This is my country, and I want it back

Published: April 17, 2011
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Pakistan has aided the germination of Islamophobia, Taliban, extremist tehreeks and intolerant fundamentalism. But it has also produced quite the opposite.

You may call them the hidden ones, but there are Pakistanis who say that it’s time to bring a change.

No tolerance for wrong

A sense of urgency erupted among judicious Pakistanis after the murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. As the media covered protestors on the streets, both left and right wing, there was widespread confusion.

Fortunately now, the truth is becoming clearer to the average Pakistani. Now he questions, looks for inspiration and does not want to ignore reality. Words are now spoken and voices are now heard. Now a common Pakistani whispers: “Wait! This is my country, how should I get it back?”

We saw evidence of this at a Citizens of Democracy campaign ‘Silence Means More Blood’ on March 12, where 15,000 common Pakistanis changed this whisper into an audible sound by participating in a letter campaign that was meant to protest the killings of liberal leaders and the ongoing threats against Sherry Rehman.

People who otherwise feared the words ‘blasphemy’ and ‘Taseer’ publicly became signatories of a protest. It triggered an adrenaline rush and I realised that Pakistan is waking up.

The key is to move on with this struggle towards democracy, because every opinion (yours or mine) counts.

Welcome to Jashn-e-Faiz

In times of such re-awakenings, Citizens for Democracy have found inspiration in these very ‘hidden one’. Legendary poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz was an unwavering revolutionary who believed in the capacity and determination of oppressed people to fight and defeat tyranny. He said:

“though tyrants may command that lamps be smashed,  in rooms where lovers are destined to meet, they cannot snuff out the moon…”

To commemorate Faiz’s memory Citizens for Democracy is celebrating Jashn-e-Faiz on April 17 with an open invitation event that brings art, culture and literature to the masses through its wide range of public integrating programs, exhibitions, performances, music and other activities.

Niilofur Farukh a progressive artist and organizer says, “The programs and seminars that we have planned are diverse and cater all kinds of people.”

Fashion journalist Mohsin Sayeed is passionate about this event and says, “I believe in my right to speak. Like Faiz sahib says, ‘Bol kay lab azad hain tere’. We have to raise our voice. The collective voice has so much energy that it can bring an avalanche.”

In the spirit of paying tribute to Faiz and to the ideals of liberty he stood for, Jashn-e-Faiz is an effort to promote religious harmony and counter extremist forces that have marginalised the constitutional rights of Pakistanis.

“No, don’t give up my heart just yet, take courage, for life will still remain,” wrote Faiz.

The hope that Faiz imparted with his poetry, fits in best with the current state of Pakistan.

If being silent citizens has tired us we must now free ourselves from the shackles of extremism. Let’s not overlook the struggle we make against extremism by rejecting it. We have identified our problems and it’s time to fix them together. We must fuel this struggle with our individual support and start believing in voting – we must ensure that our votes will be counted.

The ‘hidden ones’ that Pakistan produced are you and me, the positive thinkers who spread hope; activists who believe in peaceful demonstrations and not in blowing themselves up in crowds.

The real Pakistan rests within you and me. And we will bring change.

To learn more about Jashn-e-Faiz and The Citizens for Democracy, visit their website.

Kiran Nazish

Kiran Nazish

The author is an award-winning journalist and co-founder of a global network of support for women journalists, called the Coalition for Women in Journalism, based in New York. She has covered several countries around the world, including Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Mexico, India, Afghanistan. She tweets at @kirannazish (twitter.com/kirannazish)

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