Sitting cross-legged in a small circle on the playground, we must have been no more than about seven years old. A rare English summer. In as much as the sun had been shining all day long. Which meant that we were all dressed in our PE kit: shorts and aertex top. A brief reprieve from the royal blue and grey that predominantly featured in our regulation uniform. Of course, little did I know how I would hanker after this colour combination upon hitting secondary school. Where we were trussed up in a dreaded (navy) A-line skirt that was incomprehensibly matched with a slightly lighter blazer; all topped off with dark brown shoes and faun socks, jumper and shirt. While we were waiting for our team to be told what to do next, one of the boys started singing. Without quite knowing what we were doing, we all held hands and joined in. Except me. I spent the entire time looking down at the concrete. Only occasionally glancing up at the boy who had initiated this impromptu sing-a-long. To see if he had intended anything by it. Boney M’s “Brown girl in the ring”. That was the reality of multicultural Britain. Even though Enoch Powell had long since given up being at Her Majesty’s service. By the time secondary school came calling, in all its blue and beige un-glory, things were a little different. Not too much, though. Not with the Beeb and its penchant for having national-treasure comedy characters drop the “Paki” word at almost every turn. But in our English Literature class we were encouraged, slowly and tentatively, to recognise that racism should only embarrass the bigoted. Never the victim. Wole Soyinka’s poem, Telephone Conversation has remained with me all this time. Even though as an 11 or 12-year-old I had been utterly convinced it was a short story. Depicting the phone call between a young West African man and an English landlady looking to rent out a room, it soon got down to the nitty gritty. Just how black was too black. As children, the delightful satire was likely lost on us. What stood out, however, was how one individual could judge another to be inferior based on something as innocuous as skin colour. Soyinka wrote this masterpiece in the early 1960s. At a time when those seeking cold shelter in Britain’s green and (un)pleasant land were met with the all too common censure: No blacks, no Irish, no dogs. Today, such signs would be unthinkable. Not because such racism no longer exists. Rather, modern states have become artfully sophisticated in dressing in borrowed robes the most vicious fanaticism. Just ask the Windrush generation. Or the refugees that much of the western media deliberately misidentifies as economic migrants. All the better to disguise unjust and untoward sentiment towards ‘the other’. Then, conjuring up snapshots of Enoch Powell, undoubtedly tickled pink were he alive today. To bear witness to the ‘rivers of blood’ that have been flowing upstream for the last forty years. Whereby the Ahmadis are granted citizenship yet are unjustly discriminated against and barred from full integration over fears of potentially altering the national character I am reminded of all this now, sitting here in Lahore. As the new Prime Minister has just thrown the Ahmadiyya to the proverbial wolves. Simply because the architect of Naya Pakistan preferred to capitulate to the religious right rather than stand with the young economist whose brilliance was overshadowed only by his faith. And as I scan pictures of a visibly emotional Imran Khan remembering the country’s fallen soldiers during this year’s Defence Day celebrations, I can’t help but think: what about all the minorities that have been ‘martyred’? Do their lives not matter? Putting myself in their place, I try to imagine how children from minority communities feel, knowing they are never truly welcome in their own land. The unspeakable pain of the Ahmadis as they catch sight of the latest red arrow; reminding them in no uncertain terms that their only value lies in being acceptable collateral damage in the power struggle between the religious right and everyone else. My childhood self understands this only too well. The constant yet unarticulated fear. Of perhaps always being the only brown girl in the ring. Of what this might mean for our small bi-racial family. And I come to the realisation that even this is insufficient to truly comprehend the full terror felt by the marginalised growing up in this hard country. Under relentless fire from all sides. From armed militants. To enduring the humiliation of constitutional discrimination. To being the target of hate speech ineloquently delivered by certain lawmakers and sections of the judiciary. To always being the sugar in the plum. Then, conjuring up snapshots of Enoch Powell, undoubtedly tickled pink were he alive today. To bear witness to the successful turning tide; the ‘rivers of blood’ that have been flowing upstream for the last forty years. Whereby the Ahmadis are granted citizenship yet are unjustly discriminated against and barred from full integration over fears of potentially altering the national character. All this without having arrived fresh off someone else’s boat. That Mr Powell’s spirit lives on in Naya Pakistan ought to be sufficient reason to ring the death knell on a project that encourages the concept of “avoidable evils”. For as a wise man once said and an unwise one repeated: “To whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” Tra la la la la. The writer is the Deputy Managing Editor, Daily Times. She can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @humeiwei Published in Daily Times, September 9th 2018.