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

Published: August 14, 2013
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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

or

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.