The importance we (don’t) give our country
When one thinks about Pakistan, what is it that comes to mind? For some, it’s a land with troubled tribal areas or a cradle for terrorism. For many, it’s a haven for corrupt politicians, backed by a corrupt legislation and a flawed constitution. And for others, it’s just a mistake that Mr Jinnah made 67 years ago.
If you ask a young, college-going boy about what Pakistan is to him, he will probably say that it’s,
“A country in which I was born, raised and taught the tricks of getting my way in the world either by hook or by crook. A country where guilty is the person who gets caught and honest is the man who didn’t get a chance.”
Ask an elderly man the same question and he will probably draw a bleaker picture,
“Pakistan is a land that was better off without the newer generations; the youth has ruined it with their arrogance and lack of respect for their elders – they have done nothing for this country and western media is corrupting them.”
However, I would urge you to ask yourself again, with complete honesty, what is Pakistan to you?
Think about it. Put aside all the hustle and bustle you find yourself in everyday. Forget about the race you’ve been running to get bigger and better, having the largest share and making life amazing for yourself and yourself alone. Forget about all that and ask yourself,
“What is Pakistan to me?”
On August 14, 1947, a great Islamic state was born; a state which was claimed in the name of equality and justice for all; a country that was supposed to give Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the right to lead their lives with freedom and without any fear of a dominating power; where they could exercise their religion freely. Pakistan stood for acceptance. Pakistan stood for equality. Pakistan stood for humanity.
Alas, today, we see ourselves standing at such a juncture in time where there is no reason for a Pakistani to feel proud of their nationality. A Muslim’s life is no longer safe in this land of the pure. He is at the mercy of other, fellow Muslims, belonging from his own country, who do not even flinch before taking away his honour, property or life. A man is not valued by the worth of his actions but by the silver in his pocket. Respect is bought and sold like a prostitute in the market.
Bad times are upon us. Hard times are upon us.
However, if you go back in history a little and deliberate over past events, you will understand that this nation has faced similar times back then too. The only difference is that, back then, the nation had someone dependable to lead them and the moral fibre of its society was still intact. Today, however, that is not the case.
Let’s rewind a little and revisit a few events. It might give us more perspective.
The year is 1947 and the venue is a narrow, dusty track, passing somewhere through Ferozepur, where a tattered group of men, women and children are slowly creeping towards the border – the way into the promised land, the way into Pakistan.
The children, though hungry for days, living merely on water and what little they had in their bullock carts, are silent as death. They know that even the slightest of murmurs, if heard by the enemies, might turn into the screams they had been trying to escape every night.
The men, tired to their bones but, vigilant, look for anything out of place. Armed only with sticks, or maybe one odd axe, they move ahead, enveloping the complete group to safeguard the women and children from any attack.
The women are scared for their own lives, for the lives of their children and their men; they hold their kids close to their bosoms, hushing their slightest noise. They know it will pain their children, but they also know that this pain is a very small price to pay for what is promised to them. They have come a long way and have endured a lot to taste the fruit of freedom, which has been kept away from them for nearly 200 years.
Today, at last, their children will finally breathe freely beneath the skies of Pakistan.
However, suddenly, there is a hustle in the bushes ahead. Everyone freezes. The men, women and children hold their breaths, waiting for another attack, another blood bath, another massacre. After a few uneasy seconds, a hyena emerges from the bushes and runs away, but the group remains still, waiting, anticipating. After a minute or two, the men leading them start walking again and the journey continues.
A young girl, probably six or seven, silently snuggles out of her aunts clutches and rushes to her father, a middle-aged man walking beside the bullock cart, and holds his hand. The father looks down and tries to hide his tensed feelings behind a smile. He picks the girl up in his arms and asks politely,
“What’s the matter?”
“Will we be seeing Saqeena in Pakistan?” the girl asks.
The father’s eyes swell with tears but he tries to stay strong for her and replies,
“Hopefully, my child, hopefully Saqeena will meet us in Pakistan.”
The girl smiles back, relieved to hear that her elder sister is already in Pakistan, awaiting them. Little does she know, her sister was raped and killed in a riot in their village the day before they had started out for Pakistan.
What pushed that father to give his child hope?
What pushed that man to carry on after his first born had been brutally murdered?
What was this unnatural motivation?
The answer is the soil on which we stand today and the promise that came with it; the promise that has yet to be fulfilled.
I ask you, each and every one of you, and I ask myself as well, is that how we treat the freedom we have, for which our fathers were killed, our mothers and sisters were raped and our children were orphaned?
We can’t even choose a worthy enough man to lead us towards prosperity, is this the importance we’re supposed to give to our country? Is this the importance we’re supposed to give our motherland? That, after everything we could have gained from her, we abandon her, and say,
“Is mulk ka kuch nahin ho sakta”.
(No good can come out of this country)
Is this the love we’re supposed to have for the freedom we got?
That, after paying such a high price, we leave our country, only to be labelled as second-class citizens in a nation that kept us worse than dogs for nearly 200 years?
I leave you to find the answers to these questions. Some of you will justify your existence and your stance over abandonment of your country on the pretext of personal gains and excuses to silence your maligning conscience. Many of you will say,
“Yes; after all, what has this country given to me that I should give a damn about it?”
And some of you will accept the failure as personal ones and realise that we have failed this land on an individual level.
You, yes, you are the one for whom I have laboured to write this piece. You are the one who has to be awakened from this slumber. Now, it is your job to wake the others up as well. If people join you in your struggle, great; if they don’t, leave them – they are not worth the effort. This country needs the same sacrifices that it demanded in 1947 and, even back then, not all were willing to sacrifice.
Now, I ask again: will you be a party to this farce being played against us or do you have the guts to fly against the wind? Because, if you do, then you are Iqbal’s shaheen but if you don’t, then get out of the way. We have a country to fix.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.