Our maligned heroes

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 9:39:08 by



This week marked the death anniversary of Dr Abdus Salam, who now has the distinction of being Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate. Born in January 1926 in Jhang, Dr Salam rose to be one of the country’s foremost authorities on science and mover behind science education. It is unfortunate that as a country we generally disown this great man on the basis of his religious convictions.

Dr Salam served as science advisor to the government and later became the founding director of SUPARCO, our own space authority, which never really was able to take off because soon Dr Salam was replaced.

He also played a significant role in laying the foundation for Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, which initially started with a nuclear power plant in Karachi (KANUPP) and later the country’s atomic programme.

I remember visiting his grave in Rabwah some years back. It is a sad testament to a great man. I wish one could write more about the contribution of this man to Pakistan. He never compromised on his principles and lived for Pakistan and died for Pakistan.

There is much that works against Dr Salam’s community. As a young journalist, sometimes I would come across stories where the accusation against someone was that he was an Ahmadi.

This was enough for them to be removed if they were holding any important office. When I was writing a story in my naivety where such an accusation was made by one of my sources, one of my seniors at the paper, Abbas Nasir, came and scolded me for it.

He was then chief political correspondent and he drummed some sense into me. I am grateful to him for setting me straight then. I hope more journalists could be set straight as well. There is much Abbas Nasir taught me as a journalist and I will always be grateful to him for that.

At this juncture, there is another hero of mine who is unfairly under attack. Asma Jahangir is one of the country’s bravest women, is being accused of a number of things. This is not new. What I find amusing is that people who accuse Asma Jahangir and her fellow “conspirator” Hina Jilani of working on a hidden agenda, when things turn bad for them, they end up seeking the help of these two women.

I have seen their most vocal critics sheepishly coming over and seeing them and seeking their help when the chips were down. These are the same people who threatened to have them killed if they continued what they are doing. How fortunes change and how things remain the same.

Human rights and rule of law have always been dirty words in Pakistan. Anyone who raises a voice for them is considered to be working on a foreign agenda. I cannot quite figure that out. I remember once there was a plan to build walls around katchi-abadis in Karachi which bordered the city’s main thoroughfare – Shahrae Faisal. The logic was that foreigners should not see such localities.

I think our national attitude is not to talk about such things. Many would rather lie than present the factual position in a bid to address the problem. It is therefore foolhardy to expect that we can solve problems because we are not ready to admit them in the first place.

Then there are other issues that remain ignored. I sometimes wonder what becomes of people who falsely accuse someone of blasphemy, as was done in the Rimsha Masih case. Also, why is it that the only solution for those accused but not found guilty is to flee the country if they can. It is a very idiotic question, I know, but why do we not put the onus on our government to provide them protection till their case is heard?

Possible that is where the foreign agenda accusation comes true. While one is grateful for the help of Western countries who give refuge to these unfortunate souls, I wonder whether this can be the long term solution.

For those who like to deny that Pakistan has a very poor human rights record, Mukhtara Mai will remain a thorn in their side. She continues to be vocal on the issue of sexual abuse and has braved threats and much more to show to the world what a brave woman can do given the opportunity.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2014.

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