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Hangover Part IV: The colonial kind

Shahzeb Amin

Colonialism, that thing your grandfather curses when you’re sitting on his lap listening to his old stories. It is the system we have grown to loathe on a daily basis. The very concept that broke the backbone of the ‘East’ and fed off the relentless oppression of smaller, less fortunate states, for the purpose of widespread ‘global development’. We all must be so ecstatic, realising the fact that this world was able to rid itself of this curse, the virus that was colonialism. However, I wouldn’t celebrate too soon if I were you. The question I put forward to you this week, is one that will require you to look deep, deep within the crux of our system. Have we truly let go of colonialism? Are we now living in a state that promotes equality and equity amongst all the individuals that reside within it?

Pakistan can be regarded as a state that is no stranger to the unjust and demeaning practice of colonialism. Simply put, the history of our subcontinent is scattered with tales of white men entering our land, for the mere purpose of reforming our way of life, our government and our system. The purpose of their intervention within states outside their borders was merely an innocent and heroic feat. That being the practice of ‘helping’ smaller states develop their status within the global community and receive the honour of being referred to as a ‘developed nation’. They were simply looking out for us, right? Right? I’m afraid not. The colonial powers had come to develop this egoistic status of themselves within their own minds, considering themselves to be the keepers of knowledge, the founders of truth. In layman’s terms, their form of development completely disregarded the social norms and culture of the society upon which it was being enforced. Instead, the self-constructed knowledge of development tilted the scales in favour of the Western oppresses and allowed for colonialism to forge a new path in this unjust world. But who approved of this knowledge of development? Who created the rulebook, under which we were subjugated to a status of lesser existence? The answer is the power of “knowledge”.

After all knowledge is power, and the West being the keeper of knowledge, the author of the age-old rulebook that dictates the way a state must be run, was able to enforce a form of development that could not be questioned. But what does this mean for us Pakistanis, in this current world? Why am I even brushing such a topic that was declared deceased ages ago? Well, for those who have not realised, our nation is experiencing what can be known as the ‘Colonial Hangover’. Colonialism is still not dead, it has just adopted a new form, chosen a new face from the gallery of obscured masks. Neo-colonialism is something we can witness in our daily lives within Pakistan. With our governing bodies and institutions playing the role of the Western colonisers and the less fortunate and minority groups being subjected to the role of the oppressed colonised.

Following the same path laid down by the white colonisers, our nation openly disregards the rights and privileges minority groups and less fortunate individuals possess as citizens of this ‘just and fair’ nation. Step outside your bubble and you will notice how hard it is for the common man to get anything done, whether it be filing a chalan form or registering for a new Identity card. If you are unfortunately born to a religion that is not Islam or are not part of the social strata known as the elite of our society, the number of hindrances within a small task are innumerable. Without paying someone off, or having a solid contact, getting any kind of work done is virtually impossible. Look at the Zahir Jaffer’s case for instance. A gruesome criminal, a degenerate murderer is still alive and kicking. The judgement regarding his case has still not been decided. How come? As dismal as this may sound, it is simply because this horrendous human being belongs to an elite, well connected family of Pakistan. His exalted status has allowed him to dodge so many bullets the common man could not have even thought of doing. Similarly, if we look at the Blasphemy laws and their execution within Pakistan, we can notice how they adversely affect minority groups the most. Their rights are paid little to no heed and their status as individuals is completely disregarded. How can we openly subject people to such ill-treatment and blatant unfairness, for the sole reason that they are not Muslims? The message we are giving the world is that if you’re not rich and if you’re not a Muslim, Pakistan is not the state for you.

European Colonialism may have died ages ago, but it has left an ever-lasting footprint on our nation. So before you criticise someone for not being fluent in English or being a shade darker to you, ask yourself this, are you just another coloniser?

The writer is a graduate from the University of Westminster, London in Political Science and International Relations.

The message we are giving the world is that if you’re not rich and if you’re not a Muslim, Pakistan is not the state for you.