Sunday, June 26, 2011

Survival of the predators

The rapidly degenerating situation in Pakistan forces the mind to re-explore the reasons for its creation. While a tome could be written on opposing arguments there, Pakistan proves the Malthusian and Darwinian theories quite simply.

In the 1800s Rev. Thomas Malthus postulated that population growth eventually gets checked by famine and disease. Well before Pakistan eagerly joined the war on terror its health care was pathetic and it had no viable population control programs in place. Time was that Bangladesh’s population growth was the highest in the subcontinent but Pakistan holds that dubious distinction now. With that massive growth in population, the already poor infrastructure gave way further and what may have been enough to go around previously is grossly insufficient now. Interminable hours of load shedding and the shutting down of businesses lead to further economic hardship and skyrocketing infectious diseases in a land that was a-fester to start with.

It would not be cavalier to extrapolate that the multitude of cases of gastroenteritis and dehydration that may have survived in the past with broken resources will die with the absence of electricity, transportation and money.

Also in the 1800s Philosopher Herbert Spencer coined the term “survival of the fittest” from the phrase “natural selection” used by Charles Darwin when he wrote “On the Origin Of Species”. He gave it an economic connotation, different from the biologic one that Darwin wrote about.

Genetic mutations through the ages and mechanisms to survive are concepts that apply at a jungle and thereafter very basic human level. But to see that current day Pakistan embodies the concept of survival of the predators is heartbreaking.

Somewhere almost as though a large brush just painted over Pakistan, the ambience changed. It is not just each man for himself; it is now a seething, violent mindset that does not just want to ensure its own security, it knows only to do so by preying on others.

With general economic hardship and severe personal insecurity a generation of Pakistanis is growing up under the national diagnosis of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. Families don’t know if loved ones will return from work or school, every family has one or more graphic tales of kidnapping and armed robbery to tell all while the sun is merciless and the night suffocates, as load shedding seems the only constant.

Perhaps the cause is severe financial hardship, maybe it is radicalization, it’s possible that it is Pakistani corruption at its worst, but there is now an element of callous violence in one incident after another. Unarmed Chechens in Kharotabad were pumped with bullets by the Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Constabulary in mind-boggling savagery. I cried at the video footage of the young man riddled with Rangers bullets and then left to bleed to death in Karachi.

From the urban to the rural the story is the same. In the remote village of Neelor Bala of the Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa middle aged Shahnaz bibi was stripped and paraded in the village for her son’s alleged affair with a neighbor’s wife. All by a jirga’s ruling. For days thereafter she lived, shamed, in the jungle, and though she is back she knows she shall forever be ostracized.

And in a veiled but worse murder of the millions by Pakistan’s super-elite is the padding of Swiss bank accounts, zero taxes to Pakistan, pandering for power and controlling the destiny of 185 million whose futures they have plundered. Is it me or has the political jockeying between Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif taken on a decidedly savage tone?

Saleem Shahzad and scores of other journalists paid with their lives for exposing the terrifying truth that perhaps our own in the armed forces have turned on Pakistan. The savagery that reigns in Pakistan today, despite the struggle for the supremacy of the law in the return of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, cannot be expected to deal with the origin of the issue and the placement of processes. Like a wildly charging lion it is devouring all that come in its way.

The treatment of a disease or the solution of an issue is only possible if there is first acceptance that it exists. Recounting our national savagery is not being a prophet of doom; it is the first step toward working toward a solution in a situation that has gone awfully wrong. Not understanding and accepting our issues is much like:
falsafi ko behes key andar khuda milta nahin
doar ko suljha raha par sira milta nahin’
(the philosopher does not find God in debate, fruitlessly he tries to untangle a knotted string but can’t find its end).
Mahjabeen Islam is an addictionist, family physician and columnist. She can be reached at