Social Meltdown

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Dayaks, the head-hunting tribe of Borneo famous for shrinking heads of enemies to display as coveted trophies are considered primitive and uncivilized for their violence, but their violence was never the wanton violence that we witness today in Pakistan where worshipping places, shrines, Ulema, political leaders and innocent people all become victims of violence perpetrated by deranged minds who are exhorted on to it by even more warped minds and ideologies. Dayak head-hunters considered it immoral to kill someone they didn’t know or didn’t have a score to settle with. They were baffled to learn that the supposedly civilized people used bombs and weaponry to kill and maim. The killing of strangers and consequently the innocents with whom they had no feud was something reprehensible and revolting to them. The wilful violence practiced by the civilized had no place in their primitive society. The Dayaks were a lot more civil and refined in their violence than the people residing within the boundaries of this Islamic Republic. Here the violence is as wanton as it is senseless and immoral. We need to learn from the Dayaks.

The blame for this social breakdown and the spiralling rise of violence can be squarely laid at the doors of ruling elite whose short-sightedness and the desire to cling to power at any cost has eroded the accepted norms, values, practices and conventions that had helped keep the social fabric intact. The situation has been worsened and compounded by the connivance and complicity of the political parties, blinded by their urge and desire to be a party to the loot and plunder unleashed upon this blighted country. Politicians of easy virtue are a bane for any country and here we have them in excess.

The people too have unfortunately become disenchanted and disillusioned with their leaders and have abdicated their right to resist the injustices and excesses by governments or individuals. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to suggest that these regions have seen social regression since the times of the Mohenjo Daro and Harrapa civilizations and what we are experiencing today is in fact a Social Meltdown.

Acts of indiscriminate violence do take place elsewhere as well, but as exceptions and not the rule. The Sangla Hill events are the latest jewel in this unworthy crown. Apart from the destruction of peace and unnecessary loss of life and property, it gives Islam and Muslims a very bad image the world over because the violence is motivated mostly by religious hatred and bigotry.

Recent years have seen a spectacular increase in sectarian and communal violence. Neither sect can be absolved of the crimes and outrages committed in the name of religion. This violence certainly seems set to continue as long as there are people who not only have warped belief systems but also have the opportunity to preach and propagate their views to people seeking salvation in the other world, due to their disenchantment and disillusionment with a life of miseries here.

The government has not only failed in providing a peaceful environment to its citizens but has also been culpable of wilfully promoting violence due to its outdated laws and flawed policing and judicial system. It is noteworthy that there has been no prosecution of those involved in acts of violence or of those exhorting them to violence. The breeding grounds of this wanton violence continue to prosper and flourish. Such violence gains impetus and momentum when the government of Enlightened Moderation backtracks on issues like Hudood Ordinances, Blasphemy Laws, etc, and the President calls people demanding rights for the people a ‘liberal minority’ and says women get raped of their accord to become millionaires and to migrate to foreign lands.

The government agencies here are notorious for their fabricated cases, fake encounters and indiscriminate use of torture on the unfortunates who fall into their clutches. Violence begets violence; when these persons do get a chance to get even, they destroy, maim or kill without any compunction or discrimination. Journalists and human rights activists were also not long ago victims of the government’s violence just because someone thought they were getting too big for their boots and needed to be cut down to size lest they became overenthusiastic in their demands for rights and too blatant in their criticism.

It will be of interest to note that the violence is always at its worst in the areas which were slums not very long ago. Physical appearances may have changed but the social environment remains the same. Poverty reduction programmes are taking us nowhere as the sums earmarked are parcelled out between different quarters and very little trickles down to the intended level. The ground realities belie the growth figures that the government occasionally state in favour of their contentions.

The population living below the poverty line in this country has gone up considerably, in spite of the claims to the contrary .A sense of alienation and deprivation prevails among the poor majority who think they have no stake in this country, so little wonder that whenever there are opportunities they go on a rampage destroying and vandalizing without discrimination. People who are economically insecure carry a grudge against society and have no interest in preserving it. The more poverty grinds the people, the more violence we witness.

Unbridled urbanization has aggravated the problems of poverty and led to a social vacuum. This urbanization has seen the disappearance of all social checks and balances needed to keep the social fabric intact. The basic social unit, the family, has lost influence and this is the reason for the mayhem that we see and experience here. Where the writ of the government ended, the writ of the family or social system took over, but in present-day Pakistan, there is neither the government writ nor of the social system or the family.

Existing systems have been condemned and put into disuse with nothing to replace them; consequently there is no check on the activity of the members of society, who then readily adopt belief systems and values which stand contrary to once accepted norms and the basis of civil society. Moral condemnation of acts violence and of dishonesty by the family and the community had an effective deterrent value, but of late it has vanished as a factor. The result is the social and moral meltdown that we witness today in the form of the senseless violence and brazenly glorified corruption prevalent here.

Rural communities too have seen a breakdown of society and its checks and balances, but not to the extent we see in urban areas .There is still a spirit of tolerance prevailing in those communities due to which there has hardly been any violence that has come to be identified with the urban centres. Gradually the foundations of the existing norms and conventions are crumbling away, diminishing the hopes of everlasting peace. The erosion of the conventions is being speeded up by the increasing economic difficulties and the aggressive thrust of preachers and propagators of religious bigotry. Once mayhem and violence takes a foothold in these peaceful rural communities, the social meltdown will be complete and will spell no end of trouble for this blighted country.

For this country to survive as a socially, politically and economically viable state, it is imperative that the rulers awaken from their somnambulant state and give back the people their right to live a dignified life without the fear of destitution or repression. The people need to be given a sense of participation and involvement in the well-being of this country and civil society to ensure that warped belief systems do not become the norm. But then I may be asking too much of the pampered, protected and self-righteous rulers who consider themselves as God-given gifts to the people, of those who spend millions of scarce and hard earned money on their junkets, on their favourite toys like bullet proof Mercedes and the near obsolete and strategically useless defence equipment to have any feelings or compassion for the wretched masses of this country.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

This article was first published on 08 December 2005 in The Post

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