How soon we forget.
How soon we forget the words of our own convictions.
How soon we forget that never again ought to mean just that.
How soon we only care to remember the living, those who almost lost. Praising their resilience as if casually bathing ourselves in a reflected glory that we somehow believe was of our own making. How much easier it is to praise Malala, Mukhtaran Mai. For they had the decency to survive. To live and let us hijack the narrative, appropriate what they stood for and rewrite it by our own hand — to say finally that this is what we had been talking about all along. Such unhidden dangers. But not so those who fall to the sword. The Qandeels, the Mashal Khans of this hard and unforgiving country. For it is not so profitable profiteering from the dead.
Qandeel, like Malala, fought against conservatism and tested the boundaries of societal norms. She, too pushed the buttons of the religious right. Yet on her grave do we dance. She, who dared and dared until she was done for. All the easier for us to say that she got what she deserved.
And what of Mashal?
At first we felt brave and proud and loud as we condemned his murder most foul. Far easier it is, after all, to take a posthumous stand for those lynched for blasphemy when the victim checks majority boxes: male and Muslim, twin virtues undoubtedly. Not to mention the small matter of being found not guilty of that which they falsely accused him. So maybe we thought that our work was done. That making his name go viral was enough. And that being done we then unshackled ourselves from long-term responsibility, all the better to turn the other cheek to see which new bandwagon we could jump upon. After all, because of us and us alone were the organs of the state sitting up and taking suo moto notice of a frenzied attack upon an innocent young man. Our work was indeed done.
Except that things don’t roll like that. Not here, in the real world. Not in this hard and unforgiving country. Forty days have passed. His nearest and dearest still find themselves wandering in the wilderness. There has been no parting of the sea. No one has walked on water. These are miracles of another time. No one has, in fact, done anything. The JIT on Mashal’s death risks standing defunct. The bitter irony being that those who today stand before the spotlight of the courts are part of the problem that sent a young man to an early and brutal death.
If his life meant anything to you, to us, to anyone and everyone — we must keep his memory alive and keep the pressure on. This is the only way justice will be done.