A Pakistan with no hope

Published: September 1, 2010

Buses are burned as a show of protest in Pakistan

A few days ago, for the second time in three years, I came face to face with Karachi’s violent alter ego. It was a pretty decent day with nice cloudy skies and more or less everything going my way, until I was told that we had to attend a wedding function in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.

Now, I’m not saying I loathe the nonsensical rituals that govern a Pakistani wedding, no. It’s just that I’m not a big fan of leaving home an hour before midnight to go to a fancy dress show to fight over greasy biryani and lukewarm 7up.  Especially because of incidents like the one that ensued.

We weren’t fully done with the usual parade when a couple of minutes of scattered firing, followed by the stench of burning rubber and petrol forced us to rush outside the hall to see what was going on, and lo and behold, there it was; the sight/act/incident/habit (I really don’t know what to call it) Karachi is increasingly coming to be known for: a burning bus!

No more than 20 yards from all the wedding halls where at least half a dozen newlyweds were beginning their new lives together, hopeful to produce a brigade of new Pakistanis, some old ones were setting a perfect example by torching a bus and killing, as we later found out, it’s young, poor, and inarguably innocent conductor.

What followed was a frenzy of panicky people and speeding cars eager to make their way home before the situation worsened, because one having nothing to do with political strife and yet falling victim to its corollary is no longer a farfetched idea in this country, where impulsive acts of political terrorism, suicide bombers and target killings have become as much a part of everyone’s daily life as…well, I don’t know really, what else do we have in our lives these days?

I have to admit that any ounce of patriotism I might have left in me is dead. Poof. Gone. I was pretty defensive about my country and its people until a few years ago when things were actually looking up and I am kind of embarrassed by the unabashed declaration of my mounting indifference to ‘Pakistan’ on the whole. But here’s the thing: What is there to be patriotic about? What exactly am I supposed to do or think? What does a twenty-five-year-old who admits to being a spoilt ex-expatriate fallen victim to the harsh reality of being a Pakistani with no alternative passport do?

I’m lost; genuinely confused and virtually direction-less. I know I should love this place and have the verve to contribute to its advancement but I also know that Pakistan hasn’t really given me anything at all. Of course there’s the mushy talk of individuality and freedom and ‘ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’ to jingoize things, but come on, seriously, we’re talking about Pakistan here! The country that’s soon to be run by the twenty-one-year-old son of its number one ambassador for democracy. The country where most people have goldfish memories and absolutely no manners, morals and tolerance. The country where, in the ‘Holy Month of Ramadan,’ people would rather just look-on than make an effort to stop a bunch of coldblooded animals from publically beating to death a couple of innocent teenagers. The country where revered actors openly promote promiscuity in the name of free media and morning show hosts talk about contract marriages with Indian actresses. The country where rapists are given VIP treatment in first-class hospitals because of their political associations but middle-aged rape victims are shot dead by their own family in the name of honour. The country where, for some godforsaken reason, each and every manhole falls right in the middle of the road and no vendor ever has any change or the right sized plastic bags!

What’s worse, we all secretly celebrate these things. We hold some kind of perverted pleasure in knowing that we’re the unfortunate inhabitants of a poor, savaged third world country that’s literally down in the dumps. How else would we get away with things so easily? Subconsciously holding Pakistan and its institutions responsible for all the bad things that happen to us is the only way we can ensure a little sanity in our lives, right? And now we’ve got the floods: severe and unfortunate, sure, but also an excellent aide for our government to finish off the Armitage inspired job they’ve so diligently been working on for two years.

So tell me, am I really such a bad Pakistani for losing hope? Believe me I do experience occasional spurts of patriotism after watching the Wahga guard change ceremony on TV or reading about some random part-Pakistani out there who’s done something good to make the headlines…but is that enough?

What’s going to happen to Pakistan? I don’t know…probably the same thing that happens to every country that’s endowed with such a brilliant, self-effacing judiciary and a public that’s obsessed with politics and political analysts; the same thing that happens to any other country that’s riddled with inflation and poverty yet the people are more concerned about kafirs being kafirs on Facebook than their next meal.

I do know what’s going to happen to me though. After reading a few hate mails from die-hard Pakistanis who either secretly dream of earning Canadian Dollars or are already doing so, and bash others for never doing enough, I’ll go on living the Pakistani dream, sans electricity of course, until I complete my degree and the President completes his term. And then, my Pakistani friends, if there are still no signs of a Pakistani French revolution approaching…I’ll write another article.


Saad Zuberi

An Economics graduate with a post-grad in International Relations who’s currently pursuing Chartered Accountancy while working as a freelance writer for a number of local publications.

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

  • http://kashifmd.wordpress.com Kashif Chaudhry

    I totally agree with you and feel the same way in all ways! And may I say, you’re a good writer Sir!Recommend

  • Ghausia

    I say head for the hills, wherever those hills may be, not necessarily the UK or US, but anywhere but here. This is nothing but a cesspool of filth and misery. (waits for the angry comments blasting me for my hate and lack of patriotism)Recommend

  • Uzair

    I agree with what you have said. Though I wouldn’t solely blame on ththe people themselves. No society is perfect. By mentioning every wrong in this country the problem appears to be amplified. When a few people control the recources of Pakistan and the rest are left to either sink or swim then I’m afraid this was inevitable that this problem will arise. The British Isles before the renassaince weren’t perfect, The United States was on the brink of collapse during the civil war. The problem with us is that we have no sense of history and are afraid to think about the future. We never do infact. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/1336/the-democracy-of-detachment/ Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    Read Talat Hussains op-ed article, he has alot of arguments, though little answers.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jahanzaib-Haque/149352001744540?ref=ts Jahanzaib Haque

    @Nadir – you’re still my favourite commenter, by far. Regards (Web Editor)Recommend

  • Isfand

    “yet the people are more concerned about kafirs being kafirs on Facebook than their next meal”

  • http://www.tpdma.org Nuzhat

    Fine, this place is worse off than Satan’s armpit et cetera. But young sir, my question to you is, have you tried to initiate change, no matter how small? Do you have the courage to write to the President and the Prime minister, showing your disdain and mistrust of how they are misusing their office that the people got them in to, instead of writing for the Express Tribune blog? Did you try to stay behind and see if the burning bus had any unfortunate souls trapped within it? Did you try to call up the authorities, no matter how corrupt and lazy you know that they are?

    You’ve written ‘what’s going to happen to Pakistan? I don’t know.’ Well, why don’t you share an idea?Recommend

  • Haris Masood Zuberi

    Very moving and well written Saad. Paints a true & fair picture of how things are and what they make us feel, most importantly, without white-washing of the stark failings of our whole nation. Recommend

  • Haris Masood Zuberi

    You’re right,Talat’s op-ed is another rant in the ‘pigeon facing the cat’ series. Closed eyes and perpetual denials coupled with self-aggrandizing pep-talks help us no more…Recommend

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    Great piece, and true refelection in the mirror…..if I am ugly and a mirror shows me ugly, I wont break it and buy a mirror that shows me beautiful…….Mahreen and talat pieces arent much logical, though have too many examples…….I wish if they could answer some questions of mine regarding our nation………A TRUE and CLEAR Picture…..Nice piece……….One must not try to hide the bad and brutal side of us………Recommend

  • Abdullah

    Hope is a good thing, and good things never die !

    (as in good things don’t die, rather they become reality). sounds very theoretical, but try it for once. Keep good hope, inshAAllah things will be bright one day. crying like a baby and complaining, beside not doing anything at all for a change, is simply pathetic !

    Stop being pathetic. despite all our weaknesses, we will rise to greatness. I believe that and I shall live to see that.

    If your patriotism just lost its passion, cause of these violent incidents, perhaps then it wasnt patriotism. It was just a claim that attenuated.

    I live the same as you do, perhaps in harsher situations, I STILL HAVE HOPE !Recommend

  • abc

    I think almost everyone in the country shares your sentiments regarding this issue, but despite of that, i think taking away the hope of soo many people who choose to believe in the best isn’t the right thing to do. Yes freedom of speech withstanding, i am not blasting at you for your article, but we are in fact facing very tough times. I would still rather remain hopeful. We are part of a great country. Be the change you want to be, inspire others. I dont know why students dont want to come into politics. We need new parties in our politics and leadership. We have so many resources, a good honest leadership will InshAllah take us far. Pray and work towards it. Rather than lose hope. Not every one of us has a dual passport.Recommend

  • Devil’s Advocate

    You know sometimes, when things are uncontrollably bad, and you feel angry, lost and confused, a plate of greasy Biryani can really take the edge off. Recommend

  • Soha

    Your piece has inspired me to write a (rather infantile) poem:

    This is my country,
    My home,
    A place where I will live, play, love
    And die

    This is my world
    A place where I am free to be whoever I want
    Except me

    This is my life
    Like yours
    A failure to know if is them or me who is
    beyond hopeRecommend

  • AK

    my god, people…you’ve just reinforced the writer’s notion by blindly narrating the the kitaabi kahaniyan that were forced upon you as a child!
    i wish nuzhat would read the last 2 paras of the article again. maybe something will strike similar?

    if we don’t pinpoint our mistakes now, we’ll be making the same mistake our ancestors made…and look where that got us. its the 21st century and we call ourselves civilized yet people are killed in the streets everyday, women are raped and the culprits roam free. we don’t have electricity, we don’t have law and order. our dictators prove to be better leaders and patriots than the so called democratically elected politicians…

    i think the article very nicely portrays every sensible pakistani’s emotions right now. if you refuse wake up, get off your asses and stop being aloof to the fact that something is infact wrong with our nation, nothing is going to change.
    you can close your eyes to reality but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there…Recommend

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Its funny how writers are forcing people to “wake up and change”

    Something tells me that the people who really need to change do not subscribe to Express tribune, let alone read the online blogs. Recommend

  • Miss Khan

    I totally agree with Mr Saad Zuberi.
    I too am a young Pakistani and I admit I have lost hope in this godforsaken country and its people. I’m sorry I don’t believe much in utopian BS like most of you…I want practical solutions.
    I want my country to make me want to be proud of it. I want my country to be free of corruption. I want my country to be progressive. I want my country to be run by people who’re not so filthy rich they don’t even know what goes on below Stratosphere.
    I want my country to give me 24 hours of electricity and security when I go out of the house. I want to be able to afford the basic necessities of life….
    I could go on and on and on and on….and NONE of you will have anything better to say than ‘I still have hope and if you can’t love your country you have no right to talk about it’…so whats the point?Recommend

  • Miss Khan

    And please don’t ask me to make any changes….I’m too young and its not my job to run a country or change its tracks. I’ll be accountable in 20 years time…not now!Recommend

  • F. Alam

    There is a lot of negativity in our attitudes. Though times are tougher now, I have always heard these type of arguments (i.e. there is no hope).

    I remember 80s and 90s’ Pakistan which was under constant threat of invasion from the USSR and India. Bomb blasts on buses were a daily occurence. ‘Hammer group’ who would take your brain out while you were sleeping was cause for people and kids (including me) to stay awake with fear. Before that, my mom would tell me about constant curfews in 70s, country breaking into two in 1971 and ‘headless’ (sar kata) people. Read any speech of the 50s and 60s and you would see dark times. If BB was murdered, don’t forget Liaqat Ali Khan was murdered in same country & same city in as far back as 1951.

    Did we ever have a good time or it is just media which is making things look worse than they actually are? If not, then why I always heard that there is no hope in Pakistan as early as 1983 from my uncle? It reminds me of ‘Nazuk Morr’ in Laga Reh music!! Recommend

  • http://www.tpdma.org Nuzhat

    AK, I did read the two paragraphs again. Given the scope of the negativity as the writer points out, writing another article, sadly, isn’t good enough anymore.Recommend

  • Saad Zuberi

    First of all, I want to thank you all for taking the time out to read this article and then having enough patience, and verve, to comment on it.

    For everyone who disagrees with my sentiment, I have to admit I’m moved, perhaps even beyond tea…rs, by your sanctification of Pakistan despite its many, many issues. I honestly wish I was half as aloof to the corruption, intolerance, duplicity, anarchy, holier-than-thouism and lawlessness we as a nation are drenched in today to just not care and go on living in as if in Camelot.
    Sure, I could close my eyes to all these ‘nonissues’, as you call them, but where would that lead us? Another 3 generations without electricity, food, education and justice? Another 6 decades under the rule of democratic monarchs?

    Its a pity I don’t wake up every five years after a natural disaster strikes like most of us to collect food and money for the poor and be done with it. I’m awake every single day, fully aware of my country’s weaknesses and failures, and to be honest, it hurts. It hurts watching a nation that came together 63 years ago to virtually disintegrate like this and us being too proud to even realize that there might be a problem at hand.

    We can’t do anything for Pakistan, not yet anyway. Heck, most of us are still in our 20s, it’s not our job to do anything for Pakistan yet! The only thing we can and should do is a) stop fooling ourselves by refusing to accept that things need to change, and b) contribute to a transparent feedback system that will compel the decision makers to stop fooling around and get to work…and make this country livable and lovable again.

    I’m sorry if any of you were offended by my inability to believe in quixotic nonsense. I want practical solutions. And a country that I can really be proud of. Recommend

  • Tariq Javed

    We as a nation are not pessimist, we have lots of hopes, this is not new thing for in the life of a nation. We are big and can sustain it and fight it back.Recommend

  • Sanjeev Kulkarni

    “If all combatants trusted their kids more, all conflicts could end sooner”. R.G.Erickson

    I presume most of the folks on this blog are youngsters and strange as it sounds, find this blog very inspiring. Inspiring because the first step in changing reality is to accept the situation with honesty.

    Nothing is not lost and you guys just get on with building Pakistan.

    Humans are capable of much much more if they let go of their narrow
    blinkered view.

    You guys might be aware of Rabindranath Tagore a Nobel Prize Winner
    in English Literature and author of National Anthem of India and Bangla Desh.

    Some of you might like this poem written by him in the context of
    freedom struggle from British Raj.

    “Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
    Where knowledge is free;
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
    Where words come out from the depth of truth;
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
    Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action:
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

    “An old and tired well wisher from India who is sick of violence and hatred.Recommend

  • Pakistan is my identity!


  • http://http/ipsnews.tripod.com/ Habib Hayat

    We as Pakistani must not be too much disappointed,disheartened or depressed with the current situation and state of the affairs instead we as individuals and collective as a nation should work with harmony,enthusiasm and bright hopes as this is created by our corrupt leadership who plays into the hands of their foreign masters and for the sake of their own rule and status have made such decisions which made us as a nation to see this day.As individuals we all are also equally responsible for all this chaos uncertainity and unrest in our beloved motherland…Just look what we ourselves are doing….No “FAITH,DICIPLINE AND UNITY …every one wants to share as much as one can from national resources legally or illegaly without even fulfilling the responsibilities of a citizen whether its our leaders since 1970s or bureaucracy or general public…Just try to see ourselves first…are we able to call our selves “human beings” ,what to talk about Pakistanis and Musalman…Look everywhere each from clerk to boss,businessman, traders to shopkeepers and even private work force,students what we are doinig…???Change the system,habits and judiciary things will start getting better…We know people responsible for corruption,dismembering Pakistan fleeing with billion of dollars of national exchequer money and we voted them again and again into power.we know corrupt bureaucrates,judges,custom officers,lawyers, businessman,journalists, who is taking any action against them..None..except making paper statements but every one is busy increasing bank balance,bunglows and position.Dont We…then think???Recommend

  • Amir S

    i dont get it. i just read the piece two times over and i found nothing here that’s been exaggerated. it’s am honest narration of how a young man feels about his city and country these days…and given the dire circumstances, i dont blame him for feeling this way at all!

    i dont understand why so many of youre so insecure about this.. do you all not want your country to get past this horrible time? how do you expect that to happen if we all simply refuse to accept that theres something wrong in the first place?

    i see this article and saads views as realism, not pessimism, because each and every line here strikes a chord whether you like it or not! ok maybe the title is a little harsh, but the rest of the piece certainly is a wake up call!

    im tired of being told by all the intellectuals on television that nothings wrong and everythings going to be ok and that were a wonderful people…when the fact is nothing is going right these days and unless we do something soon nothing is going to get better and weve certainly proved recently that we’re not such great people after all….

    i wish the ‘silent majority’ (the 70+ people whove liked this article but didnt stop to write a comment) would change soon and become vocal like the writer because they are what pakistan needs right now… you cant expect to improve yourself if youve got no tolerance for criticism and continue to think youre perfect eventhough you arent! Recommend

  • Aiman

    Hi everybody-get up and start doing something positive for your country and you will feel better. You seem to consider Pakistan as a seperate identity from yourselves-only if you Pakistanis have hope will Pakistan have hope. Recommend

  • Khurrum Fiazuddin

    Hazrat Ali said,Hopelessness is kufar. Things were pretty bad during the great depression of the 1930’s, during the second world war and the American Civil War. Those people fought bravely and never left their country for greener pasture. Young Pakistanis can really turn the things around. We can save pakistan if we all stand up against religious extremism. Recommend

  • Aiman

    For Saad and the other depressed lot out there, here’s a link to what one group of young people are doing for Pakistan minus the complaints. Things can be better in Pakistan but we all have to make them better ourselves. I sincerely hope all of you realize your own power- “be the change!”


  • http://goldenpages-mubi.blogspot.com mubeshra

    i lost my patriotism a while back..and in the last 5 mins i read two articles one about all things good about Pakistan and this one. in these 5 mins i felt two emotions of hope and then of hopelessness..i have no idea what should make me keep going Recommend

  • Zahra

    I totally agree with you.
    I remember school days when my mother used to pull me out of my bed to rush me to school. All she was concerned about was that i attend the assembly. It was an ordinary congragation where everybody recited a surah from the Holy Quran and then the National Anthem to start the day. But for us the feeling was just so refreshing when my friends and I sang the anthem with so much fervor and sparkle in the eyes.
    Independence Day was another event! We wrote articles, drew pictures and decorated our house with flags.
    But the students now not only lack that love for the coutry rather dislike talking about the current affairs of the country and prefer the conversation on their foreign holidays..how that place was so clean and beautiful and then how dirty and sich Pakistan is…
    We have lost the love for our country not because of the media awareness but i feel when nations forget their traditions, rituals, beliefs and roots..decline is more likely..The Mughal decline is the greatest example..
    Pakistan gave us alot.. an Identity, a place where we could practice our religon and our traditions. But in return what did we give our country otherthan leaving it for good jobs and foreign passports. As you sow, so shall u reep..Now we feel helpless as the corrupt lot rules on us..but deep inside we all know that we are the victims but we fail to accept it..Recommend

  • Mustafa

    Weren’t they Pakistanis who showed exemplary nationhood in response to Earthquake in 2005 and who are again mobilizing resources to cope with floods and help out flood victims?
    Isn’t Pakistan among the top most countries ranked by volume of charity collected per year?
    Which country is the only nuclear power in the muslim world?
    Doesn’t Pakistanis living abroad send record remittances each year to support their families?
    Which muslim country can boast of producing scientists like Dr. Abdul Qadeer, Dr. Samar Mubarak, Dr. Abdus Salam?
    Which muslim country has one of the most skilled and highly professional army in the world?
    Weren’t they common Pakistanis who stood against the dictator and restored CJ through popular movement? Can Saudis stand up against their monarch?
    Hasn’t Pakistani workforce laid one of the largest irrigation systems in world, built dams, maintained deterrence against army which multiple times larger than itself?

    Its actually that darker side of our country is given soooo much projection against the brighter side in foreign and local media that we have become victim of sheer pessimism.
    No doubt our country is going through torrid time and is beset with many issues/problems. But our approach should be to resolve the issues and solve the problems instead of running away from them out of despair. Instead of spreading despondency and panic, people should use their writing skills to motivate their countrymen to take action / make an effort to cleanse hatred, crime and corruption from this country.

  • Pissed Off

    @ Mustafa

    Weren’t they Pakistanis who showed exemplary nationhood in response to Earthquake in 2005 and who are again mobilizing resources to cope with floods and help out flood victims?

    Like the writer said in his comment: We only wake up once every 5 years after something bad happens. Nothing extraordinary about that!

    Weren’t they common Pakistanis who stood against the dictator and restored CJ through popular movement?

    And that has helped the common man how, exactly?

    Can Saudis stand up against their monarch?

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. Go live in Saudi Arabia for a year and you’ll never want to come back. Monarchy works for nations where there’s low literacy. King Fahad and King Abdullah have been great kings to their people. Saudis don’t have to go to sleep with an empty stomach in the 21st century, and no, it’s not all about the oil money. You seriously think the common Pakistani’s standard of living will rise if we discovered oil in Pakistan tomorrow? No. Why? Because we have such ‘brilliant’ custodians its not even funny! They will suck every drop of oil and money right in frount of your eyes and still you’ll vote them back in power.
    I’m sick of this neverending cycle. Like seriously.

    Hasn’t Pakistani workforce laid one of the largest irrigation systems in world, built dams,

    Built dams…Are you kidding me? Other countries enjoy the benefits of rain. We got flooded because its been 63 years and we still cant decide whether we want dams or not!

    Instead of spreading despondency and panic, people should use their writing skills to motivate their countrymen to take action / make an effort to cleanse hatred, crime and corruption from this country.

    So you’re intent upon playing the ostrich while the world around you progresses at mach speed? You only want to hear the good things because the bad things make you uncomfortable?
    Grow up my friends. Grow up.Recommend

  • aysha

    @the post above, i stopped taking him seriously when he went on to describe the merits of saudi arabia, as if it’s a utopia and not a land mine of human rights violations.
    as for the article, i applaud you for having a mind and putting it to use. if only everyone else did that, they wouldn’t be standing with an elephant in the room and refusing to aknowledge it’s presence. they’re not helping this nation at all. people like you have have the guts to speak up, they make a difference. when you’re young, you do whatever you can, even if its just putting pen to paper and letting your voice be heard. it’s more than what i can say for the critics, you who don’t care that millions of people in this nation are suffering. as long as you’re ok, pakistan is ok. am i right or am i right?Recommend

  • the intelligent one

    so since soo many of us here have such deferring views yet we all feel the same pain for our country, why not put our heads together and come up with some possible solution instead of choosing a stand for hating the country or loving it. after reading the article, i seem to have forgotten what it was precisely about because all the comments relate to previous commentators. Cmon guys, even on a simple blog, we have the decency to analyze what others are saying rather than focusing on the situation at hand! why is it that we have to take everything so ‘personally’? its time we work ‘collectively’ not individually. you all are entitled to your opinions, no doubt, but dont you think that a better approach would be to use the opinions in a direction for the betterment of our country?? we have to certainly do more than just waking up. i think we all already know what is going on in our country. our next step is to come together and work out a solution. it doesnt have to be instantaneous…baby steps is all we need, for now at least. Recommend

  • Sehrish A

    OMG, did most of the critics of this article even read the whole thing through? Or are you all just the kind that read the title and start blabbering because you like to read your name on the computer screen?

    Well done, Saad! You’ve voiced what most young Pakistanis are feeling right now…Good job, and please keep writing!! Recommend

  • qaisar farooq

    Oh, common dear crying on difficulties, problems are very much easy for everyone, we are very desperate,angry, about our system but tell me just one thing what is the solution of all these tinges? do you have any solution? i think you did not, because people like you just portray Pakistan in negative way.while siting in luxury car and watching all that incident,what you did there? i know you did nothing. people like you crying on our political system but tell me in how many rally’s you took part against this political system? writing on a blog is not enough dear,we are 65% of this country if we want change then we must have to come outside bro no maters from which class we belong now its a time to stay unite and to do something for Pakistan. Recommend

  • Pagla

    Everything you said is completely right and very well written. The irony however is that you’re did the same thing that everyone else does; bitch about the problems. If you were any different, you would come up with creative ways to deal with these.Recommend

  • Salim Akbar


  • Salim Akbar

    True say, I think eventually this country is going to break up. Our Job should be to make sure that the new emerging states (Punjab, Balochistan,etc) are secular and democratic states with strong backgrounds. Trust me guys, it won’t be that bad.Recommend