Six-point survival kit
Khayyam Mushir
April 29, 2015

If you are you shocked, dear reader, with the recent spate of murders of civil society activists. If you feel an inescapable sense of dread when you hear of bomb blasts and terror attacks and sectarian killings. If you are depressed when you consider that there is a gradual breakdown of law and order in this country. If you wonder how, if at all, it is possible to survive here when there is no functioning justice system no operating law and no semblance of order. If you do think and feel all of this, you are probably caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, unable to decide whether to stay on or abandon this godforsaken land you and I call home.

What follows is a survival guide for the residents of Pakistan, the thinking feeling kind that is, those who desire by choice to live out their existence here, or who belong to that unfortunate disadvantaged lot that just does not have the means to escape. I compile here a list of the key dos and doníts that, if you study, absorb, reflect upon and put in practice, will ensure that at least you and your loved ones donít end up in the vicinity of a bomb, at the receiving end of a bullet, or as a victim of kidnapping and torture. My guide will instead secure for you a non-violent, albeit mundane, existence here. Read on to learn how to be happy, safe, alive and irrelevant:

Rule 1: the state didnít do it: This is actually correct. The state never has anything to do with it. Otherwise why would the state offer immediate condolences, denials, dismissals, condemnations when Shias are murdered, when churches are burned, when human rights activists or separatists disappear and never reappear? Or reappear in a very different shape from when they disappeared. When terrorists kill serving governors and end up never getting prosecuted, when anti-state clerics are given residence in the heart of the capital even as they pledge allegiance to the Islamic state, when Osama Bin Laden is found leading a life of idyllic semi-retirement in bucolic surroundings at a stoneís throw from the biggest military installation of the country Ė in all of this the state is dumbfounded and extremely sorry.

The state only concerns itself with positive measures after all: it builds unnecessary roads, provides metro-bus solutions to cities that donít really need them, secures costly IMF funding, tries to distribute energy to advantage the rich and disadvantage the poor, holds elections, allegedly rigs them, then struggles to manage the political blowback; and the deeper state invests in and controls proxies to secure and protect its strategic interests domestically and regionally. Why people keep getting shot, blown up and all of that sorry business the state is at its wits end to figure out. When you think of the state, think of a bald, portly, surprised man in a sherwani constantly shrugging and saying Ďhuhí?

Rule 2: if youíre dead, you probably had it coming: Benazir had no business opening the sun-roof of her car to wave to her supporters. Rashid Rehman had no business taking Junaid Hafeezís case even when militants had issued written and verbal warnings to the contrary. Sabeen Mahmud had no business holding a meeting to protest the civil and human rights abuses in Balochistan and hosting Mama Qadeer, a controversial and anti-state character. Salmaan Taseer went overboard defending that inconsequential Christian woman.

Malala had no cause to write subversive material in a diary and then use it to secure international attention and a celebrity status. Raza Rumi shouldnít have spoken up against radicalism and blasphemy. Perween Rehman asked for it when she stubbornly persisted in championing the cause of the poor and disenfranchised in Karachi. All of these examples smack of narcissism. Of vain individuals imagining they are larger and stronger and more relevant than the collective. Hereís the deal: if you do any of the above, if you dare to walk on the wrong side of the consensus, then youíll soon be six feet under and pushing daisies with the rest of these men and women.

Rule 3: if youíre in the minority, get out!: Look that is just a bad place to be in. On top of it, one wonders, if you are Shia, or Christian or Ahmadi, how many bombs and bullets is it going to take your lot to get the message? Iíll spell it out for you. Donít mess with the majority. Get out! Either migrate to another country where you are in a majority or have yourself ostracised from your religion and your sect if you want to live in this one. It is easy, just change your name, convert, stop meeting friends and family and join the majority in condemning the minority. Do all this and you will enter into a covert pact of amnesty, a kind of informal witness protection programme run by the powers that be. And no wailing and gnashing of teeth please for the ones you leave behind, because they will still be in minority when the dust settles Ė if they havenít already turned into that dust.

Rule 4: ignorance is bliss: What do you and I care about Balochistan? I mean are we planning to ever take a vacation there? Does it have any interesting landmarks, shopping malls, amusement parks, lakes or rivers? Who was the last interesting Baloch you and I in Punjab hobnobbed with? Do you know any Baloch fashion designers, rock stars, models?

Who are the Baloch? Tribal, backward, armed with rocket launchers, always in a state of agitation, condemned to exist with a state of siege mentality. Are we going to lose our lunch and our lives over their petty quarrels with the state? Who cares who is in the minority? Who cares who is right, the civil society or the army men or the politicians? Do your job, earn your money, invest, move your kids abroad and donít try to be clever by having a political opinion.

Rule 5: blame thy neighbour: You donít get to choose your neighbours. You just bargain for good real estate and then deal with the environment. In our case we ended up with a particularly mischievous neighbour. If you canít figure out who is responsible for most of the things that are wrong with this country since 1947, then apply the Sherlock Holmes method, eliminate all possibilities and what you will be left with, however improbable, is India. Donít be hoodwinked with the cross-border cultural initiatives, the dosti-trains and buses, the Bollywood glamour and glitz. Thatís all a smokescreen. Be assured, they are always up to no good.

Rule 6: be politically correctÖalways!: Believe in Pakistan and everything it stands for. Ignore the contradictions and inequalities. Stop whining to make an unnecessary case for the poor and marginalised. Economics and feudal power and elite capture will sort them out. Support the forces. Support the government in power or the opposition party about to overthrow it. Refrain from making subversive statements about the establishment or about religion. If you have been up to such mischief in the realm of social media, itís time to stop because the new cybercrime bill will ensure your lynching. Finally, always promote the state-sponsored historical narratives that endure in this country.

Faithful compliance with the above will not be easy. It will require mental regimentation to embrace a culture and momentum of complacency and apathy. It will require that you dismiss and reject the cause of your friends and relatives, those brave warriors who were prematurely silenced for fighting the forces of bigotry and radicalism. It will require that you stop aspiring towards the chimera of a just, free, secular and democratic state.

It will require your participation in a conspiracy of silence that is increasingly pervasive across the political and social landscape of Pakistan. I do not possess the courage to do so. But perhaps you do?

The writer is a freelance columnist.


Twitter: @kmushir