Picking up the pieces
IT was a political statement of much-needed strength and symbolism. Where there are those bent upon destruction, there are also others willing to do what they can to save the targets. Most Pakistanis were still recovering from the shock of the fury displayed on Friday by rioters, but some steadfast souls pulled themselves out of despair and decided to do something proactive. On Sunday, in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad a number of young men and women went to the spots that had seen the worst of the violence, and cleaned up. Armed with brooms and dustpans, paint and brushes, they did what they could to return their city to normalcy: sweep away the glass, repaint pickets, pick up spent tear-gas shells and collect the stones that had been hurled. In doing so, they sent out a strong message: not only were they not on the side of those who resort to violence, they were active supporters of the rule of law. Few in numbers though they were, they demonstrated to all who saw them — including the demoralised police personnel who had faced the wrath of the mobs — that even in this pall of night, there is light.
Pakistan desperately needs more such pro-activeness if it is to find a way to stand fast and resist the rising tide of obscurantism and extremism. These people’s act should shame the nation’s leaders, otherwise so adept at manipulating large bands of their supporters; the call to clean up localities laid to waste by the mobs could equally have come from them, and been led by them and their workers. It would have been a powerful method of silent rebuke, and of interest in Pakistan’s welfare. Instead, what we have witnessed on the political front is barely audible censure of even the violence itself, let alone anything constructive.