Under The Shadow of Violence

It’s been a year already. A brave youngster Aitzaz Hassan saved his fellow school mates from an act of violence rather extreme violence commonly known to us as terrorism. In recent years youngsters, our biggest asset, have been targeted more frequently than before in the acts of terrorism, but is this the only form of violence they have to go through their raw youthful lives? No. Almost every youngster has to go through a series of violent events in her/his life which not only demoralizes her/him but also changes the entire course of her/his life. Generally speaking there are three forms of violence [1] Low Intensity Violence [2] Moderate Intensity Violence and [3] High Intensity Violence. And in this blog I will explore seven sources of violence (and mark their intensity) except terrorism itself because we are all too well versed in it ; starting from the source that pounces on the kids at the earliest of their age and concluding it with the last attack on their freedom.

Most of us believe that home is the safest place to be and family the safest people. But are they? In a society like Pakistan’s where most of the families still live in a joint family system a child is considered to be a man’s pride (yes, I have intentionally used man here because in our society a man takes pride in the birth of child as if he himself carved her/ him with mud and mortar, completely ignoring the status of a woman and not to forget the pain and struggle the woman has to go through). So, your gender will determine your fate. If you are a boy, then you will either become a doctor or an engineer and nothing else. That’s it. To hell with your potential and what you want to be. And if you are a girl, then it’s even simpler (shame to the parents, of course because who wants a girl?) wait for 15-16 years (if the parents are too generous and loving) and you will be married off. So, the first form of violence children face from their parents is Low Intensity Violence (LIV) and involves curtailing the basic right to choose. Once they start growing up, discrimination between their children (on basis of gender) while serving food, taunts on a child’s physique and looks, insults on her/his abilities while comparing to other become a norm and this is if you are living in a good family because if otherwise then chances are that a low percentage in maths will result in lashes. So, the second form of violence you receive is Moderate Intensity Violence (MIV) which basically shatters the kid’s personality because she/he is an impressionable age and the sort of message she/he is getting from her/his parents is that it’s criminal to be dark or fat or a little slow in maths. What would she/he become after 20 years? A bigot? No. Simply what her/his parents wanted her/him to be.

At the time when you are being carefully groomed by your parents, you are going to school as well (if you are extremely lucky and your parents are well off financially and intellectually). So, you being slow in maths or not having an athletic physique or not being fluent in English language will become the subject of your teacher’s and sports instructor’s mockery. And if that’s not enough your schoolmates will make fun of you because that’s all they have learnt in this unripe age from their family, teachers and friends. So, at school two sources (of potential violence as well) of interaction that a kid has; teachers and friends will corrode away the very last thread of integrity a kid can develop, turning her/him into an insecure, diffident and helplessly scared person.  And this though starts at primary school yet carries on till university (again if the child is lucky enough to attend high school let alone a university). This sort of violence that a kid receives at school can be regarded as Moderate Intensity Violence (MIV).

Throughout this time, if you are boy or a very very lucky girl, you will be forced to pursue the dream of your parents while acquiring a vocation for yourself but if you are like most of the girls? You are doomed. Most of you will be married off to some over-aged misogynist (over 36% of girls are married off before they reach an age of 15 years in Pakistan). So, where is the right to choose? Hell where is the right to a have a life of your own?

So, those who are getting married by this age (mostly girls as our society has put a threshold on marriage age and also those who will get married later) have to face the fourth source of violence that is lashed over them by the suitors, extended family members and of course the beloved parents. At this point of their age the kids are repeatedly insulted for their appearances, physique and “qualities” (qualities; which were never given space or time to develop). Strangers will come to your house, for whom you will get dressed and run errands like making tea and setting a table, who will judge you for what you were forced to be by your parents and genetics, they will reject you and leave only for you to face more insults and taunts from your parents and family members. Piercing through every inch of your mustered up self esteem and breaking it into pieces. This again is a Moderate Intensity Violence.

Those of you who were very lucky enough to be graduating from a college or a university have been facing the fifth source of violence (again from the parents) and that is domestic violence (again mostly girls because by now boys are well built and can defend themselves). Father’s business going down or mother worried about how to run the household with limited resources; the solution to these problems can only be found in thrashing a young girl. By this time you are too used to being controlled and abused that you are no longer sad but angry, frustrated and rebellious to be precise at nature, religion and the societal structure but what can you do? Nothing. This is High Intensity Violence (HIV) and yes as lethal as the other HIV. And by this time if you are a boy who mostly spends his time outdoors will face the sixth source of violence: The State. The law enforcement agencies like Police will harass you on any chance they get to. Driving too fast and you have beard? You must be a terrorist. Locked up in a cell (while your parents think you are out with friends) your only hope is the judiciary (not the esteemed and highly qualified higher and supreme courts but the menial session courts where a magistrate doesn’t even blink twice before giving his judgement) but all the evidences are against you. You have a beard and you were driving too fast. Now what? If you are lucky and resourceful then you will transfer some “resources” and you are good to go but if you are not lucky enough then? Wait for the anti-terrorist courts to treat you like Shafqat and face a death penalty for being a terrorist. This again is an example of High Intensity Violence.

Graduated from university? Looking for a job? Here comes the seventh form of Moderate Intensity Violence. The recruiters will first of all not even look at your resume, rejecting you because their nephew is by default much better than you. And if you by some stroke luck get into an interview, they will cut you open and ridicule you till you are on the verge of breaking down and right then when you are there full of anger they will ask you a lame question and if you like most of us won’t be able to keep your cool, you will be rejected on the basis of personality issues. Seriously? Personality Issues? Yes. Everyone around you will turn you into a frustrated heap of flesh and then they will reject you on that very basis. And if you are lucky enough to get the job, then your degree and your qualifications will be made fun of. You will be asked to make copies, take prints, write letters and reserve hotel rooms and cars for your superiors.  Good luck for brining a change.

By the age of 28 years you will be a bigot; a frustrated, insecure women abuser who will criticise everything and everyone with an open mind. You will judge people on their gender, race, religion, caste and even their political inclination. So, is Pakistan a Failed State? How about a Failed Society?


Ali Zafar is a DAAD Scholar of Development Economics at University of Applied Sciences Berlin and he blogs at azpk90.blogspot.com”

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