The diaspora of Naya Pakistan: The time is ripe for us to pay back to the motherland what is due

Published: August 25, 2018
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Give him a chance; we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. PHOTO: TWITTER/PTI

Some years ago, summer of 2012 to be precise, I hosted an informal morning tea for Maleeha Lodhi, and while discussing the upcoming 2013 elections, she said to me,

It is not the Pakistan that this diaspora may have left 20 years ago, it’s a different Pakistan. The public is more desperate, the crises are much more and the conscious awareness that every vote counts is on everyone’s mind.”

Hence, to me, her statement implied that Imran Khan was going to be elected prime minister in the 2013 elections, but history tells us a different tale. Imran fell, and with him fell all our hopes.

But come this July 26, 2018, our fervour is back in business. Our zeal is all the more profound after listening to Prime Minister Imran’s first address to the nation, and the nation at large, as referred to the Pakistani diaspora.

He talked to us directly, and we understood everything he said.

To the sceptics who have an issue with Imran, why don’t you listen to his speech? He’s talking like you and I do while sitting in our drawing rooms, he’s talking like an average Pakistani. Tell me one thing he said wrong, and I’ll tell you a thousand things he said right!

I’ve heard him speak on several occasions, at intimate gatherings, addressing a small number of people in a drawing room, and what struck me most about his speech on TV was the sincerity and authenticity he displayed. It is exactly how he is in person. He appears idealistic, passionate, almost unreal, and on giving it a closer thought, I realised it is because he talks like a common man, something entirely alien to us when coming from a politician. He talks how you and I talk when we exasperatedly exclaim,

“You know what, if I was ever elected, this is how I would solve, or begin solving the issues that are facing Pakistan.”

And that is a powerful feeling. It’s a feeling of trust. It’s a feeling of relatability. It’s a feeling an average Pakistani understands and admires, because it’s their feeling too.

He mentioned all the right issues plaguing our country like child sexual abuse, corruption, maternal health and even the stunted growth of children. Listening to him making all these promises, I thought to myself, if he’s able to deliver even one-fourth or one-third of what he’s saying, which is no less than delivering unicorns and rainbows given the time frame, it will be beyond anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

Imran referred to all the ills ailing my beautiful country, and said he’ll try to find a fix; he acknowledged all the menaces, and asked for my help. I understood him, as did all the others I spoke to before writing this blog.

Here is what the diaspora had to say:

Salman Akhtar, Cardiologist, Las Vegas, Nevada:

“I hope that we can contribute monetarily, or as direct investment in the new Pakistan. The new government should come up with a sensible plan with enough transparency that makes all the expatriates comfortable that the effort is not to fill the coffers of some professional politician, or his cronies.

With a humanitarian at the helm of the nation, the time is ripe for all of us to pay back to the motherland what is due. I am what I am today because of all the opportunities that my country provided for me, and the free professional education that was available. Seeing the nation crippled by debt, and the looting by the two major parties over the last few decades, it’s been heart-wrenching. It is time we pitch in.”

Muneezah Hamid, Teacher, Houston:

We, the diaspora, support Imran not because he’ll fix everything in a jiffy, but because he’s the best choice at this moment in time.

Lyari not voting for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Karachi getting rid of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and the emerging Jibran Nasir force are very positive changes!

No popular leader is faultless; neither was Barack Obama just to give an example from recent history. Yet, a change (in spite of his faults) is better than the old corrupt order. Keep an open mind, support good effort and do our own civic duties, wherever we may live, is what is needed at this time. What surprises me is that there was no clamour for accountability for precious governments. Imran is not a saint, nor has he come from a different world, but he promises something no one has ever promised before.

I have lived more than half my life in Pakistan. My two daughters were born in the US and we moved back to Pakistan to raise them there until they were in their late teens. We suffered through many governments and the injustices that came with each. We do not condone the blasphemy law, nor violence against minorities. Hold Imran’s feet to fire, by all means. We too hope for a better Pakistan, but all we are saying is that he seemed like the best option at this time. As for Aamir Liaquat Hussain, well, he is a despicable character, but maybe a necessary evil at this time to win over the MQM vote. Are you not rejoicing the loosening hold of MQM in Karachi? I certainly am. Let’s be fair and objective in our analysis. Imran’s speech was wonderful; I’m a big supporter for now.”

Ayesha Jamil, Banker, London:

‪“I am very surprised that I am writing this next line. I was impressed and moved by Imran’s speech to the nation after he was sworn in as the prime minister. There it is.

I have admired Imran for his cricketing career and his philanthropy, but his politics has often confused me. However, that speech and the ideas he encapsulated, it was the first time I heard a politician speak about issues that have concerned me about Pakistan. The way he spoke was open, frank, and he used Urdu I understood. There was no air of superiority.

As someone who has spent most of her life abroad, listening to the PTV news in my childhood was like listening to another language, which felt as if we were being pushed away. Hence, listening to the Urdu spoken by Imran was in itself a breath of fresh air.

After having supported and believed Pakistani politicians in my 20s, in my 40s I have to admit I lost hope. However, Imran’s speech gave me hope again, and I truly pray that he can succeed and create a Pakistan that gives its citizens among other things, clean water, healthcare, education, equality, sanitation, religious freedom and prosperity. I do hope that right-wing elements in the party don’t hold too much sway over him, and that we can create what this country called Pakistan was truly meant to be.”

Amna Mumtaz, Lawyer, Singapore:

“We have to be realistic, Imran and his party are far from perfect, they are all from here and from us after all, but one cannot challenge the guts he has displayed. We are so down and out that Imran looks like a true hero just for saying the things he has said. No one has even done that, lest they be held to it! Let’s hold him and all after him to their words. The onus is on us as much as them.”

To all the cynics who are unwilling to give him a chance, or compare him to others in the past, it’s interesting to me how we admire heroes in history books, movies and fiction. Heroes, who are gutsy and warrior-like, but have personal failings. Heroes who shake up the corrupt status quo, but are fighting their own demons too. Heroes who are Robin Hood, they take from the corrupt and give to the weak in society. Heroes who are compassionate, and ready to face the battlefield, and the Goliath within the country, and without! We admire the kings, Akbar, Babar and Saladin. Gladiators who are ready to fight, brave-hearts who are patriots yet flawed humans. If we are ready to admire the characters we have only read about, why are we held back from supporting our real life hero, Imran.

Give him a chance; we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. There are no losers this time. We are all on the same team!

Pakistan Zindabad!

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

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

  • Ather

    We have been this road before. I recall Z.A. Bhutto’s very first speech as PM. He support of expat Pakistanis. However, in 1977 his govt was toppled by a military dictator who then imposed severe foreign exchange restrictions, thereby discouraging overseas Pakistanis to bring their money in Pakistan to invest.Recommend

  • sterry

    When people engage in hero worship, they have already set themselves up for failure. The type of people surrounding Imran Khan are the same corrupt despicable characters we have witnessed for decades. I hope Imran Khan is different and he delivers but that will only be possible if the others give him a chance. The problem is that Imran did not give other parties a fair chance to realise their development plans. Think about how Imran spent weeks on end trying to destabilise the country with dharnas or when Musharraf went behind the elected government and started a war in Kargil. Now Musharraf is hiding for treatment in UAE ! I hope everyone learns that hero worship, silly dharnas is not the way forward. Let’s hope Imran gets the space he wouldn’t give others to allow him to finish his term in people and that the others hold him to account in parliament the way it should be. If this happens I will be happy enough since I doubt Imran will accomplish much in health, education or economy. Imran used to say CPEC was a joke played by Nawaz Sharif on the government. Economist Magazine in UK calls Imran Khan a man with no plan – let’s all pray that he has some substance and not just negativity.Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    Maleeha lodhi…. For a fact. She has been no good whatsoever to Pakistan or a Pakistani.
    From my personal experience I can assure you she is one of a crooked , favored , influential elite.
    A Pakistani living in US, Texas.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Humza, your rationalization, as usual is flawed. Because your hate for
    Imran Khan has twisted your logic. You make no sense. Just gibberish.
    So, according to you, anyone hero worships Quaid e Azam, Mohd. Ali
    Jinnah, are setting themselves up for failure? That is typical Sons of
    the Soil thinking. Provincial, communal, ethnic, racist, full of bigotry.
    See, all these Sons claim descent from Alexander’s armies, or they are
    Persians, or Parthians or Central Asians or from Arab armies of bin Qasim.
    There are no desi Sons of the Soil, they all deny their indigenous heritage of
    Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, that is 5000 years. You all are that ignorant.
    We can see the results of such mentality, it has brought Pakland to it’s knees,
    near bankruptcy. Taking loans to pay off loans. The Sharif Cabal…er…govt.
    took so many loans that the future generations will be paying off for decades.
    Time for you to accept that your master is in Adiala Hilton for 10
    years. His daughter, and accomplice, Maryam, has a reservation
    for 7 years. No early release for good behavior.
    Humza, did you know Pakland did not have a foreign minister for 4 years!! Even,
    Papua/New Guinea has a foreign minister, even Mali has one.
    There is one other thing you forgot to mention,…Sita White.Recommend

  • TheUndertaker

    To change things in Pakistan ain’t a piece of cake. Revolution and subsequent deaths resulted in the major change for betterment in Iran from the chains of shahs western masters. Since 1947 nobody has dared to take on ppp or pml-n and we have seen what wholly corrupt these two are. Be thankful nobody actually died in this major change!

    Unless given a chance, we would have been strangled by these two for unknown period of time. Imran is a change. We hope it’s for the better.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Khan

    A nation that pins all hopes and unattainable expectations on one leader and government, elected or selected is up for a big disappointment. If a populist leader was all that any nation needs, are all the poor third world and Islamic countries sleeping? As sterry commented very nicely and rationally, don’t expect any substantial or even measurable improvement in various fields. Today I read somewhere that Hitler and Stalin were very honest and corruption free leaders whereas Japanese, Korean and Italians have been traditionally very corrupt, yet see what corruption free did to humanity and what corrupts did to their nations. Unfortunately, I understand the basis of this simplistic mindset, which comes from a belief of simple separation of virtues and vices with no grey area in between. You have to either like Imran and hate Nawaz or vice versa. This simplistic separation of likeness and abhorrence is not the real world. the contribution of the society is missing in this story. Which US government or President is credited for creating giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. The answer is: none.
    Pakistani society is at a disadvantage because it carries heavy load on its shoulders. Major contributors to this load are: about 2.5 percent population growth in the Bible Belt of Pakistan stretching all along the western borders and stretching eastward into northern Punjab, Saraiki belt and Sindh interior, very high military spending due to living as a security state, lower status of women with poor literacy levels and above all, a very passionate attachment to very demanding religion.
    Therefore only decent pathway to achieve some sort of progress in Pakistan is to forget about populist social programs of Imran Kahn, Nehru, Suikarno, Peron and like and stick to developing infrastructure, communication and transportation and urban development in order to improve economy and generate additional taxes (revenues) and then wait if ” a rising tide lifts all boats”. BTW, this was also the previous PMLN government model, especially in Punjab.Recommend

  • ahmed

    Bisma you speak for all of us…IK has been given almost impossible task just like1992 when he had a separated shoulder Waqar was out Miandad was in pain and could barely move, Malik stank but even at retirement age of 40 he fought hard and delivered a miracle. It is same story here w most of corrupt bureaucracy still in place and same old ministers who have done nothing worthwhile in their lives yet he wants to bring revolutionary changes t them…bc coalition obligations he can’t bring his best people in cabinet so like 1992 he has to create a miracle…after MAJ if anyone perform a miracle it is none other then IK there has no better son or daughter who has refused to acknowledge the odds and fought hard to deliver the impossible. I had lost hope w Pak people and the politics after 2013 and like Hasan Nisar felt our people need a century to understand that if they keep voting the same people in nothing will change …Pakistan people has shocked us that they can think beyond ethnicity or their narrow self interests…I knew it had to be Karachi the brain of the nation if IK has to succeed this time their votes were counted. I have been screaming and wishing for years that hopefully someone can put the first brick down so Pakistan can claim its rightful status in the World. I hope IK does that.Recommend

  • Ilias Ismil

    Imran just might be honest and sincere. But the kind of people he has made alliances with are the worst bunch of possible partners. Further he is doing some of the same things he used to condemn when he was not the PM. Let’s see if he can follow thru on the job and housing promises he made, because it’s a uphill task and the first few months will give use a baseline to project the course those efforts will take.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Oh bhai Economist magazine and the rest of the West have an agenda. Imran is not going to be a puppet for them. They will obviously put him and his agenda down. Please start thinking for yourselves and for our poor country. Your beloved previous govts had more than three decades to complete their development plans. Why didnt they? the answer is they were busy completing their personal development plans. Please start thinking about your country for once.Recommend

  • sterry

    If you try to read before commenting, everything in English won’t sound like gibberish to you. The issue is that blind hero worship, whether a sports icon or anyone else is fundamentally flawed, especially when the person being worshiped has his own flaws and has no national plan. We can disagree with this or that plan but that doesn’t mean we hate Imran or hate Bilawal or hate Abassi. We just don’t agree with their plan and we disagree on who will do a good job in government. This is the basis of politics and even those who didn’t vote for him ( like me) have to support him as PM ( elected or selected by army through manipulation) by holding him to account because this is what is done in democracies. I am a patriotic Pakistani like you are a patriotic Indian. Respecting the Quaid as the founder of a country or Gandhi ( in your case) and worshiping a present day politician are 2 things if you can’t see. I know you have something against Pakistanis or sons of the soil but it really doesn’t matter to me whether you dislike Pakistanis. I am sure it doesn’t matter to you whether I like or dislike Indians. I will say that your hero worship of Modi as some type of Brahmin Avatar will not bring India any more success than our people blindly worshiping Imran and saying. because he won a cricket cup in 1992 he can do anything. As for son of the soil Imran vs son of soil Bilawal or son of the soil Shahbaz, I can’t see how this makes a difference when we are talking about policies. And yes I still want infrastructure and CPEC to form basis of the new economy as per last government plans. PS most Pakistanis take great pride in our history even before Mohenjendaro if you don’t know – don’t believe everything they teach you in your Indian schools.Recommend

  • sterry

    Still not reading or listening ? English is gibberish? We are talking about hero worship in true 3 rd world fashion which is bound to disappoint. I am also against dynastic politics. Just like you have the Nehru Gandhi dynasty in India which should also be shown the exit door. That’s why so many of your Indian compatriots support Modi who was a simple chai wallah who made it to the top of the most popular party in India. The problem is when you worship the chai wallah as a saviour or we worship the cricket player as a saviour without understanding that governance is more than just saying we will only serve tea for austerity in PM House. Anyhow I think Nawaz Sharif’s career is finished and they will make sure more cases will be brought against him. For any nation it’s good to have a change if the policies are helpful for the country but when the Economist calls Imran a man with no plan, we all have reason to worry – even the most rabid cricket sports fan who says we won the world cup in 1992 and so Imran can do anything for the economy! I just don’t want the CPEC infrastructure to end since I buy into the idea of a raising tide lifting all boats. Also I don’t want the border with Afghanistan opened ( as he does) and I hope the army seals the border and deports all Afghans as well as all illegals in Pakistan. Unlike you, my country is my home and I care about it. Give it a rest with your hating on Pakistanis and endless son of the soil hatred. It only shows how confused you are and how typically Indian to be obsessed with hate of Pakistanis marked by your own inferiority crisis!Recommend