It perhaps is just a coincidence but countries — where at one point in ancient history, successful, prosperous civilisations flourished — seem to be in the doldrums. Some are in the grips of major financial crises while others are zones for major conflicts.
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One needs only a brief glance to realise that these major civilisations aren't quite living it up in the 21st century.
Ancient Greek Civilisation:
The Greeks don't have the oldest civilisation but clearly it has been one of the most influential. Unfortunately, Greece is on the brink of bankruptcy. With an austerity referendum scheduled for July 5, Greece is struggling to pay back its creditors, known informally as the Troika (consisting of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank). If in the upcoming referendum, it votes for "yes" it will be subjected to "strict and humiliating" austerity. If it goes with "no" it might no longer remain a part of the European Union.
The region between the Tigris and the Euphrates river systems — presently known as Iraq — was once where civilised societies started to take shape. Already a land plagued by years of dictatorship and ravaged by war, it is now under the "caliphate" of the Islamic State who have been seizing one city after another. Once the intellectual centre of the Islamic world, Baghdad under constant threat from the IS and frequent air strikes by the US targeting the militants is a distraught city today. With the IS cutting off water supply and deliberately drying up marshes — much like dictator Saddam Hussein — Iraq is definitely headed towards an environmental catastrophe.
Ancient Egyptian Civilisation:
The land of pharaohs and pyramids and sphinxes saw a revolution in 2011 that put an end to dictator Hosni Mubarak's rule. Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi took over and was ousted in no time by the military leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Morsi, an Islamist, has been sentenced to death which if carried out will enrage Brotherhood's supporters and lead to widespread protests if nothing else. Getting rid of a dictatorship hasn't done much for the freedom of press in Egypt either since more often than not, journalists are imprisoned, mostly for having affiliations with the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Indus Valley Civilisation:
The region witnessed the largest exodus in history during the Partition in 1947. Well, at least a portion of the exodus while the other bit took place on the Bengal frontier. The region remains a conflict zone for the two brothers separated at birth — India and Pakistan — and their never ending squabbles over border issues, more importantly Kashmir. Frequent ceasefire violations, infiltration and military green define the land of the five rivers. Add to this Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Indian Mujahideen and you have the perfect recipe for a civilisational disaster.
At least 30% of China's Great Wall from the Ming era has disappeared over time due to adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities. But that's not the only thing in China that is crumbling. The Chinese stock market took a 7.4% dive on June 26 that left it down 19% in just two weeks. Once the fastest growing economy in the world, China suddenly seems unable to keep up with itself. In the meantime, it remains embroiled in the South China Sea dispute, vehemently defending its claim over the largest portion of the territory which is supposed to be rich in natural resources even as it pledged to cut down on its carbon emissions.
On April 22, the Dawn, a newspaper published from Pakistan, ran a lovely piece called the 'A Pakistani-Burmese love affair from World War II'.
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It is about a Muzafar Khan, now 92, who hails from the district of Chakwal in present day Pakistan and Ayesha Bibi, the woman he fell in love with when he was 20, in a world torn with war and strife.
A Pakistani court has granted bail to LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a key planner of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, just a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said there is no 'good' and 'bad' Taliban.
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Peshawar, 16 December, 2014.
"Pablo Neruda once asked if you could have a line which says “the blood of children flowed on the streets?” What is there that can match the blood of children flowing on the streets? This is also an aesthetic problem, and the way he solves it is by writing “And the blood of children flowed on streets like the blood of children flows on the streets." There is no equivalence outside itself."
—Agha Shahid Ali. August 1997. (H/T Professor Suvir Kaul on Facebook)
Since words fail, we give you a Faiz poem, sung by Iqbal Bano, with a rough, inadequate translation:
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