Killing the Albatross

Published: 07:31 PM, 10 Nov, 2022
Killing the Albatross
Stay tuned with 24 News HD Android App
Get it on Google Play

In his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, the classic English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge gave the message that became a metaphor for killing the innocent and what follows once the sin is done. It became known as “killing the Albatross”. It is alluring that these metaphors of classic literature remain relevant even to this day. And the events of the modern world, remind us of the lessons of the past and how similar nature of events will lead to similar nature of results. Whenever the balance of virtue and sin is disturbed, there are consequences. The existence of the universe yearns for equilibrium and the signs are ever clear, ever-present. The murder of Arshad Sharif is one of the most prominent and honest journalists of Pakistan is a grim reminder of the story from Coleridge. An Albatross has been killed and the omens of spilling the blood of the innocent will soon follow. As it is said, we are free to make choices but we are not free from the consequences of those choices. The killers of Arshad Sharif have made their choice, now it is up to the leaders to provide justice otherwise the killing of the Albatross brings bad omens and is disastrous in the offing, merciless and unavoidable.

The killing of the Albatross in the poem by Coleridge can be metaphorically related to the incident at hand. In the poem by Coleridge, a ship is sailing through the sea. The captain of the ship is a cruel man with no regard for beauty, honesty and tolerance. At some point, the winds slow down and so does the ship. The captain is frustrated. One day, he observes that there is an Albatross sitting on the ledge of the ship. The captain decides to take out his cruelty and anger on the innocent bird and shoots the bird. The bird Albatross is a large bird that is found mostly at sea. It is commonly visible on shorelines and travels long distances over water. In English literature, Albatross is a symbol of nature, honesty and good luck. The captain kills the Albatross and the crew of the ship are scared. They speak among themselves that the killing of the Albatross is a bad omen. The captain dismisses it as mere superstition but the crew is sure that the killing of the innocent will not bode well for the ship. Soon, the apprehensions of the crew turn out to be true. The ship is surrounded by thick fog and mist. The whole ship is lost in darkness with no clue as to where it is and the crew members begin to die one by one. The crew grows angry at the sailor who shot the Albatross and forces the captain to wear the dead Albatross on his neck as punishment. But even that remedy is unable to change the fate of the ship and finally, a ghostly ship attacks the crew and the ship killing everyone onboard and only the captain is spared. Even the sea is not ready to keep the captain and he is thrown out to the shore. The captain then becomes a narrator of the whole saga, warning all others in the land to never kill an Albatross, lest they be met with such a horrific end.

In the last two years alone, around 118 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. Many others have been forced to flee the country. These journalists are persecuted due to their reporting and highlighting different matters relating to the public. The explosion of social media platforms has given more power and speaking ability to these journalists, but has also created clutter. Freedom and democracy demand that everyone is given a voice. The harassment and killing of journalists is a sign of cruelty, intolerance and tyranny. Disagreement can never warrant murder. And it is this intolerance that has the power to destroy nations and bring down empires.

The death of Arshad Sharif is shrouded in mystery. Investigations are ongoing and the matter is now under judicial scrutiny. It is not credible that he was murdered out of mistaken identity, as pointed out by the police of Kenya. It seems that his murderers planned the whole scheme. Arshad Sharif left Pakistan in August due to threats. He took refuge in the United Arab Emirates and then circumstances were created where he had to flee from there as well. It is known that he went to Kenya as Pakistanis do not require a visa while entering Kenya. And after a few weeks, he was killed in a shoot-out. The pattern of his movement and the testimonies of his honesty and commitment to his profession, clearly point out that he died because of what he believed in. He was an Albatross that was committed to following his true nature with honesty and integrity. And the omens are already on the horizon. A dark cloud surrounds the nation and very few instances of hope and progress remain.

It is not clear who committed the evil deed of killing Arshad Sharif but under no circumstances, can this be justified. Arshad Sharif was doing his job and in his profession, it is not mandatory for each and every section of society to agree with his reporting. Somewhere someone acted like the captain of the ship in the poem of Coleridge. Someone decided to kill the innocent. And the effects of the killing will be borne by the killer. Rest assured, nature will not forgive nor forget.

Arshad Sharif is not the first innocent who became a victim of intolerance. Pakistan as a nation is losing its integrity and its pristine values of brotherhood, discipline and tolerance. The message of the Great Quaid is lost to oblivion. Divisions across the board are plaguing Pakistan. The nation direly needs a force that can unite all sectors of society. There is no hope of tackling external threats when internal affairs are not in order. Divided we shall fall. This is a time of seriousness and urgency. Time is running out and the signs of destruction and implosion are imminent. Dialogues and negotiations have been replaced by adversarial brawls and many self-assumed leaders are gaining popularity by expanding the divide among the people of Pakistan. It is the need of the hour to give justice and tolerance a chance. The Government, the people and the leaders must stand together. All must make amends, ask for forgiveness of our sins and repent before the hammer of universal justice falls upon us. The Albatross has been killed and now we pray to avoid the fate of the cursed ship, perhaps it is too late, perhaps it is not, only time will tell….

Categories : Opinion
Imtiaz Rafi Butt

The Writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation.