I grew up believing in Jinnah's Pakistan. I thought it would be the greatest country on earth. Jinnah's Pakistan was supposed to be one in which a liberal like me would be free to speak and write his thoughts, even if what he spoke and wrote offended the mighty and powerful people who ruled over the country. 

I hasn't turned out that way. Four days back, the country's top court acquitted a poor Christian woman who had been on death row for many years after having been sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy. 

No one should have been surprised at the response of those who call themselves the guardians of the country's ideology (an ideology invented by those who opposed the creation of Pakistan).

I'm filled with despair. Everywhere I go, even most educated people I know want the Christian woman to be hanged. I can understand illiterate drivers and security guards having this opinion, but some of the educated ones have studied in elite schools of the country. Without reading the text of the judgement, they believe that the woman is guilty, and those who accused her of blasphemy are truthful.

It hasn't happened overnight. Even though I studied in a missionary school, there were a few even then who told me not to get too friendly with Hindus and Christians. We were told not to drink from the same glass they did. We were told to have separate plates for Christian and Hindu guests on the rare occasions some of them had dinner with us. Four years back I employed a Christian driver whom I allowed to sit on a chair in my office on very hot days. My manager objected (he's Urdu-medium graduate with two degrees), on the grounds that he couldn't even think of drinking from the same glass as the Christian did. Then there was the time a cousin appointed a Hindu clerk. The next day his entire staff threatened to resign if the Hindu was not sacked. This is what Zia did to the country, he made most of us so intolerant that we cannot bear to even talk to those of other faiths.

Even though the fanatics openly called the army chief Bajwa an infidel, even though they asked for the immediate execution of the three judges and even though they demanded the overthrow of the civilian government, no action was taken. Ultimately, the government of Imran Khan capitulated, in what can only be called a shameless surrender (very much like the surrender of East Pakistan to the enemy in 1971). 

And in the midst of all this, with both the army and the police acting like impotent cowards, one man proved that the loonies on the streets can be defeated. After being stranded on the highway for hours, he lost his temper, took out his klashnikov, and indulged in aerial firing. The mob dispersed immediately. The army chief should see the video of this incident instead of saying that he can't fire upon his own people. Apparently, in his opinion, the protesting Pathans in the north are not Pakistanis. He should remember that in 1971, Bengalis were not considered true Pakistanis, and that mindset ultimately led to the dismemberment of the country. The country is on the road to another break-up.