Articles of the year 2006

A Deafening Silence
Published on July 06th, 2006

It is now a week since my article appeared in the Press, and the reaction has been amazing. There is no reaction in the media—Print or TV ----nothing. The silence is deafening. Has our once proud Nation surrendered to such demeaning insults that no one dares to speak. I have received many phone calls to agree with what I have written, but there is still no official response, or acknowledgement from any quarter giving any explanation whatsoever. It seems that the new Umra policies which suddenly affect 50 million Pakistanis are of no concern to the GOP in Islamabad, which is convinced that the Pakistani people live in a different country, from the denizens of the Capitol. Therefore the orders that may emanate from any Embassy regarding the travels of any Pakistani, and the visa restrictions, or the humiliating treatment meted out to the visa seekers does not apply to the officers of the GOP, and therefore the treatment to the Pakistanis is somehow well deserved. It is shocking that the GOP considers itself distant from the people of Pakistan, and the insult is in the third person, and can therefore be ignored.

When will Islamabad realize that the insult to one Pakistani, is a national humiliation, and needs to be addressed by the full might of the GOP. How can the GOP pretend that all is well? Perhaps it is itself the root cause, and should be treated for this malaise. A welcome sight would be the rotund MMAs going on a hunger strike to force our Ministers to bring a change in these policies. If they cannot- they should resign---if not they should be sacked! It should be made clear to the Saudis that all Pakistani Umra seekers are not job-seekers nor are they of criminal bent, but those unscrupulous agents both in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia, that would like to cash in on the huge Umra traffic, choose to bend the rules for large profits--- at a horrific cost to the nation and to the real pilgrim.

This must stop.We must realize that our officialdom is incapable of policing this aberration, and we may consider involving some private citizens onto a board to negotiate and come to terms with the Saudi authorities so that there can be an honorable arrangement whereby the pilgrim will be allowed to go freely to worship, and the touts and their agents can be kept at bay. There are many upright persons in Pakistan who can easily be invited on to such a committee, to liaise with the Saudi officials. I do not see the GOP being able to deliver any sensible solution, primarily, because they are part of the problem.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the custody of the two most precious and treasured sites in the Islamic world. This custody is a gift from God to all Muslims, to enable Muslims to worship there, without let or hindrance.This is a sacred trust, and should not be violated. It is to be protected.While the two shrines have been enlarged to accommodate the huge numbers of pilgrims that arrive every year, it is the responsibility of the trustee, to ensure the safety of the shrines and of the pilgrims. While this is an ongoing and difficult task it is just as important to sift the genuine pilgrim from the fake, without a blanket punishment---for all. If there are 60,000 illegally in the Kingdom then they should be deported immediately, and the paper processing for future pilgrims must be scrutinized even more carefully, The policy for Umra should be made Pakistan friendly, assuming a special relationship exists, and not the Pakistan specific ban as imposed at present. This issue should be taken up immediately, and the deafening silence should not be taken as an assumption that all is well with the new policy.