In the present times when pirs, pirnees and macho men as leaders are having a swing and a sway in the country, it is difficult to correctly analyse the mental state of those who matter. According to unverifiable statistics, at least 60 per cent of population in Islamabad suffers from mental stress; it means that most of those in capital of power are not normal in behaviour. Indeed, when we look around happenings in the country, about-turns by those who wield pelf and power, we tend to support those who express deep apprehensions about leaving the state affairs in the hands of individuals who are mentally dependent on addictives or whose actions and decisions are influenced by domestically engineered mythical spiritual compulsions.
In an article in Dawn (Jan 6, 2019) captioned ‘Mental health crisis’ Bina Shah author of ‘Before She Sleeps’–a feminist dystopian science fiction-brings out mental state of health of the people in Pakistan’s most populous city-Karachi. According to her, most popular medications being sold in a city of 20 million are high blood pressure pills and tranquillisers. In the past a similar survey conducted in the federal capital identified sedative Lexotinal as the most popular drug. I don’t know about now, it used to be available in the chemist shops without a prescription. Pakistan’s leading psychiatrist Dr Haroon Ahmed was always found raising his profound concern about increasing cases of stress as cause of mental illness.
Karachi’s case is understandable. It has been in a state of intermittent war among ethnic groups rendering life short, brutish and nasty over last 30 years. Besides being the hen that lays egg of gold, it has remained a bone of contention for various groups of vested interests including law enforcers who find in it opportunities to make their fortunes multiply under the umbrella of maintaining law and order. Obviously too many cooks or crooks together in one place have rendered Karachi and its population into a trove of extreme psychological distresses leading to mental illnesses.
In a country where public health is generally a matter of lesser priority, mental health is further down in the grade in importance and afflicted cases are still subjected to indigenous treatment at the hands of pirs, pirnees and mullas. Only a minority among them being affluent get to have treatment available to them with qualified medical- doctors. As regards mental hospital care, it is still restricted to what used to be called Kanji Houses. Availability of modern mental clinics is scarce. No doubt in last twenty years or so Pakistan has moved fast in having most modern and latest medical centres with state of the art medical equipment and highly trained professionals. However, as far as mental health is concerned though the problem has increased manifold, we have not moved from Kanji House state. It was good to see Pakistan Association for Mental Health, under Dr. Haroon’s direction, launch a countrywide crusade from early this year to raise the level of mental awareness and to let mental illnesses be treated at par with other diseases not to be left in the hands of pirs and pirnees. Psychiatric syndromes related to jinns, jadotootka(magic), bhoot, pareet need to be eliminated scientifically.
PTI’s minister’s desire to change the destiny of Pakistan’s 220 million people by publicly advocating hanging thousands of Pakistanis is reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazi Germany
Space constraint does not permit me to go into the details of the treatments for depression and other related mental illnesses. However, the poor state of mental health of our people demands of the present government to set up a commission of experts to formulate a mental health policy with a revolutionary plan to stop conversion of our people into a nation of psychopaths. A crash plan is needed to nip in the bud alarmingly spreading mental insolence as reflected by the actions and professions of many PTI’s important big wigs.
Recent statement of Minister in IK’s cabinet-Faisal Vawda seems to have brought into open the hidden agenda of ‘Na(i)zi Pakistan’ besides revealing the depth fascism has premeated. Vawda would like to-as Hitler did-eliminate 5,000 people to cleanse the country of the opposition. It was not an off the cuff remark. Rather it is a manifestation of a psychopathic disease that if not checked now, would become an epidemic.
Immediately after his statement country has plunged in the grip of rumours that preparations are on for a possible large scale pogrom of opposition politicians and dissidents. And the taste of pudding came about when a federal minister, slapped a senior journalist in a wedding reception for apparently no rhyme or reason. Earlier to it, one cannot forget the highhandedness committed by Minister Azam Swati and other instances that warn the nation of most deplorable times ahead.
PTI’s minister’s desire to change the destiny of Pakistan’s 220 million people by publicly advocating hanging thousands of Pakistanis is reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. “If it was in our hands, hanging 5,000 people today would change the destiny of [Pakistan’s] 220 million people.” (Faisal Vawda, Pakistan’s minister of water resources, told Geo TV on June 11. “Our next 20 generations have to wait to do this [purge] in accordance with the law.”
Obviously these comments made by the PTI Minister who much too frequently appears on TV channels to put across his party’s point of views have generated profoundly alarming debate and sharp reactions in Pakistan threatening serious consequences to the democratic future of Pakistan. Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto has rightly warned that his country was on the path toward rolling back representative rule and the state’s priority is to crush democratic civilian voices while continuing to support and harbour terrorists and extremists. “We are experiencing a transition away from democracy,” he told opposition lawmakers. “We are experiencing a transition to dictatorship — a transition to authoritarianism — a transition to totalitarianism. “The talk of hanging 5,000 people is fascism,” says PMLN lawmaker KhurramDastgir Khan. Similarly strong condemnations have come about from other political parties too. In a Twitter Human Rights Commission of Pakistan too has criticised Vawda’sstatemennt that ‘hanging 5,000 people’ would ‘solve Pakistan’s problems’ as highly irresponsible. “It makes a mockery of the rule of law – something no democracy can afford to do.”
It is indeed a tragedy that the man behind the vision of a model of cancer treatment centre in SKMH instead of building more proper medical hospitals and mental treatment institutes is lost in his domestically motivated spiritualism that is more mythical rather than practical. And especially when quite large number of his followers needs psychiatric treatment on his failure to deliver and to dispel the impression that they are all knowing, all powerful and they can do anything to stay in power.
Author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist
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