So often one hears a fellow Pakistani bemoaning how polarised a nation we are.
But sometimes I feel that what they mean by polarisation in this context is the presence of the rich ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity that this country is actually blessed with.
This diversity on most occasions has simply refused to come under the all-encompassing umbrella of ideological unity that the country’s establishment, its religious allies and the urban bourgeoisie have been shoving down our throats for the last six decades. They refuse to realise that organic diversity (and not synthetic homogeneity) is what drives democracy and best utilises the inherent economic, cultural and sporting genius of a nation.
But no doubt there is also polarisation of a more disturbing kind in the Pakistani society.
On occasions it’s been like a black comedy that can generate sheer bafflement.
Every Friday at my office during the second half of the morning session, I notice guys who regularly go for Friday prayers at the mosque break up into little groups. One day I decided to figure out why this happens or why they are all not going to the same mosque (or to the one nearest to the office).
It is easy to understand that the Shia among them would visit the Shia mosques.
But one Friday I was rather amused when I overheard a group of Sunni colleagues discussing why they would not go to a particular (Sunni) mosque because the mullah’s sermons there offended them.
It turned out that the lads were Deobandi Sunnis, who, due to lack of time, had had to visit a nearby mosque whose mullah belonged to another Sunni sub-sect, the Barelvi — which, nevertheless, is the majority Sunni sub-sect in Pakistan. So the discussion was to locate a Deobandi mosque nearest to the office.
A senior colleague, who’d seen me talking to these guys, approached me in the evening, smiling: “Did you see how they were whining?” I smiled back: “I’m not very good at understanding these things.”