When will Pakistan say ‘Yes, it is my fault’?

Published: August 14, 2013

The concept of ownership and accountability eludes us. DESIGN: EMA ANIS

I remember during high-school when my friends and I got bad grades, we blamed the school administration. When the roads in Islamabad were polluted with squashed ‘Frost’ juice boxes, we blamed the government. When I was late for classes and meetings, I would blame my driver for driving slowly or my maid for not waking me up on time or the rain for making the roads slippery – you get the picture?

After we graduated from high-school and my friends received bad grades, they blamed the Cambridge administration for a biased system.

In my 18 years in Pakistan, I have NEVER heard anyone say

‘yes it is my fault’.

I, too, was no different.

Naturally, my first month in college In a foreign land was a disaster. I would be at least 10 minutes late to all my classes and at the end of the session, I would always drag my professor aside and make an excuse.

there was an emergency in Pakistan, so I had to talk to my parents on Skyp.e


I am new here, I forgot the directions to class.

I soon realised that in college, I did not have parents, siblings, drivers, maids and traffic police to blame for my own carelessness. The walk to class was simply five minutes long, and had I not been in bed all morning, I would have made it on time.

One day I was so late to class, that I missed my test. I still remember that I suddenly became pale and breathless. The dramatic and exaggerated thought of failing college and being deported rattled me. When my advisor decided to dock one point every time I was late to class, I learnt a very foreign concept – a concept of ‘accountability’.

On that day, I was honest with myself and accepted that I was not late because of external factors; I was late every day because I was unorganized and careless; because I was always using excuses to justify my actions, I never accepted my own flaws. How can one improve oneself without accepting one’s own flaws?

I realised that the first step to improvement is ‘acceptance’. I promised myself that no matter how difficult circumstances become, I would not make excuses for my faults; I would own up to them and change them.

After continuously trying and realizing how it feels to be accountable, I didn’t only manage to get a 4.0 that semester but also received a scholarship. Despite working for exhaustive hours at a tiresome minimum wage job to afford college, I was able to partially change myself.

Maybe the fast, lonely and crude freshman winter partially transformed me, but unfortunately the people of Pakistan and my Pakistani-self are still the same.

On a national level we believe that our problems are caused by USA, India or Israel. On a domestic level, we blame our own flaws on the people and factors around us. We also blame general Ziaul Haq for how our country is today. Maybe the present circumstances of our country are due to mistakes of past governments, but for how long will be blame everything on them?

Is our lack of disciple Zia’s fault?

Is our carelessness, Zia’s fault?

Is our impulsive decision making, Zia’s fault?

I believe that it is not – it is our own fault

This pattern has been occurring from August 14, 1947 all the way up to August 14, 2013. It is time for a change now.

We need to realise that WE are the cause of OUR problems. We need to correct ourselves, not just by words and notes but by action. We need to stop believing in irrational conspiracy theories and start realising that our own political parties are backstabbing us. We need to stop blaming other countries and admit that we have legitimate problems in our country, such as terrorism, poverty and gender discrimination. We cannot overcome our problems till we do not admit that they exist, just like we cannot cure an illness until we do not admit that we have it.

When I think of Pakistanis, I think of the most affectionate, welcoming and hospitable people. Our personalities are charismatic, but our discipline is non-existent.

Let us aim for a better year; on the next August 14th, we will have a list of things that we will have changed and not just a list of excuses. Next year the ‘Pakistani’ way will symbolise unity, faith and discipline rather than lack of it. We can overcome our flaws as a nation, today. Let’s change the ‘Pakistani way’; let’s step out of conspiracy theories and delusions and let’s do it today’ for a change and not ‘tomorrow’.

Farzeen Tariq

Farzeen Tariq

A graduate of International Relations and Social Justice from Lake Forest College. Farzeen studied international law at University of Oxford and works at Chicago Sun-Times. She intends to pursue a career in public interest law and micro-finance in Pakistan.

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

  • I am a Khan

    Good Write up. Its true that Pakistanis love to play the blame game. The most recent fashion is to blame Saudi Arabia for the terrorism in Pakistan! Outrageous :) The problems of Pakistan are due to the pakistanis attitude. 5% people are the problem. 95% people play the blame game on outsiders and until pakistanis rectify themselves, the situation of Pakistan will not change. Happy Independence Day!Recommend

  • nadeem

    And you know, this is all YOUR faultRecommend

  • Afrooz

    The “blame others” attitude is not unique to Pakistan. It is the case with all Muslim nations. We prefer to live under the constant shadow of perceived threats from “external forces” that are out to get us. This is the root cause of our fatalism and lethargy as an Ummah. We want to view everything in black and white, black because these outside forces are ganged up against innocent muslims i.e. us, or white because our faith and Allah have given us victory. Somewhere in the middle we forget that as sentient intelligent beings our fate is controlled by our own hands. Recommend

  • http://India vasan

    Never. It is in the southasian blood.Recommend

  • pakistani

    I agree with your opinion. Great piece of writing. I am glad that someone is finally speaking up about Pakistani tendencies to believe in conspiracy theories. Recommend

  • Pakistanian

    Funny enough I had to blame you ….. for a half written article/blog on a similar theme. Not sure I would have done a better job than you. I dont want to blame anyone ……. BUT … I genuienly think that our elders/role model and the coming generations change and accept their mistakes …. only way to learn/grow is to accept one’s shortcomings and improve on them! Recommend

  • Mehdi


    Kudos to you. You are the first pakistani to accept the problem you blogged about I have seen here at ET blogosphere. People who blame others are never successful. Accountability and diligence are two ingredients of success, at least in the western culture. Enjoy your stay in my city called Chicago :)Recommend

  • Ali

    I like that you shared your personal experiences. You are right that lack of accountability is embedded in us but I agree with Pakistanian that it is changing in younger generations. Recommend

  • Pakistanian

    I am glad someone is actually coming out and saying these things!!! I hear alot of ‘Pakistan Pakistan’ for a couple of days in the year …. with no practical follow up …… blame everyone, blame RAW, Seperatist, Jewish Lobby, Zia, blame religion, blame GOD! …. but no one will achieve anything like that!Recommend

  • ayesha

    I agree to the fact that Bbaming others would never take you anywhere near success.
    But the point is, have you actually implemented this in your personal life???Recommend

  • Hashim

    Really enjoyed reading this. I had similar experiences when I studied in UK. Recommend

  • Mehdi


    I believe she did as 4.0 GPA was achieved on her part and the work is still in progress.Recommend

  • Sam

    your opinion is accurate. We need more people like you in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Shaheena

    That is what Iqbal said but our nation didn’t listen to his messageRecommend

  • Local

    Very True. I am the same way. Recommend

  • Usman

    I disagree with u fareen tariq.
    RAW is aiding it’s terrorists in pak and in afghanistan. is it pakistan’s fault?
    USA invaded afhanistan. is it pakistan’s fault?
    india stages a drama in it’s own land and put blame on isi. is this also pakistan’s fault?
    israil and india’s strong connection are proved in unstability and bomb blasts in balochistan. is it pakistan’s fault?

  • aamir qazi

    jitna we are to blame others are to blame as much too! and vice versa! Recommend

  • Usman

    why dont u ask this from india when even when an ant dies there. they put blame on pakistan and isi.. why dont u ask this from america. they have blame a whole nation and invade them afterwards.


  • Asghar

    Agree with the gist of your article. We should accept our mistakes and make changes within ourselves. That should be foremost and is something we are seriously lacking.
    However….. It is not so simple as to deny the existence of external forces trying to destabilize the country. Maybe some but not every blame put on India, USA or other external forces is an “irrational conspiracy theory”.Recommend

  • Anon

    When you were removed from your toxic environment you found yourself gifted with good qualities after a steep learning curve. Great realization and a good personal journey.
    But I don’t think what you’re trying to teach here ,is a lesson 99% pakistani’s will swallow kindly.
    The national psyche won’t accept your wisdom-it enjoys demonizing americans,israelis,indians and afghans.Recommend

  • Hina

    Did you read the whole blog? We need a blog on Pakistanis doing “Superficial” judgements based on cues that details!Recommend

  • http://Www.amiranzur.com Amir Anzur

    Well written!

    “If you want to make the world a better place, start in your own little corner.”Recommend

  • Waqar Hasnain

    I tend to disagree with the writer. Sense of ownership & responsibility are traits that are instilled either by the parents or by mentors at educational institutions. Unfortunately both skipped writer’s various dimensions of blame game.

    Secondly the concept of “lead by example” has hitherto remained absent in our political, civil, business and military leadership. We aptly emulate what our elders/seniors do as that perhaps is the norm to growth & advancement or so do we think.Those who got away with murders, plunders, loot money, illegal occupation of lands..wheres accountability?


  • asma tanoli

    Great article but it does not mean that Ziaulhaq should not be blamed. Just like great leaders such as Lee Kuwan Yeo or Den Xiaping moderenized their countries, so did Zia pushed us hundreds of years in the past. However, if most of us are fortunate to go to the United States, we will become wiser and realize that we can change our country.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    The problem is that PAKISTAN IS CENTER OF UNIVERSE .. but sadly rest of the world doesn’t agree with us on that. Another conspiracy.Recommend

  • Adeel Ur Rehman

    A much needed initiaive required in Pakistan Farzeen.Recommend

  • Dr.A.K.Tewari

    @Farzeen , People like you are the last hope for Pakistan . We in India have produced a new generation of muslim boys and girls who think rationally having secular approach to deal with some of the social problems but the political parties and
    religious leaders either spoil or mask their efforts . The impact of Pak media is also negative on the muslim masses at grass root level . Your dream for Pakistan will also have posirive impacr on India . Wish you all success in your future endeavours.Recommend

  • Umar Rahman

    How very true
    Excellent reading. I’m sure all of us can relate to thisRecommend

  • TaherF1

    I think below article is along the same lines of this blog and brilliantly written. I suggest you read it. Take care.


  • wahab nzr

    Through democracy’s implementation of capitalism, the government is responsible for Pakistan’s electricity crisis. The present capitalist system ensures that through privatization a few private owners, foreign and local, fully benefit from electricity resources whilst the public faces hardship. Privatization raises electricity prices so that the private owners can profit in their businessRecommend

  • muhammad yousaf

    yes we must accept our mistakes..we should correct ourself first rather than blaming others..
    when you accept your defeat then you will able to know the worth of victory.Recommend

  • gp65

    Well written. Kudos to the author for introspecting and self-coorection. Wish you success in your life.

    Happy independence day
    – from across the borderRecommend

  • Insaan

    Real problem with Pakistan is Muslims are not following true Islam. Recommend

  • taimur

    The sequnce for blame usually goes like this :

    Blame India
    Blame USA
    Blame Israel
    Blame Saudi Arabia

    We as a nation have lost the ability for introspection and are blind to the hypocrisy present all around us. Stealing our neighbour’s electricity while blaming the corruption of our leaders !!!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Well, circumstances and a foreign college taught you something basically your parents should have.
    Your expanding this thought process and applying it on a national level comes across as a bit naive.
    The over all message in general is great and hard to fault.

  • Anon

    Its how all nations operate… you might realise that in a few years. But only if you choose to investigate it a little further.

    Just watch Fox or Sky… or the Indian media. Better still go to any western news website (say… CNN), and read the comments section… Recommend

  • Tabish

    Lovely Article. I truly agree with you. The Dilemma is that here in Pakistan, If a person accept his mistake people try to bog him down more. So, It’s become kind of a culture that never accept your fault and try to prove the other side wrong. Recommend

  • http://USA Mirza

    Saying no to everything and victimhood is a part of our lives. We never say I failed the exams or stepped on the thorn. We say my roll number is not in the paper, the examiner was hostile, or I would ask for re-checking my exam papers, etc. How can a thorn come out and get inserted in my foot nobody questions that? It is never our brother or kid’s fault it is the fault of his wrong company.
    In the western world most of the cases are settled out of the court but not in our country where no party is ever at fault. Most convicted criminals in other countries finally admit their crime, show remorse, and apologize to the grieved family and community but not in Pakistan. Most of the killers find a justification of their acts and show pride rather than remorse. No tyrant dictator or perpetrators of atrocities in East Pakistan ever showed remorse let alone apologize. Same goes for the cricketers caught red handed and taped yet still kept denying their involvement till they lost every appeal at every avenue. Only then they all admitted their crime when there was no other option left and they wanted leniency. Recommend

  • Muhammad

    @I am a Khan:
    Even though I agree with the article. I do blame Saudi Arabia and Zia ul Haq for itRecommend

  • Mohni

    Dear Farzeen!
    I experienced the same transformation during my studies at a foreign university. While there are endless situations where others can be blamed. For example, while i fully believe that our house is not in order(Pakistan), the US has also played its part in worsening the situation. Accepting our faults give us an agency to rectify our mistakes and take charge of the situation. Blaming others or for that matter foreign powers leave us helpless at the mercy of others. We need to take charge of the situation.Recommend

  • Nasir Khan

    It seems like the writer has extended her experiences to all Pakistanis. Accepting one’s fault is tough for a person of any nationality not just Pakistanis. In fact, Pakistanis are generally much more self critical (meaning accept faults) than some other nationalities. Yes, maybe accepting personal fault is much more difficult for a person.Recommend

  • SAJ

    You wrote on this topicRecommend

  • Karim

    This is also reflected in the attitude of our so called political leaders, judges and others responsibleRecommend

  • umair409

    Author is confusing two different situations. Mr. Usman is correct.Recommend

  • Naren

    When an individual fails he/she tries to analyse the reasons for the failure, that is human nature, majority of them blame other factors than their own, this is also a human nature, this BLAME OTHERS attitude is harmless as long as it is at individual level..


  • wasi ali

    Glad to read that someone has actually mentioned this wrong habit in our so called Muslim community. We seriously need to end blaming others and start acting rationally. No foreign aid is going to come to change our behaviour. We have to do this virtuous deed by ourselves.Recommend

  • Realist

    I had the same life experience, until I begin questioning things in my late teenage years/early twenties. I went though the same transformation. All the blame game mentality that I picked up from my upbringing, my friends, my environment began to crack when I attended an European university. It’s a bit tricky to generalize, but I believe that the concept of accountability and personal responsibility is more entrenched in Western societies than in Islamic countries. That is why you see so little progress and change for the better in the Muslim world. We love to blame the outsider for our own misery. This is the worst kind of escapism, because it prevents people from improving themselves. Good blog, Muslims in general definitely need a wake-up call.Recommend

  • http://UAE Vakil

    @Usman: Yeah… clearly you failed in your school’s exams, got so riled up on seeing squashed “Frost” juice boxes being dumped on Islamabad’s streets, griped at all the slippery roads that resulted in you coming late for work…. Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @I am a Khan: I agree, I think most developing countries have problems and threats and unfortunately Pakistan has faced more hardships than most countries but if we stay positive and at least play our part responsibly, things will get better. Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Mehdi: Thank you :) I am hopeful that one day this blame game will end. Chicago is one of the best cities that I have lived in. Recommend

  • http://outlook amn arshad

    Well the writer should be careful while saying that blame-game is something only connected to nature of Pakistanis!!!!!!!!! come on its world wide!!!!!!!! and honestly declaring the new pack of youngsters in Pakistan is different and groomed!!!!!!! u can switch to any political talk-show on TV, U find the host in the end, impartially judging the reasons of problem with a conclusive lesson of change in it!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Pakistanian: I agree. I was reading about the change in Bengali social attitude due to micro-finance and increased educational opportunities for younger generations. I hope that we can achieve a positive transformation as well. Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Usman: Strength of a nation is tested in times like these. How strong and united can they stay despite the hardships faced? In our case, we even blame our domestic social issues on RAW, India, USA and Israel. Is lack of electricity and clean drinking water Israel’s fault? Is unfair distribution of wealth and extreme class inequality USA’s fault? We condemn corruption in Pakistan but most of us try to get away with breaking traffic rules, we throw garbage on the streets even when the trash cans are next to us, we treat maids and drivers like we own their lives. We condemn corruption but most upper-middle class gets away with paying taxes. When we are questioned about these things, we never admit that we are in the wrong and we have a big part to play in our problems. Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Usman: Our lack of discipline is not India’s or USA’s fault. Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Asghar: I agree with you. I don’t think we should deny the current factors that are destabilizing Pakistan but we should see how we can make things better and overcome those factors. Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Waqar Hasnain: I agree with your comments about ‘leading by example’, even my own family is not that great with the concept of accountability and had I not been away from home for a while, I would not have learnt this lesson. In your opinion, what is the solution to this general negative attitude? Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Dr.A.K.Tewari: Thank you :)Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @TaherF1: Shukria :)Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Insaan: I disagree. I don’t think it has anything to do with Islam. If you are a good and responsible human being, no matter what religion you follow, you can unite to form a great nation. Recommend

  • Eddied

    Excellent article…straight to the point and has implications for many of the problems Pakistanis experience due to,their own failures…we need more people like the author to stand up and take responsibility for the problems and move forward to resolving them…Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    50/50 fifty percent right and rest wrong. Recommend

  • Farzeen

    @Anon: Developed western countries do not live in nostalgia and blame the past for all their faults. Recommend

  • Solomon2

    It seems like the writer has extended
    her experiences to all Pakistanis.
    Accepting one’s fault is tough for a
    person of any nationality not just
    Pakistanis. In fact, Pakistanis are
    generally much more self critical
    (meaning accept faults) than some
    other nationalities.

    @Nasir Khan: what I hear you saying is, “We’re not as bad as some others so there’s no need to change as a society or for us as individuals to do anything different at all.” Pakistan has many problems – some listed by the author – that remain unsolved because Pakistanis won’t take responsibility. I take it, then, you are fine with these problems continuing into the indefinite future but why should your fellow citizens who are unhappy with the status quo think the same way?Recommend

  • lolo

    Dont sweat on it, taking responsability only comes when there is tolerance, freedom, justice and equality in a country. And there is none yet in Pakistan… It will certainly come in the future but its a long road. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Well said. Stop judging book by its cover.Recommend

  • Milind

    This blog would apply to Muslims in general, not just Pakistan.. We hardly see a Muslim taking accountability for his/her own behaviour… That’s probably the reason why all the 57 OIC nations are in a disarray… Everything is blamed on Israel, American and India (in case of Pakistan) or simply the ‘corrupt & inefficient’ leaders of the Muslim world.Recommend

  • http://tribune.com whitesky

    @Muhammad: Is it not that you allowed Zia or Saudi Arabia to use or exploit you ? This angle reveals something to learn.Recommend

  • Burjor Rustomji

    Times were better, much much better when the British were here. Pakistan is a deeply divided society. We had food, electricity, railways, clean water to drink, good schools, colleges, clean environment, most importantly safety and security, a better future to look foreward to. Now we are simply counting our days. There is nothing to live for. Recommend

  • nikhil manek

    Very well written article. accepting a mistake and then improving on that is not a matter of shame, it is called growing up: )Recommend

  • Guest

    When you ask Fareen whether it is Pakistan;s fault, did you ask yourself what Pakistan has been upto since 1947?

    Since when RAW began aiding terrorists in Balochistan and since when Pakistan has been sending them in all parts of India?
    USA invading Afghanistan shouldn’t bother Pakistan. Pakistan shouldn’t be sheltering the Taliban;
    Did Pakistan not market nuclear technology to other countries and US decided to favor Pakistan by not making an issue?
    Did Pakistan not deny equal rights to minorities?
    Did Pakistan not deny Ahmadis, Qadyanis etc. the right to call themselves Muslims?
    Did Pakistan not deny East Pakistan rights to language, to election victory, to right to revenues?
    Was Bhutto right in saying …”Udhar tum, idha Hun”>.why didn’t Pakistanis take Bhutto to task?
    Isn’t Balochistan not being denied promises made to it since 1947?
    Didn’t Pakistan shelter 9/11 masterminds?
    and so many others….Recommend

  • Fatima

    I really liked reading this article and you said it all ! The state in which we are now is not because of someone else but because of ”me ” only. I heard a story from a friend that i want to share as follwoing:
    once a king ordered to dig a deep well. After it was digged up, he ordered his people to come at night time with a glass of milk and pour it in the well and he will see it morning time that the well will be filled with milk. Everyone agreed . One person was bringing a glass full of mil k and suddently a thought came in his mind that everyone would be bringing milk, if he poured water then what difference will it make and the king wont know it. so he poured a glass full of water at night .in the mornigng time, the king noticed the well full of water. The people were shocked. this was because like that person , everyone thought the same and they poured water thinking that somebody else will pour milk. Moral: Do the work of your side and everything will settle in. be the one to initiate things …dont see if someone is doing it or not.Recommend

  • Fatima

    @Burjor Rustomji:
    That time we were slaves of British but now we are slaves of our self bad desires such as selfishness, greediness, jealosy etc. In british rulingg, we didnt have equal opportunity as well.Recommend

  • Fatima

    i agreee with you Shaheena, its very difficult to be like the eagles described by Allama Iqbal !
    I wish to be one!Recommend

  • http://gujrat Zalim singh

    Bangladesh is a ticking Human time bomb. These guys (so also Pakistan, 52 other Islamic nations and parts of India too) cannot control their own population from exploding into the face of the world. Each family will have 5 plus children. Most likely this girl’s dad is busy preparing for his next kid.Is Haines responsible for this?

    Their men seem to be only interested in increasing the share of UMMA on the earth to please Allah. Nobody cares to educate them and make them competitive citizens. Haines cannot give good jobs to all of 200 million plus Bangladeshis. They are here to make money and are doing just that.Recommend

  • Dr.A.K.Tewari

    @ Ferzeen , God bless you , keep it up and go ahead , my moral support will be always with you .Recommend

  • dude

    Dont blame the whole south asia, its the charactaristics of only PakistanisRecommend