September 21, 2012
THE SEER OF PAKISTAN
Ali Sethi in The New Yorker:
In the south of Pakistan, where Hindus have lately been kidnapped for ransom and their daughters forcibly converted to Islam, Hindu families have started fleeing to India in trains. As they waved to their relatives from train windows, possibly for the last time, many Hindu girls contorted their faces and wept. To the north, near an industrial city, policemen poured paint over Koranic verses inscribed on Ahmadi graves. This is because Ahmadis have no right to Koranic verses in Pakistan: the law classifies them as non-Muslims and the media regularly portrays them as treacherous deviants from the faith. Still higher up, in a scenic mountain valley, Shias were pulled out of buses, lined up and shot dead by gunmen who may or may not belong to one of Pakistan’s many banned sectarian outfits. And just two weeks ago, not far from the pristine capital, a mob of a hundred and fifty Muslims ran after a mentally handicapped, low-caste Christian girl, wanting to burn her alive for having held in her hand—this was the rumor in her neighborhood—a singed Islamic manual.
In the rest of the country, the end of Ramadan was celebrated with the usual fanfare, show of color, and generosity of spirit.
The hysterical synchronicity of these happenings is typical of the Pakistan encountered nowadays in the news. It is also Manto-esque, which is to say that it feels like it could have been imagined, in exactly these tones, with just such a flatly ironic counterpoint for an ending, more than fifty years ago by a man called Saadat Hassan Manto, the writer whose centennial is being marked this year in Lahore amid an unshakeable and vaguely shaming sense of déjà vu.
Posted by S. Abbas Raza at 05:50 AM | Permalink