We must have hope, what else is there?

Published: June 4, 2011
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I still believe that someday we will see a version of Pakistan that Strings so melodiously sings about in “Mein to Dekhoon Ga.”

I have come to dread my Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader feeds that feature Pakistan. The news just gets worse and worse. Occurrences in Pakistan give brutality and violence new shapes and forms every day.

That human beings are capable of such horrific things is not surprising. After all, we live in the same world that witnessed the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, the ethnic cleansing of Serbians, Croatians, Palestinians and Bangladeshi’s alike (to name a few). The subcontinent itself had a bloody birth punctuated by massacres of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs alike.

In the last few days alone, Pakistan added to its losses, with the brutal death of journalist Saleem Shahzad and Professor Saba Dashtiyar, a prominent Baloch educationist and linguist. Both were using speech, expression and language as the medium to illuminate the truth and the hope to secure a more open and honest Pakistan. In addition, we also collectively mourn the death of Salman Taseer whose birthday it would have been on May 31 this year.

What I say next may sound clichéd to some, but I do believe that even in this extremely hostile climate we have to continue to manufacture hope and pin our dreams and pride on things that may, in the grander scheme, seem inconsequential.

The other day, a friend of mine, who despite all the upheavals in Pakistan believes heavily in its potential, posted an article from The Guardian about a historical restoration project backed by the Punjab Government and the World Bank, focused on the Lahore Fort. Shortly after, a comment appeared underneath which said:

“I think there are more pressing issues in Pakistan other than restoring Lahore’s old splendour!”

The new season of Coke Studio itself has been subject to such intense scrutiny leading Sami Shah to write in his opinion piece that:

“Another episode as divisive as this, and I am worried that fans and critics will form gangs and start target-killing one another.”

At home, my husband and I are incredibly polarised and divided on our views. A hard-line secularist, he often uses language so harsh and so hopeless that it makes me angry. I am well aware that Pakistan has a myriad of problems and that, for the most part, it is unlikely that they will be resolved in our lifetimes.

But then, as a person who has seen and read about parts of the world, racked by conflict and violence, begin the journey to healing, recovery and reconciliation, I still believe that someday we will see a version of Pakistan that Strings so melodiously sings about in “Mein tau Dekhoon Ga.”

There are many countries besides Pakistan whose histories are narratives of conflict – South Africa, Rwanda, Chile, Serbia, Croatia and Germany to name a few. Each one of them has paid human cost that in the ideal world would be avoidable. I have read as many stories of hopelessness as I have of survivors and those who perished, that feature a resounding note of hope that keeps them going. I remember, as a little girl, my mother gave me the “Diary of Anne Frank” and there is a line in it that never left me, where Anne writes (in hiding):

“We still love life, we haven’t yet forgotten the voice of nature, and we keep hoping, hoping for…everything.”

So, in the face of all that is horrible, we need to continue manufacturing hope. And if that hope is found in little things, like how an electric water pump has transformed the lives of a community, an episode of Coke Studio, or a historical restoration project like that in Lahore, then let us find a way to celebrate those things for the little progress they represent. Because, to me these little things are big. They are representations of the resilience of ordinary Pakistanis to move forward, even when everything seems like it is moving backwards.

If nothing else, think of it as actualising Strings and Atif Aslam’s call to “Ab Khud Kuch Karna Parega” and reclaiming the “Birchra Yar” that is Pakistan. It is not for nothing that Pakistan was featured as the bravest nation in the world in 2010.

mehrunnisa.yusuf

Mehrunnisa Yusuf

The author is of Pakistani-Polish heritage. She works at the University of London’s International Academy. In her spare time you will find her kitchen making jams, chutney, pickles and pulao. She writes food stories on her blog come•con•ella which is Spanish for ‘eat with her’. She tweets as @comeconella (twitter.com/comeconella)

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