Pakistan, I am of you, from you, and no matter where I am, inseparable from you

Published: August 28, 2016

Pakistan needs something to unify it. Something that everyone can agree on cherishing, protecting and developing. Enforced religiosity, jingoistic nationalism and military rule are not the answers and never will be. They in fact have been the chief instruments of destruction in the hands of our irredeemably corrupt and incompetent leadership. PHOTO: TWITTER

Once when I was six years old I sneaked out of my grandmother’s house in Lahore’s old Mozang neighbourhood and headed for the nearby Mozang Bazaar, a large market of red-brick shops over a hundred years old. The shops there fascinated me to no end and I was determined to discover kites – my main attraction – of every shape and size. Getting there was no problem as my grandmother’s laane ended in the bazaar itself.

Once there though, I lost track of time and my curiosity led me to explore the entire bazaar. At some point I realised I was lost. After wandering around for a while and seeing nothing familiar, I started to cry. A vegetable vendor saw me and asked me what was wrong. On learning I was lost he asked me where I lived and I informed him that I was staying with my grandmother and did not know her address, other than that it was on Temple Road. He asked a passer-by to watch his cart for a while and led me to one shopkeeper after another, asking each if they were familiar with my grandmother. Finally one replied in the affirmative. On the vendor’s request the shopkeeper left the shop to his assistant, took my hand and led me to my grandmother’s house. On the way I saw my mother, aunt and grandmother walking hurriedly in our direction. Several scoldings and many hugs followed. The shopkeeper was thanked.

I wish I knew his name and the name of the vendor. It seems important somehow. I wish I could thank them right now.

During one of my clinical rotations at medical school in Karachi, a man brought his wife to the emergency room. She had Hepatitis C and suffered acute liver failure. He had taken her to the two major public hospitals in Karachi only to be turned away since he could not afford the charges required in advance for someone needing admission.

We were a free teaching hospital but did not have any beds available in the critical care unit where she needed to be. The man started beseeching us for a bed and to save his wife’s life. He told us he was from Waziristan (an impoverished part of the Pashtun tribal belt), had three young children, dug roads (roads are dug for renovation with large pick mattocks in Pakistan) for a living and could not afford to take her anywhere else.

Our medical director gave this some thought and after some discussion beds were moved around in the intensive care unit (a large single room with movable partitions) till ultimately room for another bed was created.

The man’s wife died that night but both, the plight of the couple as well as what we had done in attempting to help them is as clear and emotionally raw in my mind as it was that day.

For two years, before I moved to America, I worked at a free mental health clinic operated by the Pakistan Association of Mental Health. Never before or since then have I worked with a team possessing more compassion and dedication to help those afflicted with mental illness.

The housekeeping staff included a Christian and a Hindu. For the last six months we had lunch together almost every working day, something that I will always cherish. The sense of shared purpose – helping people with mental illness who could not afford treatment – brought us all together in more ways than one.

In those lunch hours, there was no Muslim, Shia, Sunni, Hindu, Christian, Punjabi, Sindhi, Mohajir, Baloch or Pashtun in the room. We were a team, doing something we passionately believed in for people that we deeply cared for.

I have been a frequent critic of Pakistan’s leadership and aspects of her society and will continue to be. I believe however, that criticism alone is not going to fix anything. The singular stance of shaming, that many well-meaning writers and social activists have adopted, is achieving next to nothing. There is enough guilt and shame rampant in Pakistani society as it is. Both these emotions serve an important psychological function in making one more empathic and unlikely to be malicious to others, but in excess they merely entrench received beliefs and prejudices as people tend to escape them by seeking even more absolute answers to life.

There has also been a recent surge of blogs and articles questioning the very existence of Pakistan and the wisdom of its creation. There is talk of a ‘united India’ that might have been or that one day could be. I respect the well-meaning intentions of such writers but I would remind them that there never was such a thing as a united India. Never in the history of the subcontinent has there been a unified or even loosely allied collection of peoples that identified as one. The closest thing to such an entity was under the yoke of colonialism.

I have no doubt about the tremendous good that Pakistan and Pakistanis are capable of. I am aware that I experienced Pakistan as a member of the religious and ethnic majority – a Punjabi Sunni Muslim – from a middle class family, which is not the same reality that a religious or ethnic minority experiences. Yet, I also know that we are capable of transcending the divisions we have inherited and which have been imposed upon us. I have lived this, witnessed it and benefited from it.

A nation can have both a healthy amount of pride as well as the ability to accept flaws and criticism. Allowing only one to the complete exclusion of the other only widens the gates to division, strife and violence under the tutelage of demagogues.

Pakistan needs something to unify it. Something that everyone can agree on cherishing, protecting and developing. Enforced religiosity, jingoistic nationalism and military rule are not the answers and never will be. They in fact have been the chief instruments of destruction in the hands of our irredeemably corrupt and incompetent leadership.

Perhaps two things can suffice if we recognise how precious they are and how inextricably connected with them we are: Pakistan and Pakistanis. We can and must learn to care more about each other and the country we so fervently profess to adore. Strip away the labels with which we alienate each other. Use code and creed to heal and reconcile, not to alienate and diminish. Tolerate differences, accept diversity of belief and opinion. Transmute these leaden grudges and antagonism into the gold of brotherhood we all believed in once. Once, when we were children. Once, when we had not yet been taught to hate. Once, when we were taught to love.

Pakistan, I was lost and you found me.

I have felt your pain and been taught by you that it can be mitigated.

I can no more deny your presence in me than I can deny my own presence.

I am off you, from you, and no matter where I am, inseparable from you.

Khusro Tariq

Khusro Tariq

The author is a Pakistani-American Psychiatrist currently pursuing training in Jungian psychoanalysis. He blogs on Huffington Post on matters of psychology, faith, politics and poetry. He tweets as @KhwajaKhusro (

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

  • Ahmed Ata Khan

    Do you really mean ‘Off’ in the title?
    I think it should have been ‘of’Recommend

  • Anon

    Dont you mean “of you” rather than “off you”?Recommend

  • Milind A

    How does the fact that India was not united, justify cause for Pakistan? Why mix things up? Had India been united, the makers of Pakistan would have latched up to some other excuse, to justify Pakistan’s creation..
    Rest, your writeup is good!! May your tribe increase…Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Pakistan’s GHQ is the main problem. Their narrative is still stuck in 1947, which was that this land was created to make sure no hindu or other non-muslim tried to convert the punjabis into kafirs, hence “Islam in Danger.”

    The funny part is that the Chinese are slowly taking over Pakistan, and would possibly be ruling over it in the next 30 years or so.

    The Chinese do not even believe in a God and their favorite dish is pork. Technically Islam would be in a bigger danger if the Chinese took over.

    Our core DNA is confused.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Enjoyed reading that.Recommend

  • Bharatiya Australian

    Not sure after all of that writing what did you really want to convey to your fellow men..
    Almost any country in the world if a 6 year old gets lost it is almost guaranteed what the guy did to help you reach home safely the reaction would be more or less same.

    Ok we understand you love Pakistan and your fellow country men. Will you care to write an article to give constitutional rights for your fellow Ahmadis as they think they are Muslims but can’t say that loudly in your country!!! That is Pakistan for you my friend.Recommend

  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq

    Requested edit, thanks.Recommend

  • cautious

    He loves Pakistan so much he left and won’t return?Recommend

  • Rohan

    Another nonsensical piece about ideology/creation/patriotism in Pakistan,just proves the weak ,artificiality,fakeness of the concept of Pakistan Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    You can got out of your country but your country can’t get out of you…Recommend

  • vinsin

    Well during Battle of Rajasthan for 300 yrs, almost whole of India fought Arabs. Subcontinent was also almost unified during Maurya Empire. Turqlaq and Aurangzeb also reached unification but for a brief period of time. Mythological, Hindus always consider subcontinent as an unified state. Pakistan is a reality and subcontinent has to live with it. Even now if there is vote among subcontinent Muslims for Pakistan, they will vote for it without second thought.

    Islam believes in Muslim Brotherhood. not Kafir-Muslim brotherhood. Even though I agree with your suggestion, then the question would be what was the point of converting to Islam anyway. when you want to celebrate diversity? Your ideas are inspired from Dharmic religion, not Islam.Recommend

  • Adeel

    And then we’ll get these haters who still can’t seem to understand why Pakistan was created and it’s concept.. Sad case

  • Sane

    But, even then a reality. Isn’t is?!!Recommend

  • Rohan

    With its reason for creation destroyed in 1971 it has no basis of existence Recommend

  • indiandude

    …Pakistan, I am of you, from you, and no matter where I am, inseparable from you..

    That precisely is the reason why no country wants Pakistanis. Who wants mini-pakistan with pakistanis in any civilized nation. In fact, just stay in real-pakistan.Recommend

  • Arrow-gent

    One doesn’t need reasons to love her country just like one doesn’t need reasons to love his parents.Recommend

  • Egg Zack

    can ET please stop pasting the word ‘India’ in every second article.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Which and what Pakistan? Majority of then Pakistanis, started calling themselves Bangladeshis since 25th March 1971.Recommend

  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq
  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq

    If your operating premise is that Pakistan should not exist I’m afraid you have nothing useful to offer to this debate. Recommend

  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq

    That is your interpretation of Islam and “dharmic” religions and is basically your opinion, not how most people perceive them. Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Was disunity not the cause of hindu muslims killing each other? riots etc?Recommend

  • PatelPara
  • Imran

    haha what a joke. Pakistan is a reality. Live with it. If its difficult to digest, take a Hajmola :PRecommend

  • sher khan

    Khwaja Khusro Tariq do also write on caste system in India.Recommend

  • Sane

    By this theory India was destroyed in 1947, when half of the Indian land parted away. Take care of Kashmir and Khalistan. The history of 1947 is to repeat shortly.Recommend

  • Sane

    What Indians calling themselves after 1947?Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Those who have not given up their own nativity -spiritual, cultural & lingual.Recommend

  • Rohan

    India wasn’t destroyed in 1947, Jinnah did us a favour actually, and there are no khalistani guys in my country and you should take care of balochistan otherwise you’ll lose half of your countryRecommend

  • Rohan

    I’m just saying the basis of creation of Pakistan was faulty and that was proven in 1971Recommend

  • Sane

    Mr. Rohan: forget about other discussions. Please tell about the morality of your people; in Banglarore a young woman was killed and then her dead body was raped. What tall claims you have about concept and matters of here and there. You have become a country of RAPISTS till the extent that women corpses are also raped.. Aren’t you shamed?Recommend

  • Jayman

    “Pakistan, I am of you, from you, and no matter where I am, inseparable from you…”
    …until some Western nation offers me a visa.Recommend

  • BrainBro

    It is not an opinion. It is a fact.

    Islam is completely incompatible with other religions. You might choose to look at Islam 2.0 or Islam-light versions, predominantly living in the Indian sub-continent but this still does not change the reality that Arab Islam is the true Islam.

    Please read unbiased non-Arabified research on the matter.Recommend