I am jealous of the US, and have every right to be

Published: January 15, 2014

I could sense the power I possessed and felt ashamed that I had never tried to bring a change; not even a trivial one.

It was freezing outside. I did not have a ride and had to walk all the way home on a chilly winter evening. However, at that moment, the cold did not matter. Nothing did. My mind was troubled, and my conscience was not at peace.

And that is all that mattered.

Earlier that day, I had given a presentation about Pakistan in my high school. As a youth ambassador to the US, my presentation was supposed to be about ‘what’ Pakistan was. In an effort to portray the positive side of my country to a people who are all too often only exposed to its negative side, it had leaned more towards ‘how good’ Pakistan was.

Perhaps, I was afraid of admitting the harsh realities myself.

I had begun the presentation alluding to the city of Karachi as having one of the busiest ports in the world but I had conveniently skipped over the bitter truth that Karachi also had one of the highest crime rates in the country.

I had told them that Pakistan was the pioneer nation to come into existence in the name of Islam. Of course, I did not have the courage to mention on my PowerPoint slides that the country had broken into two in 1971, and also has a high rate of alcohol consumption among Muslim countries today.

I had displayed pictures of the magnificent Badshahi Mosque in Lahore to my audience. But I did not speak of Heera Mandi (the Red Light area) where the sex-workers of the city reside, located right behind the mosque.

I had commented upon our ‘independence’ from the British Raj. But I had withheld the fact that as a nation, we are still imprisoned in our minds.

I did not even say that we, Pakistanis, curse the US for pretty much everything that goes wrong in the country, while accepting its aid and green cards aplenty.

But now that the presentation was over, I felt angry at myself for concealing the other – darker – side of the coin. And for the first time, I felt responsible for everything that Pakistan has been going through. I could sense that I possessed a power, and I felt ashamed that I had never tried to bring change – not even a trivial one.

I felt such powerful guilt as I walked that cold night that my vision became blurry with a sudden rush of tears.

Since then, I have felt as if I have had an awakening.

Events and people in the US became a source of inspiration for me. I was moved by the high degree of honesty that was a characteristic of these people. Even minor things like the pleasant smiles that people gave while passing me by increased my respect and admiration for them.

Moreover, all the Americans whom I came across have an immense passion for hard work and an independent life. They know that in order to bring change, they will have to drive that change. Bring that change. Be that change.

And that is precisely what most of them did.

I noticed that they were taught from a very early age that nothing would come easily to them; they would not be spoon-fed. They would have to work for all that they dreamed of.

I saw children being assigned chores from the early age of eight or 10. They would be responsible for taking out the garbage, cleaning the yard, laying the table and taking the dishes out of the dishwasher. They were taught to do everything on their own and not depend on anyone for their survival.

As harsh as this may seem, to the sometimes over-protective parents in our society, perhaps, it is this thinking that inculcates in them the attitude to be self-reliant adults and hence, a self-sufficient nation.

Truth be told, I am jealous of the people in the US and I have every reason to be.

No, this write-up is by no means a tribute to the US and I have no intention to portray the country as a land of angels. Believe me, I could write another piece on my dislikes about the US, just as honestly as I have written this one. However, as a youth ambassador, my job was to grasp as many moral values and skills as I could and then put them in practice in Pakistan so that it would become a better place to live in.

My experience as a youth ambassador made me more tolerant, understanding and mature. Ironically, even my perception of Islam enhanced while residing in a non-Islamic country. Earlier, I used to believe that bowing down to God five times a day had far greater value than telling the truth all the time. But now I understand that telling the truth is an act of worship.

During this developing stage, I started thinking about a future in politics as well.

Aside from becoming a vigilante like Batman, politics seems the only way to handle all the corruption and law and order issues that face our country and its people. After all, the homeless need shelter, the hungry need bread and I want to contribute to their salvation.

And yet, at the same time the thought of getting my hands dirty to do some good scares me. Still, the more I think about it, the more I feel that politics is a pragmatic route to reach out to everybody in the correct way.

Here I am wondering if that one walk in the cold ever ended. Perhaps, it was the beginning of a lifetime journey towards a better me – a more learned me.

Aizaz Bokhari

Aizaz Bokhari

Student of Computer Engineering at UET Peshawar, he is interested in web design & development, mathematics, philosophy of religion, politics and acting. He tweets as @aizazbokhari (twitter.com/aizazbokhari)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • nishantsirohi123

    the reason of class divide in pakistani society being so strong is because of the jagirdars/waderas
    these are highly influential clans are free from taxes, law, police etc.

    they can do anything they want (dog fights, slaves, hunting endangered animals are just a few things)Recommend

  • Shahnaseéb

    I so wish to see this positive spirit in many people to bring about this change in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Fanarl

    Well, if had petroPAKISTANIRUPEE we would be successful too. Right now its petrodollar which is destroying the developing nation in the world.Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    Don’t be jealous, be inspired. Jealousy will burn one out, Inspiration will burst out the best in one.

    regards,Recommend

  • suleman asfand

    keep it up….Recommend

  • Aasiya Malik

    I agree with the writer as this is what I saw when I visited U.S and I had the same feelings.The hard work, dedication, honesty, punctuality, truthfulness, cleanliness ……all these qualities of the Americans inspired me a lot and I envy them too.Recommend

  • Islam under siege

    How much did the US State Department pay you to write this propaganda article?Recommend

  • Milind A

    @Asad Khan – Actually the author meant envy, which would be a mild form of jealousy and can carry positive connotations. Envy can be used as a positive emotion to inspire unlike jealousy.
    @Author – This was an excellent blog. I am in agreement with you… The ‘decadent’ West is better off in terms of honesty, human values, integrity…Recommend

  • Harry

    how about Germany? or Canada or Australia? Do they also have PetroDollar? The problem of Pakistan is because of the sick attitude of the people this country.Recommend

  • Harry

    This attitude has killed this country. Always blame others for your problem. Do you disagree of the hideous facts mentioned in this article about our society?Recommend

  • kareem

    Australia is an amazing place and immigration for skilled and educated folk is also easier. I will encourage Pakistanis wishing to go abroad to try for Australia.Recommend

  • slapshot

    Why would you need to speak about heera mandi? Do american give explanations about their porno industry in presentations? Recommend

  • http://solomon2.blogspot.com/ Solomon2

    Mr. Bokhari, you’re not the first representative of Pakistan to the U.S. to have these thoughts. But you may be to voice them back home to your people.
    Over forty years ago my Pakistani neighbor – a diplomat – entered my parents’ living room, severely troubled, even crying. It was 1970 or ’71 and his country was breaking apart. The Army had been given new and terrible orders. He told us, in effect, “Whatever Pakistan was supposed to be, this can’t be right.”

    His colleagues couldn’t help him. The U.S. State Dept. was divided. What else could he do but to seek out my parents, for advice? Wasn’t Israel like Pakistan?

    My parents provided what comfort they could. Eventually the diplomat broke his oath of loyalty to Pakistan and served the new state of Bangladesh. But he never told his countrymen at home the truth about the differences in philosophy and culture and personal qualities that made the U.S. and Israel successful and Pakistan a failure. Because as a diplomat he didn’t see it as his duty, just that of his political superiors, and he would not break out of that mold.Recommend

  • Shail Arora

    The way I see it, it’s been written in a context of introspection without glorifying the quality of life in US. I think instead of being cynical about it, we should learn about what makes them a better and more successful society as compared to our region. He is just talking about taking ownership and accountability of our actions.Recommend

  • US CENTCOM

    Am I surprised to read Aizaz Bokhari’s blog? No I am not. The whole purpose of “exchange students program” is learning about each other. The student lives with a host family and observes their cultures and lifestyle first hand. I have lived in the United States for about thirty years. I was a teenager, just like Aizaz but unlike him I was not an exchange student. My first take on the American people was that they are very friendly. As you walk down the street or in the mall, and if a stranger catches your eye the first thing you notice is a smile and a “hi”. This is the norm even today. Whatever you read and hear on the local media is not always true. Most Americans are people who want to learn about other cultures. If you start telling them about your country, you hear them say that “I did not know that or that is interesting.” I still remember when 2005’s devastating Earthquake hit Pakistan. My American friends would ask how they can help. Twenty two of them, from my home town, volunteered their time to travel along with me to Pakistan, where together we build homes, school and a hospital in a village call Bugna in Kashmir. I just want to echo Aizaz’s sentiments. Americans are very simple and trusting people, they take you at “face value”. They are not fast at judging you and they definitely are the first to reach out to their wallets whenever disaster strikes anywhere on this planet. Sometimes it boggles my mind as to why there is so much animosity against America in Pakistan when in reality the American people are always willing to help with an open heart. US AID is only one example of the generosity of the people of the United States of America. I would like to quote Ethan Casey, a writer and a journalist who has written two books on Pakistan and have travelled to the country often. He says, “The United States and Pakistan has many things in common and that makes them a natural ally. They should work on their mutual interest so both countries can benefit from each other”. We are striving to do so every day.

    Abdul Quddus
    DET- United States Central CommandRecommend

  • Sofia Bano

    I agree with the writer we hugely lack in Pakistan the basic qualities of hard work, dedication, honesty, punctuality, truthfulness, cleanliness ……all these qualities Americans of different ethnic spectrum seem to have after they leave their own countries I wonder how these qualities surface when when they leave Pakistan? There should be a national referendum to cut the number of holidays, the useless Pakistani media need to do more investigative reports on inefficiency & corruption & the people of Pakistan need to be MORE involved to demand these changes.

    Recommend

  • Aizaz Bokhari

    actually nothing. perhaps when soon enough i write something against the US government, you should then ask me what PM paid me.Recommend

  • Aizaz Bokhari

    thank you brother!Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    Fantastic article, I guess we all need introspection and then judge others.Recommend

  • tungi

    bwhahaha!no it was the israeli mossad!Recommend

  • Salman

    “Earlier, I used to believe that bowing down to God five times a day had far greater value than telling the truth all the time. But now I understand that telling the truth is an act of worship.” ~ You get that right boy.Recommend

  • Amna Sabahat

    Very Well written, Aizaz. Looking forward to read more :)Recommend

  • Sultan Mehmood

    It explains the two sides of Pakistan very well. Good work, Aizaz Bokhari!Recommend

  • Omar Qadir

    Ha ha ha…Funniest comment, You have made my day, Recommend

  • Wanderer

    He exactly meant people who live breathe and transpire ‘Conspiracy Theory’. Sick minds.Recommend

  • Hyder Ali

    We are religiously confused Nation, make it a Secular State if you wanna see progressive Pakistan !!!Recommend

  • Asfandyar Khattak

    When I visited the U.S. for three weeks in May-June 2012, I came back with the same feelings as the writer has stated. My observations of the American way of life inspired me too and forced me to make a paradigm shift in my personal life in certain ways. I believe that Pakistan can change too, if all of us having a shared vision and thoughts make some sort of combined effort to educate people and inspire a change in them.Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    “Sometimes it boggles my mind as to why there is so much animosity against America in Pakistan…..”

    - It is not only in Pakistan, but it is less severe than Latin & Arab World.

    “American people are always willing to help with an open heart…”

    - It is true.

    regards.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely said. Absolutely nothing wrong in appreciating the good and there is much good in America, as there is good in most other countries and cultures including ours.
    What we need is the strength to look inwards at ourselves, to correct our faults and adopt what is good from others.Recommend

  • Anwaar

    wouldn’t make a difference… for a society to progress justice is the key….Recommend

  • Tariq

    i live in a building in New York where I have a Pakistani, Somali, Lebanese, Yemenis, Puerto Ricans as neighbors. My neighbors are dirty and drive me crazy with their inconsiderate selfish habits. I rather have Americans as neighbors.Recommend

  • ZeeCarolina

    Aizaz, I came to the US in 1982 to study, get my degree and return to Pakistan. I ended up immigrating. I too remember the amazing social values that I encountered as those were alien for me to observe. I was surprised to see people actually taking pride in their work and going out of their way to help you. Quite different from the endless encounters wiith the office workers in Pakistan who always seemed to be out on tea breaks and getting them to do their job was like pulling teeth. The blame for the lack of these values in Pakistan to me seem to be on both the populace as well as the corrupt governments. It seems like in the good times (I won’t go into when that is) some of the trends do start to reverse as the economy starts to grow, people start to work rather then waste their time in destructive behavior, and the social ills start to ebb. So somehow when we have the right leaders people start to behave differerently, but with corrupt leaders the people folliow suit to loot the country socially and financially.Recommend

  • Aizaz Bokhari

    thank you for sharing.Recommend

  • Rabia sheikh

    you dont have to be jealous, we need to learn good things from the Americans; their honesty, hard work, maturity and tolerance is impeccable, wish we could learn from the US as a nation!Recommend

  • Rabia sheikh

    these are all facts not propaganda, but your mind is too shallow to accept the reality!Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Tariq:

    So true. Americans are hard working people. Then plan and execute. Just look at the fantastic infrastructures they have built in major metrapolis and how meticulously they planned them. Development is consistent across this great nation, and I am proud to be part of that greatness.Recommend

  • Femme

    There is no need to be jealous of the US because there are so many things that you have in Pakistan that you have none of here. I honestly say this as a Pakistani born and raised in Canada, that the vision that Pakistanis have of the West is extremely romanticized. Pakistan has a sense of community and familial respect. In the West, you hear so much of children moving out at 18 and thriving on their own. In Pakistan, there is a support system. A woman gives birth, she has a whole support system helping her raise a child while many single mothers in Canada struggle to support themselves because no one will take them in. The sense of hospitality is one that is present in South Asian societies and not much in the West. Believe it or not, there are people in the West that are starving or are barely scraping by. Each country and culture has their pros and cons. Don’t judge by a cover. Pakistan has a ways to go, but don’t overlook what is so beautiful about it; and at the same time appreciate what the West has to offer but don’t forget that there are so many things from our homeland that it cannot give us. Recommend

  • //////////////////////////// Abulkhair

    I have lived in USA. And agree with with the writer and many comments that USA ( and the West) is fine country in many ways. And lot of Global South not only Pakistan is corrupt, despotic and lacks integrity. Observe these two factors,Firstly, to buy a punnet of locally grown strawberries in Portland Oregon with no more than dozen of the berries cost $1.75 and a whole bunch of bananas containing more than two dozen bananas grown in Al Salvador which one had to carry on one’s shoulder cost only $1.00. Same with bag of oranges just $1.00 in a bag that again one had to carry on shoulder to take it out of the store. Second instance is You go in Coffee bar buy cup of coffee for $1.50 and sit as long as you want. The waiter keeps coming and filling up your cup again and again and when he gets back to his station he pours the remaining coffee down the drain. He then fills the parcolator once again for the next free round And all you paid was $1.50 once. Results war in Al Salvador and police shooting Children in Brazil as pests.
    Agreed I am referring to something that I experienced 1987/88. But then do we expect any change? Are not Western wars to liberate other people’s wealth from their pockets and safely tuck it away in their pockets.? Recommend

  • GIGfriend22

    The reality is its mixed……..The way you talk about how we take responsibility for our actions, and is assigned duties makes us sound cold hearted…..And no we are not just out for ourselves…..That too creates corruption very similarly like what’s happening with the governments …. Rather we do help each other out…..We do offer a helping hand…….There is a at times a shoulder to cry on……. Because at times everyone dose need a little help…… The difference is, we do not come dependent on it…..We get what we need and continue on…….This comes from deep seeded Christian values, as America was founded on it…… And also its simply natural and humane… But thank you for you sharing your awareness…..Perhaps you can share this information with fellow Pakistanis, both here….And in Pakistan..Recommend