Cheering for Pakistan

Published: July 10, 2010
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The patriotism the students have displayed here is not of the cliched 'jazba-e-janoon' or 'dil dil pakisan' brand - it is real.

Loving Pakistan is not always easy, and I say this as a true blue patriot. But I have been recently reschooled in how to cheer for Pakistan by engineering students from across the country.

The university students are in Kuala Lumpur to participate in an Asia wide fuel efficiency contest and the patriotism they have displayed here is not of the cliched ‘jazba-e-janoon’ or ‘dil dil pakisan’ brand – it is real. There are no jingoistic undercurrents or nationalistic desires to prove that Pakistan is ‘better than you’ rather there is mature realisation that it is time for us to become a responsible member of the global community.

“We want Pakistan to do well. We don’t care whether it is our team that wins or another one,” says a member of Team UET from Lahore. Their car was damaged when it was shipped here and now they are donating its parts to the rest of the teams. While this may sound like the only sportsman-like thing to do it is not an easy to decision to take. The team has been working on Hataf, a fibre glass prototype with a 500 cc gravity fuel feed system for almost a year. It is the product of saved allowances and 200 sponsorship rejections. But the team says they are willing to rip apart this hand-made dream car to see another Pakistani team cross the finish line. “Its not a sacrifice, its the right thing to do,” they say.

Everyone participating in the fuel efficiency marathon here in Kuala Lumpur now knows the slogan “Pakistan…Zindabad!” thanks to the twenty teams representing us. They chant, they bhangra and of course they build.

“I want to fix things and make them better,” says Faraz a member of Team Aqua the first Pakistani team to have completed four laps around the circuit. Their car Chamelle (they chose the French word for camel because the animal conserves water while travelling long distances in the desert) made a speed of 53 kilometres per hour. “I was so excited when I saw Pakistan’s name appear on the board at last!” Bilal told me. “We came all this way to prove that Pakistani teams could do  something and now we have!”

This is despite the feeling that engineering can be a thankless job in Pakistan. There is no glory in the profession and certainly not much money.

Faraz is currently interning at a third tier company in Lahore which creates product solutions for various clients. “We have built a car that is faster than a Porsche and a solar powered satellite to create electricity – yet who knows our name? No one!”

This is why many of the engineers I have spoken to have the same plan for the future -to fill in the niche and become entrepeneurial engineers – people who come up with idea, business plans and actively build them. GIK student Zaghim says he always knew he wanted to start a business but he is studying engineering because he wants to understand what he will build.

Despite limited opputunities Osama from Team Bekaar said that no one on his team will work abroad. “We may study in foreign universities but we will come back and find something to do.”

The students do not have any difficulty reconciling their desire to keep up with the rest of the world with their need to stick with their roots.

The team’s optimism is infectious. Their patriotism is sincere and has no shadow of artifice. When they call ‘zindabaad’ they mean it. Tonight they will have a bhangra party to celebrate the end of the marathon. Tommorrow they will conqueor the world.

Faria Syed

Faria Syed

A Karachi based multi-media journalist working on the web desk of The Express Tribune. Faria blogs about life in the news business and human rights.

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