State as a parent

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

Like many other things, you take your relationship with the state for granted. So common is this neglect of the relationship that you seldom pause and reflect how personal it is. Your state, for sure doesn’t sit in a corporeal form before you like your parents in your childhood judging every action of yours, but like a parent it lays down a path that you walk consciously or inadvertently throughout your life. You love it. You hate it. You complain incessantly about it. And you learn to live with it.

So, which one is it? A mother or a father? If Aitzaz Ahsan is to be trusted a state is like a mother. The genius that he is, he whipped up a beautiful poem during the lawyers’ movement. It is called Aaj Kal aur Aaj (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow). It is a powerful work and you must read it in entirety to comprehend its true impact. But one line immediately stood out to me: Riyasat ho gi maan ke jaisee, Har shehri se pyar karey gi (The state will be like a mother, it will care for all citizens). So, is it a mother?

I think a state acts more like a father. Traditionally mothers are known for their soft touch. They often indulge you, even spoil you at times. That love is essential to make you a better human being. But the clay lying on a potter’s wheel the hand that moistens you doesn’t work alone. The other hand has to be stern to shape you, make you what you are supposed to be. Traditionally that hand is like a father, and a state. Soft at times, stiff when it needs to be.

The purpose to discuss it all here is not to rake up anyone’s latent daddy issues but to focus on what I call the state issues. We all have them. No one acknowledges. It is an adult world. You then do not have time or energy to delve deep into your subconscious mind to address the deeper residuary conflicts in programming. So neglected is this subject that even your average, everyday shrink may not want to touch it with a bargepole. What ensues is a free for all prudish classification of patriots and traitors. You agree with this man, so he must be a patriot. If you don’t, he is bound to be a traitor. The case, however, is usually not as dire.

There are states that come to your rescue to rescript and debug your programming. And then there are states like ours that are victims of their own birth. Someone burnt legend ‘Islamic state’ on the forehead of ours at the time of its birth. Since then it has tried to act in character. Immediately beneficiary was the clergy, the sole custodian of faith. And given the declining intellectual traditions in Islamic polities, it meant that no one put a real effort in reconciling the Islamic ethos with principles of democracy. So the second beneficiary were dictators. Strongmen and clerics hence have been favourite children of our state. For the past fifteen years, it has tried to fight this preprogrammed favouritism but that has only further messed up things for it. That is because during the eight years of Bush administration brought the worst out of every state. And this state at that time was ruled by a dictator. That dictator, now in exile, has left behind a permanent imprint that affects the judgment of the state and its ruling elite. So perverted is logic in the land of the pure now that it thoroughly ignores the children that may love the state but are not ready to read from the dictator’s playbook. And it fails to learn from own experience that purgatory has no torment like a child scorned.

Then what happens? Exactly what you are about to witness in the next few weeks. Right in the middle of a cycle of tensions with India, a politician beloved of our state, promises to shut down its heart and mind. And we. the tiny inconsequential insects whose affection brought them closer to this brain, this capital, are reeling in dismay, uncertainty and pain. In this upside down, other way round world of love the thought is supposed to be of comfort that when marauders come to town and many of us are beaten to a pulp, our beloved father will send someone to tell us that we were no victims and we were simply asking for it.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2016.

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