three unfortunate Pakistanis lost their lives. I don’t have the details of this incident but one can make out from the visuals that it was ‘almost’ a carnage. Imagine if the same incident occurred in our country. Hamza left for his college after the summer break. Before leaving he turned to his parents with a gleam in his eyes, his face glowing with hope. “Amma, I am still hopeful. I will fight my fear. How many of us can leave our homeland, and why should we? I will come back and then together we will cross yet another Rubicon. And this time the war we wage will be an open war, against illiteracy and poverty and inefficiency; a war which will not be fought with weapons of destruction, but with education and hard work. I don’t know what dreams the Quaid dreamt, I only know the dreams of the youth of today. Things have gone so bad, they can’t get any worse. We will bring light to this darkness, together” When the world says, “Give Up, ‘Hope whispers, “Try it one more time’’. – Anonymous

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