Are we pointlessly Pakistani?

Published: February 21, 2011
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Discussing women’s rights is a cliché.

Globalisation is overdone. The role of the internet in our lives, is just as worse.

Here we were scratching our heads over an idea for my computer project. The problem was that I had no topic restrictions. At least when something is assigned, you can complain and mope and call your teacher whatever you feel like for thinking up such a dismal topic. But then, at least you’re in the same boat as the 30 other people in your class. Picking out your own topic, however, calls into question your own creative and intellectual capabilities. That is a terrifying prospect. But the project itself wasn’t important. It was what came before it.

“How about women’s rights in Pakistan?” offered a friend.

There was a pause as my other friends-cum-critics considered it.

“Too clichéd,” one of them quipped. “I mean, unless you’re really desperate.”

“She’s right,” added another. “That’s such a pointless topic.”

And so we dismissed it without a second thought. Later, however, it hit me. Had she said that Pakistani women’s rights were pointless? Perhaps she had meant that the topic was useless.

But why? How could we, being Pakistani girls, dismiss a topic like that?

Because it’s overdone.

If it’s overdone, then others before me hadn’t dismissed it. That means that there have been dozens of posters that 9th graders have made and even more 1,000-word essays that A’ Level students have churned out – all little bytes of information taken from Wikipedia and the HRCP website.

Both local and foreign news all seem to cover the same thing over and over again. But if I stand up and present this topic my class will already know the answers to the questions posed.

Well, of course our female literacy rate is low, they will say. Yes, we know we live in a male-dominated society. In short, discussing women’s rights is a cliché.

Cliché is a useful word. You can use it to dismiss anything you don’t wish to understand. Hence, the expected reactions while the class debated choosing between ‘China the next superpower’ or ‘India the next superpower’ as a topic. We unanimously picked China.

“China, obvi. Talking about India just depresses me.”

“But India’s a democracy!” I cried.

“Excuse me, but India has more poor people in it than all of Africa. You call that progress?”

I fumbled. “Well, I’m so sorry about that, but…”

“I’m definitely not,” she retorted.

The people around us gave a few smirks and appreciative nods. Whose opinions are we espousing? Which facts are we stating? Was this another case of over information; hear enough about something and even your class discussion ends up resembling a TIME cover story.

The whole debate lasts only a few more minutes before we’re sick of it already.

This is the way we interpret our world. It’s just that there’s so much to interpret, and so many opinions to wade through. A weird quasi-culture forms around the information. We become immune to the events around us – not that we don’t know about them, it’s just that we don’t care anymore.

It’s what makes someone in Pakistan think human rights are a cliché, or that the rise of our neighbour can be ignored. We don’t mean to, but really, talking about it is so…pointless.

Meiryum Ali

Meiryum Ali

A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".

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