I started this blog in 2009 when I was deciding whether I wanted to come back to Pakistan or not.
6 years ago, I wrote “Against the good and bad advice of a majority of friends and family members – I have decided to return to Pakistan. I dont know if this a wise decision – I merely know that it is the right decision for me at this time. With time, the correctness of my belief might change and this might become the wrong decision – but until it does, I hope to use my blog to keep track of this transition and use it to (hopefully) reaffirm the correctness of my decision for today and all my tomorrows.”
On some days when America offered great company and conversation, or interactions with people that were interesting and interested in things around the world I wondered if I wanted to return to a country that was fast becoming a bastion of bigotry and violence over things as insignificant as lawn suits or as profound as one’s religious beliefs.
Sometimes it was the walks in Central Park or the ability to blend anonymously into the humid New York summer nights that made me want to never leave the country I had come to know and love as a second home.
My decision to come back seemed particularly wrong when Parliament passed the Nizam e Adl Regulation and handed over Swat to the violent bigots. I was so angry that I punched a wall and typed out this long heartfelt article demanding that I want my country back from the bigots.
But when I did eventually return to Pakistan in 2010 and started work at the Jinnah Institute with Sherry Rehman – I witnessed first hand the psychosis that had gripped Pakistan. As we worked on things that seemed like no-brainers like the protection of minorities and religious freedoms, I realized that it was not just benign apathy and neglect that prevented Pakistanis from protecting fellow citizens. There were powerful forces of obscurantism that enjoyed popular support that would resort to murder and violence to silence all voices that dared to challenge their world view.
As these forces grew more powerful and brave, progressive voices like Governor Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were silenced; the rest of us who were no where near as brave or courageous also grew silent. I self censored and did not talk about religion in public. I avoided arguments with the moral police. I bent my head over my phone and typed out a few furious tweets. But that was all. I went about my work every day. I tried to search for silver linings to reaffirm the decision I had made 7 years ago. But those silver linings seemed fewer and further apart.
Things seem to have come full circle as justice has been done. The rule of law upheld and Mumtaz Qadri – the man who assassinated Governor Taseer for speaking up for the rights of a poor Christian woman accused of Blasphemy – has met the fate meted out to him by the law.
Many of us thought that given how powerful the religious right has become in Pakistan – the government would not dare touch their poster boy. We were wrong. Never have I been more relieved about being wrong.
The sordid saga that started in Pakistan’s history with the brutal murder of Governor Taseer for speaking up for the oppressed has almost come full circle today. It will be complete when Aasia Bibi the woman he spoke up for, is allowed to go free.
But till then, I am thankful to the Government of Pakistan for letting the law take its course and giving me a reason once again to believe I made the right decision 7 years ago.