The dead besiege me with every new day
And ask me, “Where were you? Give back
To the lexicon all the words
You offered me”
And let the sleepers sleep without phantoms in their dreams!
The dead teach me the lesson: there is no aesthetic beyond freedom
“Yeh Bhutto sahib ki beti hai” (She is daughter of Mr. Bhutto) – With these words my father introduced her to me by pointing out when she was giving a fiery speech on stage. That was an autumn evening of 1993 and she had come to my city in order to campaign for her party candidate. Though, at that time, I wasn’t mature enough to discern the significance of shibboleth -Zinda hai Bhutto zinda hai- being chanted in a rhythm by the crowd present there but, that whole panorama of reverence and homage for her and her father did lead me to materialize a conception that some Messiah had come.
That was Bertolt Brecht who, once, had said “Unhappy is not the land that breeds no hero but pity the land that needs heroes”. The land, we all belong to, has always been so lamentable and unfortunate with longing for heroes who would come one day and take away the centuries’ old miseries of inhabitants of this region. This has become a widely persisting norm to attribute gods like excellencies to common human beings. This sense of longing and yearning for Messiahs roots in the wretched conditions of human life –an emblem of this part of planet earth- and also metaphysical subjectivism that belongs to realm of religion rendering it highly viable for idols and paragons that are perceived as rulers of destinies.
And then the sparkling noon of October the18th, 2007. Her plane kissed the soil of her homeland and millions of ‘wretched of the earth’ were present outside Karachi Airport to greet and watch single glimpse of their Messiah -the sight for sore eyes for those who had longed for her and a dreadful scene for her adversaries- she came(out of plane), she saw and she wept with joy. There were Sadqa offerings (animal sacrifice) to ward off evil eyes, there were celebrations and rejoicings –mere pleasance- and at the midnight, amidst all those pleasures, there was blood, flesh and fire.
‘Cult’ is the most malignant expression of despotic regimes which is widely maneuvered by tyrannical administrations to impose the specific state agenda in the name of love for homeland and some state figures. In subcontinent, the articulation of this expression is more rigid and influences wider areas of implications, be it religion, politics, art or general attitudes. Traumatized people, who have never been allowed to endeavor for betterment of their own miserable conditions under mighty empires and colonial oppression, are highly leaned to submissive attitudes. This is, taking into account the general inclinations, the most lenient disposition of locals to follow someone-standing-for-them against all possible odds.
She was unstoppable. The journey started from the banks of Indus where a saint sleeps and offers hope to those in dire need. She had never forgotten the saint and at every stop of her expedition she reiterated the message of saint, “I have brought with me the message of peace from the shadows of Sehwan Shareef, be my arms to spread this!”. That was in Hyderabad where she disintegrated all the strings, if any, attached to her return and shouted at top of her voice, “Behold! You, who yearn for your rights, need to snatch them from the hands of tyrants.” Advancing and marching forward, she was approaching the destination with hundreds of thousands of ‘untouchables’ behind her. And the destination-the last hilly corner of Punjab- where the act finished and curtains fell with tragic ending of heavy bloodshed and sprinkles of red flesh.
From Dara Shikoh to Benazir Bhutto, history of this region marked with the red sanguinary traces of blood. Messiahs of downtrodden who raise the flag of humanity and justice have always been a dreadful dream for tyrants who consider them as obstruction in the way of implementing their despicable agendas. These despots may change their face with flow of time from absolute kingships to treacherous Generals but agenda remains the same. Generations have borne the brunt in the form of horrendous poverty, distressing living conditions and sustained oppression; and still craving for betterment in their miserable conditions. Hereditary politics or other way around is not the question at all but query of the hour is that who will extricate this race from centuries’ old misery if not the people themselves?
Hope had been demolished. Messiah had gone to the howling wilderness of ‘Garhi Khuda-Baksh’. On that day, I saw my father crying for the very first time in my life. That was mourning of a whole generation that couldn’t get rid of centuries’ old misery. Concurrently, I felt some drops of warm water lurking down my cheeks. Whatever, I belong to the same race after all and now it’s my turn to bear that burthen of misery on my shoulders and endeavor to throw it away.