Watchful neglect

This disease is affecting the generation of your children. Bow on bended knee — not to pray — but to look into the eyes of your children

Watchful neglect

Your children fall ill. The neighbour’s children begin to experience the same symptoms. A physician has a diagnosis and a cure but he merely tells you to ‘watch’ for further signs of medical decline. No prescription is given. No words of caution. The man pats you on the back and smiles in benign manner. “Watch,” he says to you. A month goes by and you continue to watch. You watch with a fatalistic view. Finally, neighbourhood children are wrapped in shrouds. “It was God’s will,” cluck the mother hens who come to console the children’s mother. “It was God’s will,” mutter the men. God’s will? I am always reticent to invoke God’s will as a cover story for policy failures.

What if the storyline changes a bit? What if politicians pat you on the back? There is a diagnosis and there is a cure. However, you are left in a helpless position with lack of visible support. This story is about the slow poisoning of your children’s minds; the politicians who tell you it is okay and the government, which does not intervene. This is about the disease of the heart, and the condition that needs to change.

Watchful neglect. These are the two simple words that sum up a very miserable state of affairs. The tragedy plays out on Pakistan’s domestic stage. The stakes in the game are high. The outcomes are severe. Children are developing toxic personalities due to the searing of national conscience towards a distinct political epidemiology. It is a tragedy when men cry over the death of criminals and there is scant regard for true virtue. Pakistan’s story is one of a self-righteousness that is a passive form of bullying embraced by the many, which, in turn, supports aggressive bullying by the few. The leadership recognises the enemies without but not the burble reaching the ears of your children.

An interventional radiologist once told me, “The brain is the final frontier.” We stood together as he looked at a CT scan. He pointed out the magnificent biological sculptures, which give testament to intelligent design. I mutely nodded with the gaze of a cat sharing a conversation with her master but I contend one thing and harbour a truth embedded deeply within my maternal heart: it is the brain of our children that is the final frontier. There are so many things we still do not understand about our own children and how they interact with the world around them. We know that children are highly impressionable. We know that the impact of our actions and words can affect them for the span of their lives, yet we cannot plumb the depths of individual childhood experience. So we must be cautious.

We enter this world already equipped with sufficient intellect to make our passage into adulthood. However, as we begin to net the signals, symbols and codes swirling around us, our worldview is cemented into place. What is ‘caught’ is greater than what is ‘taught’ to a young child. What makes us laugh, makes our children laugh. What makes us cry, makes them cry. Children observe empathy and kindness, compassion and caring. These are the good aspects of our humanity but then they hear the epithets against our fellow man: Christian! Cross worshipper! Jewish bankers! Shia dogs! Sunni donkeys! This is the burble on jihad forums, the murmuring inside your religious schools. There is a disease in need of a cure. This disease is affecting the generation of your children. Bow on bended knee — not to pray — but to look into the eyes of your children. They suffer malaise and that your neighbour’s child has a full-blown fever. The doctor is in but the doctor is also out of his mind.

When the Punjab Institute of Cardiology dispensed contaminated heart medicine to the poor and over 100 individuals died, the government stated that action would be taken against the guilty. When will you take seriously the guilt of those who deliberately dose your children with another form of contaminated ‘heart medicine’?

Last week, the commentary discussed ‘World War M’ (Daily Times, December 6, 2013). My research has followed tales of diaspora from conflict zones. I monitor the scourge of al Qaeda’s ideological product as their message is steadily translated into the living languages and dialects of the world. I read articles like the one put out on a Taliban portal in May 2013. They mock the civil state and classify it as a “cancer” to be neutralised. “Freedom. Equality. Liberty...The modern vehicle for this self-destructive endeavour is the civil state.” How many are reading the aforementioned words and embracing them as truth? The Taliban is the enemy of Pakistan. These people are not exactly the ‘friendlies’. They wish to destroy the civil state. They wish a return to an Islamic state, whatever that may really mean to them. In my own western-leaning mind, a properly working state, which works for the good of the people, is, in essence, a work of God. Getting people to the point of where we are in the 21st century US is a miracle in itself! Perhaps that is why we joyfully sing, “God bless America. Land that I love!” We have accomplished something that is a magnificent testament to the work of good governance. Overall, we like each other. In fact, many of us can hardly wait for each new day and what the US has to offer. We certainly are not keen to light up Times Square or purchase pressure cookers and ball bearings.

It is imperative that Pakistan’s civil government — in all its capacity — rise to meet the needs of a nation that has endured too long a season of watchful neglect. This watchful neglect can be eradicated with steady movement towards healthy policy initiatives, which deny ideologues their platforms. Freedom of expression does not include the right to aggressively usurp the civil state. Dismantle policies of watchful neglect for the sake of the children. They represent your future.


The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at