We must have hope, what else is there?

Published: June 4, 2011

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

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.

  • parvez

    Sitting far away in comfort it is easy to write ‘ feel good ‘,motivational pieces. The feel good is for you because we out here have had it up to just about here. The sooner we realise that Allah will help you only if you help yourself, the better.
    Our leaders want us to live on hope, they keep lying, cheating, depriving, bullying, looting, demeaning the people and I can go on.. They then invoke God and tell us to have hope. Is it not time for people like you am me to spell out the hard truth.Recommend

  • muhammad jibran siddiqui

    For pakistan to progress there’s an immediate need for an end to the media & govt’s support of islamic extremism.Obsession with radical islam has led us to become a nation of bigoted,intolerant,women oppressing homophobes who scream ‘blasphemer’ at every chance they get.
    The media must stop glorifying mullahs & stop inviting them to spread their propaganda on every talk show.The govt. also has to act against the madrassas which have been providing shelter,training & indoctrination for the suicide bombers.
    enough is enough,we’ve lost 35000 lives,we must act to prevent future deaths at the hands of the religious terrorists.Recommend

  • Qaisar Farooq

    I Like your piece,yes we are in trouble,we are fighting againset terrorists our economy is going down and down and we are in so many other problems but remeber one thing we are Pakistani we are brave,struggler,and figters so if we come together on one agenda to fight againset bad leaders,corruption,terrorism,extrimism(Conservative & Liberals)then we will be able to save our nation.for this our youth need to took stand,now its our responsbilty to save this country by doing practical thinges and i know we can do this we just need to take one step and destination will come towards us.Think for Pakistan Live for Pakistan Recommend

  • Naheed Naveed

    When Rosa Parks, “The Mother of the American Modern-day Civil Rights Movement,” describes her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott she helps citizens understand the importance of every individual citizen in a democracy even such a fragile Pakistani democracy.
    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island.Mandela had been jailed as a terrorist for his part in master-minding the armed struggle of the African National Congress as it fought to overthrow the apartheid system in South Africa and establish democratic majority rule.
    He had to lead South Africa’s black community to victory as the ruling white minority at last bowed to the inevitable change. But he also had to ensure that there was a peaceful transfer of power, and use all his political skills to stop the country plunging into civil war.
    Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.[1] He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi
    What did these three icons have is = HOPE! it takes time and courage but the burning question is can we the people of Pakistan have the moral obligation to want it? Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Hope only takes a country so far. Pakistan has some many unique issues, that countries and their abilities to move forward can only offer limited insight into Pakistan’s problems.

    Pakistan has religion, terrorism, a history of colonization, a huge gap between the rich and poor, a government that is only somewhat connected to those who live outside the cities, corruption, and a growing intolerance being fueled by religious terrorists. And the list can go on and on.

    Those who can make a difference – the rich – are comfortable living the status quo. And there is a huge generation of children who are leaving Pakistan, for greener pastures. And the masses of the poor, they continue to be uneducated and exploited by the social realities of their social status.

    So hope, while beautiful, only does so much for the country of Pakistan.Recommend

  • folkefiende

    Nice article. However id we want hope we must start teaching our kids our history, where we come from, our ancestory and the reality. What we teach is hate literature anti west, anti jew, anti hindu. What we are seeing today confirms lies and damned lies can only take you so long…its boud to crumble. Still its not late…we need to adjust the course…there is hopeRecommend

  • Naheed Naveed

    @Pakistani – it is this kind of defeatist attitude that is prevalent in the Pakistani society. No doubt that Pakistan is facing a huge crisis like religion, terrorism, a history of colonization, a huge gap between the rich and poor, a government that is only somewhat connected to those who live outside the cities, corruption, and a growing intolerance being fueled by religious terrorists but does that mean we crawl into the depths of despair?
    Each Pakistani irrespective of social standing have to ask themselves…what can I do for my country not what can Pakistan can do for me.
    In the fabric of Pakistani society there is a certain defeatist -mentality that exists, the problems in Pakistan are no more or less than other nations have fought and demanded a change.
    That does not seem to be visible in Pakistan where each neighborhood organizes in small areas to participate in improving their living conditions and taking personal responsibility..
    Pakistani need a serious jolt to shake every fiber of their being to change the direction of the country so some major even will poke us Pakistanis from our deep hibernation to reality. Recommend

  • Abhishek V.

    These are the issues faced by almost every developing economy/ society. Like Naheed stated, its highly desirable to have a cluster growth plan wherein small work groups act as the delivery points for carrying out micro-level changes at the grassroot level. A bottom-top approach where the basic ethos are challenged without sounding disruptive would perhaps constitute a major chunk of the same. Honestly, after reading the blogs here, I have come to realize that there’s not much difference in the two societies, India and pakistan that is. At a very basic level, the challenges we face, and the solutions we seek are predominantly similar in nature. And its no shame if we learnt from each other. Another aspect that Naheed touched upon is Hope. Hope, is indeed the most important ingredient for any change, yet a knack of seizing the opportunity when it comes is equally important too. The time, I reckon is NOW.

    P.S. Thank you Naheed, Jibran Siddiqui for shattering the miserable misconceptions I had.Recommend

  • Atif Iqbal

    I agree with Mehrunnisa Yusuf, as we only have hope. Things can’t be worse, but when they reach the limit, it most probably, starts to improve..
    Despite all the hardships, we have survived so far, and with hope, determination and vision, we will not only survive, but will improve…
    Though it might seem idealistic, but there is no other way… We shouldn’t give up…Recommend

  • Farhan Ateeq

    YES!!! Offcourse we can have hope BUT hope from whom??? Its not only about having hope its also about giving hope. Thats for sure the government has been acting ineptly to deal with the problems on hand so people like you and myself who belong to the educated class should take a step forward and should give hope to the poor. We need to dilute the power structure, grab the power from the upper echelon and give to the people.

    But the question is why don’t we step forward, why is that we are just good at writing blogs or having discussions in our own “Capital Talk” and the answer is, fortunately or unfortunately, we are the ones who are not affected yet so we say lets have hope “Allah Behtar karay ga” but “hum khud kuch nahi karain gay”

    No critique to the article, we should definitely have hope but lets take a further step forward and give hope as well, no matter how big or small you contribute to the society at your own individual level but if every when will have this vision to contribute at his or her own capacity it will eventuially be a significant contribution.Recommend