Archive | July, 2013

“Why do you want to live in Pakistan?”

9 Jul

A friend asked me today why I want to live in Pakistan. I’m used to talking non-stop but I felt it necessary to pause and think of exactly why i want what I do. I know I won’t be treated with the same respect that women in other parts of the world are. I know I will have to dress in a certain way that may be uncharacteristic of me. I know I’ll have to live under certain laws that I simply cannot understand because of their draconian nature. I know I’ll worry about the safety of my friends and family who live here with me. I know I’ll have to struggle more than I’d have to in any other country in the world. 

Every holiday I get from University, I come back to Pakistan. I see the same antics – the same hypocrisy. I see a repressed society where a woman is raped through a man’s eyes. I drive my car and hope I won’t be put in a situation where I lose my temper over some guy overtaking me from the wrong lane like its his father’s road. People toss trash on the streets like they couldn’t care less about the poorly paid CDA trash collectors who have to work extra due to their apathy. The elite sit and trash talk each other the whole day, while engaging in the same behaviour they’re criticising. We all see people bribing the police and then abusing them for taking the very bribes they give them. Breaking a red light, so what? Who’s going to stop that 17 year old without a license when he has to make one call and the police officer will lose his job. 
These are just our flaws as a society. How the state has failed us, though interconnected, is a different story. We ask ourselves can we really respect a state that can’t even protect its own citizens? Can we accept paying taxes when we know our taxpayer money is used to strengthen institutions that harboured Osama Bin Laden for 9 years? We just assume since our tax money is going to be misused that there’s no use paying. We vote in the same people who can’t even organize a proper sewerage system due to which major cities are flooded every year during the Monsoon Season. 
What sane person would want to live in a country where he can’t feed himself let alone his family of five? Why does he have a family of five despite his awareness regarding his means of earning? Is there any awareness the relevant ministry for family planning has actively engaged in spreading regarding contraception, vasectomies, and so forth? Why are these ministers sitting in prados and land cruisers from our money when they can’t even do their job? 
So then why am I so insane, like so many of my fellow citizens to want to live in Pakistan? We are, or at least should be, well aware of Pakistan’s potential since that is our source of inspiration and hope. We have a truly blessed piece of land. With it, we have some unwanted occupants who’ve taken up arms and decided to turn brother against brother. Despite this, we have the majority of our peace-loving, compassionate, resilient countrymen and women working/trying to work for a better tomorrow. With all our natural and human resources, it should be a very short matter of time before we move towards prosperity and development under the leadership of a true statesman. This statesman is no where to be found in the status quo – he is not Nawaz Sharif, and he is not Imran Khan. Sincere, dedicated and honest leadership can only emerge where the society is sincere, dedicated and honest. Our leaders are carbon copies of each and every one of us – the good, the bad and the ugly. 
When we truly decide to change as a society, as a people, there is no force on earth that can deter us from achieving only the best. And the best aren’t Engish speaking, Prada-wearing leaders who eat us out of house and home. The best aren’t the people who make big promises but can’t walk the walk. The best will be those who learn from our past. Pakistan can only move forward when we, as a people, are clear on who we are, and what we want. Are we the men that take up arms because they know they can never win the hearts of the people? Are we the women who sit silently and condone rape to allegedly protect our family’s honour? Are we the hypocrites who talk about Islam while killing innocent women and children? We are none of these things. We are neither extreme. We are a moderate society that has been repressed through use of force by a state desperate to maintain its power. But we must fight. And we will fight, be it through our pen, our hard work, our words. We must be clear on our identity to pursue goals that flow from this identity. Do we really want a society in which a man feels he has a right to rape a woman because he is physically more powerful than her? Can the men in our country whole-heartedly state that they want their sisters and mothers to be second-class citizens? I know the answer, and I know the majority of our population does too. So why stay silent, why hesitate? I am proud to be Pakistani. Pakistan isn’t a terrorist country – it is a country a handful of extremists are trying to own when they have no right over it. It is a country run by leaders who forget that we elected them in and that ruling us is not their God-given right.
I have no hesitation saying I’m Pakistani, when I’m abroad. I’m not ashamed but am infact beaming with pride when I show the UK Border Agency my Green Passport. When they ask me whether I was treated well in Pakistan, I don’t pause for one second before smiling and saying, “why wouldn’t I be? My country is one where we accept everyone with arms wide open.” There will always be a few extremist liberals and religious fanatics – we must strive to attain our happy medium; our balance, not a system dictated to us. So when I finally came down to giving my friend an answer, i said, “Pakistan is the only country I can ever live in. It is the only place I can love each and every one of my fellow citizens, despite the differences in our backgrounds. There will always be a connection. And nothing, not even personal interest, can break those ties. The only thing I strive to do in my life is ensure Pakistan becomes the country it was meant to be, where everyone lives in peace, as equals.”