We’re celebrating Pakistan’s Independence Day, but are we really independent?

Published: August 12, 2016

Our failing to protect our minorities and other vulnerable members of our society, has turned our green of peace into a darker, bloodier, and muddier colour too far removed on the colour wheel from the essence of Islam.

On August 11, 1947, a newly-formed Pakistan held its first parliamentary session. The purpose was to draft a constitution. During this session, Pakistan’s founding father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah famously reaffirmed the pluralistic values the new nation had been founding declaring:

“You are free, you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

This year will mark the nation’s 69th year of independence. Even though we are only a mere seven decades removed from Jinnah’s pluralistic promise, today’s Pakistan is less like Jinnah’s Pakistan and more akin to a dystopian novel in which the nation’s people make a collective wrong turn winding up in a terrifying, alternate dimension.

And then chaos ensues.

Nearly 69 years in and Pakistan no longer bleeds green. Now she bleeds red. And she bleeds a lot.

Nearly 69 years in the currency that weighs heavy in the pockets of the corrupt, ruling elite is no longer green. Dishonesty and greed has turned the greenest of our bills into black money.

Green, the shade of our flag, symbolic of cleanliness and purity, is no longer our national colour. Our reckless disregard for the environment has turned our streets dirt brown and tainted our drinking water a colourful, toxic medley of contaminated filth.

The state’s religion Islam – the green deen ­– is no longer a recognisable shade of green. Our failing to protect our minorities and other vulnerable members of our society, has turned our green of peace into a darker, bloodier, and muddier colour too far removed on the colour wheel from the essence of Islam.

Can we truly then celebrate today as an independent nation?

On paper, yes. Or so our constitution says. But the lived lives of the people of Pakistan tell a different story. A story that reads like a grocery list of defunct isms. A story featuring characters named nepotism, feudalism, fanaticism, Islamism, extremism, classism, ethnocentrism, sexism with a going-nowhere plot about a fledgling nation’s fast-paced journey towards apocalyptism.

Independence as an adjective has several definitions. It is the condition of not being influenced or controlled by others in matter of opinion and conduct. It is to be autonomous and not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction. It is not having to rely on others for aid or support. It is to possess competency.

Nearly 69 years on Sunday and we continue to miss the mark on every sub-definition of independence:

First off, we cannot truly believe we are independent and free from the influence and control of others. Our religious clerics whose every word and instruction weighs heavy on our hearts and minds distort and manipulate our emotions and opinions through a multitude of mediums. A rogue televangelist tells us to kill in the name of religion and we are quick to respond – not with a why but instead, how? Like a flock of sheep, we are led blindly by religious zealots and elected leaders who stuff us with hateful vitriol daily. This keeps us mute and sedated, with our moral and social growth suppressed, and our hearts and minds tainted with the patina of bitterness towards all things different be it religion, caste, gender or socioeconomic status.

Secondly, we cannot truly believe we possess autonomy when our physical jurisdiction is consistently compromised. The basic first principle of international law which calls for each state to be its own sovereign in-charge is a legal tenet that always eludes and excludes us. Today, Pakistan’s jurisdiction is routinely violated by other countries with self-serving agendas and armed extremists.

We retreat further and further from being an autonomous state as we continue to flail in global debt. When it comes to the global allies we like to keep, we seem to always be stuck between a rock and a hard place with certain global superpowers acting as the proverbial rock and certain neighbouring Islamic countries the wall to our proverbial hard place.

Lastly, we must accept we repeatedly fail in the basics of human competency and sometimes even basic human decency. Honour killings, domestic violence, acid attacks, child molestation and forced prostitution are just a few of the symptoms of the quiet, lethal disease causing our spiritual and physical decay.

This is why, despite our having reached our 69th year of freedom, we continue to cling to the most arcane and profane practices in a state of almost-stupid dependence. Being a prepubescent school-going girl means you could have your brains blown out by grown men whose biggest fear is apparently the idea of a little girl with a blog and some thoughts. Being Christian means your neighbours can avenge their petty neighbourhood disputes by invoking the almighty blasphemy laws against you for which, if found guilty, your penalty is to become part of world’s second largest death row population.

Being a low-level Internet troll or sending out a mass marketing text could, as of this week, mean a hefty fine and jail sentence for you. And going forth boldly as a modern-day, independent woman with a chosen confidence in your lifestyle and a comfort with your sexuality and a willingness to share it over the free web could mean you’re murdered at the hands of your own flesh and blood.

Eighteenth century philosopher Joseph de Maistre writing on the topic of Russia’s new constitutional laws duly notes:

“Every country has the government it deserves”


“In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.”

Known today as the democracy-at-work thesis Maistre’s essay is premised on the belief that the people possess the power to change things.

What does this mean for a Pakistan whose people have grown too cosy with living in an acrimonious and polarised state of dependence? What, besides ourselves, holds us back from doing thing(s) that can make a difference?

I refuse to resign us all away as apathetic, dumb and self-absorbed. Yes, we share quite a few unfortunate characteristics as a society and yes, the problems we face are an uphill battle of enormous difficulty.

But we have to cut the crap and grow up socially and politically.

We have to start by becoming disenthralled and unwilling to follow the lead of folks we are used to taking political and religious cues from. We need to resist dogma and declare ourselves ready for a different world in which we are against the awful things done in the name of honour and religion. We need to work towards acceptance across creed, class, faith and colour. We need to embrace education so that we can end our collective abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.

The key to the secret of democracy is an involved citizen. And so, if we commit to mobilise, we must act. And we must act now. Visibly and publicly.

Because – and I paraphrase American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin – if it is a society of peace we desire, we cannot achieve it through violence. And if it is an indiscriminate society we desire then we cannot discriminate against anyone in the progress of building this society. And if it is a democratic society we wish to maintain, then it is itself democracy which must become both our means as well as our end.

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

The author is a lawyer and freelance journalist. She tweets as @mariakari1414 (twitter.com/mariakari1414)

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

  • Bana Post

    What independence you are talking about ? U lost sovereignty when Uncle Sams drones flew in your sky,You lost your equality when you asked zakat from the Arabs ,and the Chinese(aid comes to Indian for Christian NGO not for the Indian Govt),You lost fraternity when your men in uniform bombarded NW and unleashed brutal attack in Baluchistan and POK. AND turned blined eye when minorities were butchered.Still terrorism is your national policy, and good terrorist are your ally. Malala and Osama both torn apart your reputation.Mullahas are your policy makers . Fanatics are national champions.Even when cycle tube burst whole nation sings “RAW” and CPEC is being the only Messiah .No hospital both for the downtrodden and the rich(PM NS) and your foreign minister says border free medical aid to useless stone pelting Kashmiris
    No space project , 65 % poor people struggle bread and butter (wiki) and your FM DAR boast “no help thanks IMF”. All endangered terrorist species can be found in your sanctuaries.Polio eradication is still a treason. And adding fuel to the fire Edhi too passed away.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Everything you have said goes against the ideology of Pakistan and the two nation theory.

    Islam does not allow all what you have written. I can clearly post direct verses from Shariah and Quran but it is not allowed on this website.Recommend

  • Javelin

    Beautifully and factually written. There is no hope for Pakistan, unless it changes the way the government and its religious leaders think and behave. I was disappointed to see the following phrase added to the write up by the Tribune newspaper …”The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune. ” Its about time it agrees with the thoughts articulated by this writer and strongly supports it.Recommend

  • Danish

    Please change the picture of national flag with the correct one.Recommend

  • ali mastana


    I was appalled reading your article which reflects nothing but negative image about Pakistan. Ask people of Syria what freedom is and ask people of Iraq what it means to have an identity ask Muslims in Burma how it feels to have their own Muslim country ask Kashmir is why are they struggling till to date for their own identity and do ask Muslims living in Palestine and Chechnya how it feels to be constantly monitored and controlled by the so called first world developed countries. Simply blaming Pakistan what it has given you may I ask what have you contributed for your country where you live freely where you practice your religion freely where you earn your livelihood where you are free to be what you want to become and choose the best of all the options available exercising your birth right. Kindlyletme know your contributions as its easier for you to point your fingers at your own country.

    I will give you one more advise that is if you don’t like your country then leave. Pakistan has many who can and are contributing towards its betterment.

    With Regrets

  • vinsin

    India has also done pretty bad in saving their minorities from Muslims. To appease Muslims India has thrown migrated Sikhs to Britain and Canada in 1960’s. Given properties of Dalits to Indian Muslims. Completely failed to stop love Jihad which is destroying the male:female ratio in other communities. India banned many religion like True Furqan, Universal Sufism, etc to appease Indian Muslims. Thrown artists, writer, taken citizenship from rational thinkers. India also failed to protest tribals in NE from Christian Missionaries.Recommend

  • Fahim

    Real independence was only taken politicians in 1947 for people only masters are changed from white to brown.Recommend

  • Londonwala

    Correct… you are not independent…but ask any Pakistani this question and the answer will tell you they are in delusion.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Always like reading you and mostly agree with what you say. This time around I think for clarity we should say……we are independent and there is no disputing that but our leaders have messed up running this country and so we suffer…..I feel its necessary to make this distinction.Recommend

  • Ali Khan

    Well I agree with the issues you highlighted but there are other more important issues you are not highlighting. I completely understand you belong from an elite class. Ground realities are much worse then you have imagine. For that you need to spend time with people living below the poverty line. Also you need understand what challenges does a middle class salary earner goes through and how bad the Pakistani system is. That way you will be able to understand and voice concerns of general public better.Recommend

  • Kickass

    How dare you disfigure our national flagRecommend

  • delusionaladmi

    Ok so you are Mr know it all as you are Londonwala. why people write such names. First name that came in your mind was Londonwala. LOL. It speaks volume about everything.Recommend

  • sterry

    The reason you can’t find posts to refute the author is because there are no quotes from the Quran or Shariah to back you up. Islam in its essence supports social welfare and a just society. The problem is that Muslims do not practice what they say and preach. I would disagree with the author on many things though. In the Muslim world, Pakistan is one of the few functioning Muslim states which has a nascent democratic tradition and even saw the peaceful transition of power from one party to another – something unheard of in most Muslim countries ruled by generals, kings and dictators. While a lot has to be done to fix things in Pakistan, its people are hard working and resourceful which bodes well for the up and coming economy. No matter where you see a Pakistani, they are always patriotic, especially people who are sons and daughters of the soil. Over the last few years, major financial houses and economic agencies have all upgraded Pakistan’s economy which is poised to become a middle income state. No amount of negativity can erase the better stability, decrease in terrorism, improving infrastructure, IT start ups, CPEC project and improved soft image of a Muslim democracy. Just compare Pakistan with most Muslim nations and we can see that it is head and shoulders above most. If we all do our bit to support social causes, follow laws and follow democracy, the future looks very bright for all of us. Pakistan Zindabad.Recommend

  • MR.X

    We are really not independant, i agree.But instead of saying ‘islamism’ and bashing islam you should have written that we are still mental slaves of the west. Stay blessedRecommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    No, I have tried to post verses numerous times on this website but they have been edited out by Tribune’s moderation team.

    You can live in your little bubble land but that does not change the ground facts that Islam “strictly” prohibits most of the activities mentioned in this article.Recommend

  • rajeev

    Just a few curious question: Why democracy is not there in Muslim Countries? Is democracy against Quran? And why is there so many interpretations of Quran? Is Quran’s language too convoluted?Recommend

  • rajeev

    I think this is not Pakistan’s flag. It has the star in the opposite direction.Recommend

  • siesmann

    “Out of the frying pan,into the fire.” You got Independence from British,but immediately squandered it to Mullahs.And it is a willing surrender,too.Recommend

  • Abcde

    It is really disgraceful to do that to a nation’s flag… I would not do it, not even to my enemies’ national flag…Recommend