Pakistanis: The stuff resilience is made of

Published: December 15, 2012

Not surprisingly, according to the Happy Planet Index (HPT) 2012, Pakistan was termed the 16th happiest country out of 151 countries of the world. PHOTO: AFP

I wake up to the sound of my phone ringing incessantly. While still in the process of retracting myself from the dream-world, I am informed of a movie plan for the following evening. There is no way my friends are missing out on the latest Bollywood blockbuster.

As the day proceeds, I can sense optimism all around me. The fruit and vegetable vendors take up their usual spot on the roadside. Every now and then, a car with songs blaring out of the stereo passes by. I can see a tough young man walking his dog while two little girls dressed up in an impeccable school uniform, hop along hand in hand.

I may soon hear of some depressing news, a strange new political development or an unlikely event but I see no sign of distress in the outside world. Who could ever guess that a society so trapped in a multitude of problems could display such resilience!

None of us are blind to the daily troubles that surround us. The personal security and liberty of every Pakistani citizen is in shambles. Our economy is in doldrums, half of the population remains illiterate, poverty is on the rise, and as if all of that wasn’t enough, the public is fed up of the government’s inefficiencies.

Every other day we hear about events that shake up the country but we stand firm, facing the challenges with a brave outlook. Instead of cowering down and cursing our fate, we have learned to not just weather the storm but keep on living strong.

Our cricket team may be losing the most crucial match, but we’d still be glued to our TV screens till the last minute of the game. Tennis may not excite many of us, but we’d swoon to the thought of Aisamul Haq cruising to the Grand Slams Final. We’d hoot with joy at Pakistan making eight world records in a day and we’d rush in hordes to buy the latest lawn print that is all the rage!

And when all else would fail, we’d turn to food for consolation; a plate of steaming chicken biryani or a dose of halwa puri would get us through the day. The country may face a momentary security lapse, public places may pose a serious risk to our lives, streets wouldn’t appear safe anymore, but none of this would stop us from enjoying a hot cup of coffee at one of the busiest commercial hubs.

We, as a nation, have so subtly adapted to the environment around us that we don’t let pain conquer us for long. This does not mean that we have become insensitive or immune, but rather we have let the hope in our hearts triumph all the negativity. In spite of the constant threats, our journalists and social activists do not stop raising their voices for the victims of injustice.

Sectarian violence has become a norm but there still remain many amongst us who do not hesitate to speak up against this evil. Just last month, the Sunni community of Gilgit-Baltistan awed the world by their act of gallantry; providing a human shield for the highly persecuted Shia community during one of the 10th Muharram processions.

We have the worst law and order situation, with the crime rate at its highest and frequent bomb blasts tearing through the cities, yet our police force stands united in protecting the citizens even at the cost of their own lives. The media may portray Pakistan to be on the verge of failure but the citizens have learnt to brush off the allegations and not let despair get to them.

Living under fear of the unknown diseases has also become a way of life for us Pakistanis. From the outbreak of the bird flu, to the dengue menace stretching for months, the fake medicines and now the poisoned cough syrup scam, we have had it all. However, we have stood against all odds by first suffering, then recovering and finally working to uproot the problem

While the world expects us to break down any minute, we show them that we’re made of stronger stuff and that we’re not going anywhere any time soon.

Not surprisingly, according to the Happy Planet Index (HPT) 2012, Pakistan was termed the 16th happiest country out of 151 countries of the world. Many would scoff at the findings but we just need to look at the people around us, smiling at and appreciating the little things in life. It’s not always about how wealthy a country is or how it’s waging in the global scenario; sometimes it’s just about a citizen’s simplistic approach towards life.

So the next time someone tells you in all seriousness that Pakistan is going down, you tell them that we Pakistanis are resilient enough to rebound!

Follow Farina on Twitter @Farina_Alam

Farina Alam

Farina Alam

An undergraduate student at Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Farina is majoring in Media and Communication Studies. She is an avid reader and an animal lover. She tweets as @Farina_Alam

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

  • arjun

    Resilient in what? minority persecution? ofcourse yes!!! what else your are resilient on? hating nonmuslims?Recommend

  • Sabeer Lodhi

    This was an absolutely brilliant read! Recommend

  • Pessimist

    What is ‘resilience’ to you is ‘numbness’ to me. We have became so accustomed to violence and lawlessness that we have accepted it into our daily routine.
    When we hear about a bomb attack our ideal reaction is ” Oh a bomb attack. How many people died? 5? Ok, that’s not much” and so life goes on.
    You mention the Happy Planet Index but I can find indexes about human rights, women rights, corruption etc where Pakistan is ranked among the top places.

    Instead of trying to change the affairs, our society has simply accepted these things. I’m not going to blame any particular group, we are all responsible.

    I’m sorry but I can’t agree with your article. Perhaps that’s why I am a pessimist. I know many commentators will post comments such as ‘InshAllah Pakistan will rise” or ” God will help us”, but I just see that as blind optimism.

    I wont say anymore, the news about the Newtown shootings has depressed me beyond words….Recommend

  • gp65

    You feel optimistic about your country and are loyal to it. That’s a great thing. Most patriotic people feel the same way. I would like to point out an error though. The Happy Planet Index rankings were nto based on whether citizens of a given country were happy but whether they consumed less natural resources (which would make the planet happy). The high rank is a reflection of the widespread load shedding not a resilient nation.
    One more point is that resilience means to recover from a negativeincident and reverse the course to put things back on right track, DO you think a national identity (as distincty from a religious identity) is stronger now than it was in 1971? Do you think Pakistan is reversing the course of stamping out and oppressing its minorities? Do you think terrorism and bomb blasts are reducing? Do you think vigilantism in the streets is going down? Do you tink the traget killings are reducing? In what areas have you observed that Pakistan has bounced back?Recommend

  • fus

    So the next time someone tells you in all seriousness that Pakistan is going down, you tell them that we Pakistanis are resilient enough to rebound!

    ….that we will inshallah…Recommend

  • Osman

    People like Pakistanis cannot be found anywhere else. The joy they get when they see electricity in their homes after a long session of load shedding, some might even forget they just experienced it when they get busy with their work again. They might give their cell phone to a mobile snatcher as if it never belonged to them.
    But people apart from pakistani community, might see us as just a bunch of “besharams”. People living a lavish lifestyle where most of the population can’t even reach a single meal a day. People getting killed everyday and in every style, from bory band lash to drone stikes, garat key naam pey qatal and how can we forget “target killing”, we have it all. How are we supposed to live happily in such consequences as long as we don’t get effected.
    We literally now congratulate relatives/fellow pakistanis who get foreign nationality, then how can we be proud as pakistanis at the same time, both these things just don’t go together.
    And what about thousands of other surveys in which we are found some where around africa like corruption and which country will be the best for a baby born in 2013. Recommend

  • Karthic

    Ah, this reminds me a dialogue from one of Naseeruddin Shah’s blockbuster movie – A Wednesday:

    Anupam Kher – We Mumbaikars are resilient…we will not let the bomb blasts………

    Naseerudin Shah – We are resilient by force, not by choice.

    What choice has the vegetable vendor or the raodside mechanic have ? Nothing. They have to come to the same spot, day in and day out to keep their family wheels spinning.Recommend

  • Maria

    Thanks for such a positive article! The truth is that an entire generation of young Pakistanis are working towards making a better Pakistan and we will make sure it becomes a reality. The enemies of Pakistan will always say negative things about Pakistan but Pakistan has shown that it is a lot more resilient than the naysayers say. I know a lot of people in North America say all Muslim countries from Egypt to Yemen to Afghanistan to Somalia to Uzbekistan are doomed but I think that Pakistanis will work together to build a better future. The media makes a point of always painting a negative picture but I think people need to celebrate all the good that also exists!Recommend

  • Anoni

    Absolutely true . :) Recommend

  • Something Clever

    At one time I’d have said Pakistanis are resilient. Or at the very least are gluttons for punishment.
    After quite a bit of time had passed I realized that wasn’t the case. Pakistanis aren’t resilient, they’re extremely apathetic.
    For them to be resilient, they actually have to take some kind of weight on and resist. But, that’s not what they do. They either look the other way and ignore it or find a way to shift the responsibility of taking that weight on, resulting in the issue being disowned and forgotten.Recommend

  • Aina Maria Waseem

    Yes we may have merely become numb, but I don’t care. I hate cynicism, and this article made me cry. I tell anyone who would listen, to not despair because from our current situation, we can either get exterminated, or rise and shine and make a new Pakistan. I believe that Allah didn’t create Pakistan without a purpose, only to take it away. Therefore, this black night is the eve of prosperity!Recommend

  • Close_enough

    Brovo, i love your writing,Recommend

  • Aima

    Hope is all we have and hope will bring a nation out of it’s misery. Shush to all the negative remarks here. She’s talking about positivity people, let’s carry it forward! Quit whining!Recommend

  • Raja Mujeeb

    Woh kal ke ghum-o-Aysh pe kuch huq nhe rakhta.
    Jo Aaj dil afroz-o-Jigar soz nehi hai…. (Iqbal)Recommend

  • SanaZ

    Good job Farina! It never hurts to bring a little more positivity! Yes we all know how messed up our nations is but STILL we are allowed to be happy and optimistic arent we?Recommend

  • Nida

    The author has really kindled a soft flame of hope which otherwise keeps dwindling day and night!! Great read!! positive opinions never hurt and gives u energy to get up the next morning again and face the afflictions plaguing our society. Thanx Farina for writing such a constructive blog!!Recommend

  • Meerkat

    Resilience of Pakistan is epitomised by Malala Youdafzais of Pakistan. Shot in the head at point blank range but still standing strong. It is the reason behind electoral success of political parties even though their leaders are murdered. Resilience of Pakistan is also seen by the philanthropy of our people. Raised to heights of mass admiration by the Edhis of of our country. It is the reason we are still here after devastating earthquakes and floods of biblical proportions. It is personified by that half naked man who works all day in a village in sweltering heat to provide for his family. You say he does not have a choice? Well he does. He could give up and run away from his responsibilities, but he does not! That’s who we are! We do not run and we are not scared!Recommend

  • Salim

    Nice article! Any other country would have crumbled with the problems that Pakistan has faced. Keep spreading the positive image of Pakistan. Recommend

  • De

    Such an amazing article!! But ofcourse, some people just want to ruin everything and make a mess out of it.Recommend

  • Saeed swabian

    I hope for better.Recommend

  • zara

    In every postive article about Pakistan I see lots of Indians making negative comments and literally wanting to instill despair….I dont know whats their problem but looking at their attitude I thank Almighty for giving us a separate homeland away from them…Recommend

  • zara

    And yes we are resilient…What you have written here is exactly what we have been discussing in our uni…Guess we need alternate media….Recommend

  • sars

    i would like to re iterate that happy planet index means how much resources you take from the environment etc not how happy you are.
    We are not a happy nation by far , and we are not doing enough so the future can be significantly different.
    Having said that im all up for any positive articles, the doom and gloom ones far out number them :)Recommend

  • sadia

    An excellent article,,,,,well done Miss Farnia Recommend

  • Mudassar

    Many thanks to the writer for aspiration of optimism and boosting our moral, yes we do accept that we have got some shortcomings but that doesnt mean stop hoping for the better future and disliking the present.Recommend

  • Hmm

    Very good read, keep up the good work. It’s all thanks to ALLAH (SWT), giving us Eman to withstand suchmtpugh times, may He solve all our problems.

    Also foreign authors acknowledge this too:

    If u don’t have ft subscription, search the link on bing/yahoo etc and then open it on the search page.Recommend

  • Yasha Nazir

    It is one’s own perception; how one takes an idea as. The positivity that seems to dwell in this article is what I ought to take fancy for. We are not to pin point a specific person or a nation for the corruptness that we find, because, every thing in this world has a bright side too. Perhaps, there is resilience in Pakistan if we consider hope that people have in them. Now, it is our own choice either to represent ourselves as a pessimist or an optimist. I must admire how remarkably the writer has portrayed the competence of citizens. All we need is to do is something good for this nation at individual basis; just like the writer has done her part; and, will keep it up too. Let us not complain about the past but unite together to bring such a revolution as eradicating underhandedness. Good work! Recommend

  • Raheel Asghar

    In today’s Pakistan where cynicism and negativity rules in every mind, reading such a positive article is like a breath of fresh air and especially so when coming from such a young writer !! Let’s hope this is not an isolated case of delusional optimism and that there are enough similarly deluded youngsters out there that can pull the rest of us out of our depressive realism !! Recommend

  • Sudheer

    Newspaper headline reads….
    “LAHORE: Over 100 tombstones were desecrated by unidentified men at an Ahmadi graveyard in the Model Town area of Lahore early Monday …” followed by a photograph of dug up graves and overturned tombstones.
    ……and the blogger writes..
    And when all else would fail, we’d turn to food for consolation; a plate of steaming chicken biryani or a dose of halwa puri would get us through the day.
    What a resilience!!
    I thank you my Lord that, you didn’t make me that “resilient”!Recommend

  • A A

    What a wonderfully written article. Well done!Recommend

  • usmanx

    Here is an article that celebrates who we are in a very difficult period in our country and almost immediately, Indians tear into it by bringing up everything from 1971 to the currency exchange. What is with these neighbors of ours? In each one these messages, one detects immense joy at the misery of ours. they talk about minorities, poverty etc. as if india has never had a thousand riots, govt. sponsored pogroms and as if even today 700 million indians live in the most atrocious poverty that would make sub-saharan africa look like paradise. Even a positive article is turned into an opportunity to denigrate. It is unfortunate.Recommend

  • Virkaul

    @zara: It is not only Indians, you have become focus of world attention. Indians are the most affected as the muck occasionally spills over here. You got your homeland 65 years ago but could not keep half of it and are he’ll bent on losing the rest. Take care of whatever is left with you and keep peace in the region. We have lots to do as our goals are higher.Recommend

  • Raju Thacker

    I have worked with some Pakistanis in ME and I always found them very interesting and fun loving. I had the opportunity to watch many Pakistanis comedy dramas on VCR and I really enjoyed them. Even today I watch many funny clips on youtube. I am of the opinion Pakistanis have better sense of humour than Indians who I think are of slightly serious type. I appreciate the spirit as this is happening despite all odds.Recommend

  • Amer

    Pakistanis are the most resilient nation on the face of this planet.
    That fact cannot be digested by a few hate-filled Indians. I have many very nice Indian friends in the US and the Middle East and I often wonder which hole the Indians commenting here live in. Recommend

  • Omer

    Resilience is the wrong word used here, ‘Dheet’ is more like it!Recommend

  • Queen

    Well said :) It is this resilience and the jazba with which the Pakistani nation faces each challenge and continue smiling in all odd situations, makes the world and especially people from countries like India, feel surprised. Judging by the comments of the indian readers, I think that the indians find it hard to understand the belief which Pakistanis have on their country. Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    @Farina Alam
    though superlative but I really got some positive, constructive and affirmative energy from this blog!! keep up the positive work!Recommend

  • Zeux

    An indian is giving a lecture on minority persecution. Ahem were you sleep when Gujarat Massacre was happening, Orissa, Kashmir, Assam, Dalits.

    Set your house in order first before coming here. We will do ours. Recommend

  • Milind

    @Pessimist – “What is ‘resilience’ to you is ‘numbness’ to me.”

    Got to agree with pessimist again. Here in India, this resilience thing is over-used. For example Mumbaikars displayed resilience during the 2004 floods, 2008 attacks… The spirit never dies. and so on..

    My question would be – Do we have a choice other than exhibiting resilience?

    Let’s face it…. We don’t have the wherewithal to change the system (India may fare slightly better than Pakistan due to democracy, but cannot guarantee a radical change in the system).
    The only option is to suck it up quietly and pat ourselves on our back for resilience…Recommend

  • islooboy

    Pakistan economy can grow only when dams like kalabagh are constructed if you can build in kashmir than pathans should have no problems building in khan landRecommend

  • kotli (azad kashmir)

    why my anti indian coment is moderatted while indians continue Pakistan bashing??Recommend

  • stevenson

    @Amer: You can see how desperate the Indians are here to portray Pakistan as negative. This only tells me the author has come up with a truth that really bothers Indians. Pakistanis really are made of resilient stuff and can fix not only their own problems but many other issues in the world!Recommend

  • http://mozila khurram

    Resilient” this is because we are thank full people in majority who Thanks Allah subhana Recommend

  • Salman (@Salmanhmrd)

    Whether its resilience or tolerance or numbing or sensitization, it’s the root problem of everything that’s wrong with our society. the fact that we learn to accept all these injustices and problems and turn a blind eye to all of them is the main reason we are still stuck where we are. because everyone be it the corrupt politicians or the gangsters or the world powers, jitna dabao gey, dabte rehen gey ye loag. because we take it all in a fatalistic (derived from fate) manner we continue to be pummeled and bullied any which way they want us to be. there is a time to be resilient and a time to stand up and say enough is enough!

    and will people stop referring to the Happy Planet Index!!! has anyone even bothered to read up on it?!!! it’s very specifically related to society’s happiness with the natural environment and climatic changes NOT we’re a happy people!!! Our high score indicates that we as a population are happy with our relationship with the environment (birds trees grass etc) and our well being with respect to the environment (birds trees grass etc) and why wouldn’t we be, i mean those are the least of our concerns right now!Recommend

  • Ahsan

    Interesting article. Its nice to see someone finally looking at things with a positive perspective… We are currently living in a society where negativity has become pervasive and any positive thoughts are immediately shot down… In order to rehabilitate this society and move towards the path of progress, we need similar positive thinking and finally start looking at the glass half full and not half empty… Recommend