Spare me the freedom to live with sanity

My wounds will ultimately heal, but the cuts inflicted upon the state and its soul will linger

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Spare me the freedom to live with sanity
Wounded PTI information secretary Raoof Hasan addresses the press conference on May 22, 2024, a day after being wounded in brutal attack in Islamabad. — Screen grab/Geo News

It was another of those countless visits to television channels that I have been making in recent times to explain my party’s position to the people regarding various events occurring in the country.

I had just stepped out at one of these channels after having recorded my programme when a group of four from the ‘transgender’ community assaulted me brutally and cut the right side of my face with a sharp-edged implement causing a one-inch-deep wound that required 19 stitches in the operation theatre.

Ever since then, I have been carrying this emblem of violence on my face, hidden beneath a covering of bandages, wondering what ailment has beset us and whether I’ll ever be able to break free of its painful and numbing impact.

It is patently obvious that it was a pre-orchestrated assault to kill. The assailant went for the jugular. What saved me was that I ducked, bringing my neck out of the line of attack. Instead, my face became the target, thus the wound.

This was not the first time I had been attacked. When I had stepped out of another television channel a couple of days earlier, I had been aggressively approached by the same group who hit me randomly over my body, threatening to kill me.

When I managed to sneak into my car, they banged the door shut over my leg and kept pounding the window and windshield of the vehicle motioning me to come out, but I somehow managed to drive away. I did not think much about this incident, attributing it to some weird streak. As it transpired later, it turned out to be almost a fatal mistake I made.

I don’t know why and from where this streak of violence has penetrated the societal fabric, wrapping it all in its poisonous tentacles with the grip tightening with every passing day. But this latest version of the sinister infliction which is intended to silence political opponents of the powerful quarters is chilling in its impact and gruesome in the consequences it may wield.

The attack on me falls into this category as my comments on the prevailing as well as ensuing situation in the country had elicited ire and criticism from the same power echelons. Does this mean that the country has lapsed irretrievably into a cycle of violence where dissent is an act which is not tolerated, and those who may persist with it are liable to be subjected to state terror, even physical elimination?

A certain level of violence is not a completely new phenomenon in society. Potentially, this could be attributed to the incessant regression that the country has suffered from through the years of existence as also extensive polarisation, institutional collapse and the consequent fault lines that have emerged.

This should have been addressed by initiating remedial measures flowing from the dictates of the constitution. But, instead, in the last couple of years, more than ever before, the statute book has been brazenly vandalised and rubbished with power centres having faltered into the hands of individuals in preference to institutions.

This has created a crisis unknown in the past. When coups were staged earlier, the constitution was either abrogated or suspended. The dictatorial acts were later legalized by the judiciary using that aberration of the ‘doctrine of necessity’. But this time around, since the removal of Imran Khan’s government, the constitution has neither been abrogated nor suspended. It has remained in place but has been consigned to the closet and accorded scant respect. The source of power has passed on to the diktat of an individual with members of the government acting as mouthpieces commandeered to do things as ordered.

This has dismantled the very foundation on which the state structure stands, replaced with a concoction of whimsical and fanciful indulgences, the perpetration of violence being an essential ingredient of the prescription. I was lucky to escape merely with a deep gash, but others have lost their lives in the process of being administered a lesson.

My wounds will ultimately heal, but the cuts inflicted upon the state and its soul will linger, casting an ominous shadow on the lives of everyone who breathes here.

Societies survive and prosper because of voices of sanity that influence them. We have had our voices of sanity which have been systematically silenced along the alleys of time and, instead, violence has been injected into society.

This has impacted every living individual here, generating an excess of intolerance. As I see it today, the art of conversation, with sustainable arguments flowing both ways, has been replaced with an extremely untenable position that only one party or person has the right to talk and impose its writ, irrespective of whether that be based on reason or not.

This attitude has given birth to two kinds of aberrations: imposition of direct martial laws and ruling through anointed proxies. In both cases, the reins of power are not wielded by the people as, indeed, they should. Instead, they reside in the custody of a select band of individuals who are willing to play a subservient role to the diktat of one authority.

This has spelt Pakistan’s ruination by augmenting internal regression embedded in a surfeit of violence, a virtual economic meltdown, and its depleting position among the comity of nations.

We have been on a downward slide. Nothing has happened either by way of realising our infirmities or by becoming sensitive to the need for initiating a remedial process to escape eternal confinement to a dungeon without a crevice to crawl out.

It is time we attended to the emerging reality flowing out of a dreaded past. It is a reality that should make us think and change the way we have conducted ourselves. Sane voices should not only be tolerated; they should be nurtured. These are the voices which inject rationale into our thinking. We need them desperately — more desperately than ever before.

Even in the darkest hour, Faiz continued to recite his immutable song of hope: “This pock-marked light, this night-stricken dawn,/ This is not the dawn we had waited for,/ This is not the dawn that had spurred us,/ To navigate the sky’s limitless expanse,/ And find the ultimate destination of the stars./ Surely, the slow, placid night/ Will touch its inexorable shore./ Surely the moorings of the heart’s agony/ Will come to rest somewhere”

I shall continue murmuring this song of hope even in the most depressing of times. Let me consign the murderous assault on me to the farthest crevices of my consciousness. Please spare me the freedom to live with sanity and nurture its ability to dictate our fate and our future.

The writer is the information secretary of the PTI, and a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets/posts @RaoofHasan

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this piece are the writer's own and don't necessarily reflect's editorial policy.

Originally published in The News