Patriotism is for the rich

Published: August 6, 2011

Maybe I can ‘afford’ to be a patriotic Pakistani but the common man can’t

It was noon on a particularly lazy Sunday. I could not go out as the law and order situation in the city was bad – as usual. I decided to watch television to get my mind off the gloomy state I was in: tired of the situation in the city, where there is a strike everyday because some political figure decides to be inappropriate and crude on national tv.

I flipped through news channels because I had heard enough about cars being burnt and people being shot. In hindsight I realise I wanted some kind of escapism. So I landed onto a channel that claims to be the voice of the ‘poor’ and covers real life stories.

I watched as a reporter unfolded the tale of Ali Hashmi – a boy who was tortured severely  and eventually murdered in police custody for a crime he did not commit. Images of his body with holes in his feet, no nails on his fingers and gruesome injuries were constantly being played repeatedly for effect. I shuddered and turned the television off.

So much for escaping the harsh reality of Pakistan.

I sat and thought to myself for a long time. I had always been one of those people that claimed to be very ‘patriotic’, that judged people who would move to countries like America, Canada, Australia and blame it on the ‘weaknesses’ of our country.

‘What do they know about loyalty?’ I would think to myself.

I also found myself realising that I judged the common man of Pakistan who was protesting on the street because of no electricity, no sugar, no water.

‘Most third world countries need time to develop …there is no reason to behave like this’ I would always say sitting in my air conditioned room.

But then as images of Ali Hashmi’s mutilated dead body and the expression of people whose cars were burnt in the recent strikes, tear stricken faces of people who couldn’t provided basic necessities of life to their children, popped  in my mind I suddenly felt my so called ‘patriotism’ fade away.

Perhaps I never was really patriotic in the true sense of the word.

It is easy for the elite to sit in air conditioned drawing rooms and offer theories about how this nation has so much potential. So called patriotism is a luxury only the bourgeoisie can afford.  It is a concept that elite Pakistanis or Pakistani settled abroad (often founders of ‘NGOs’ for Pakistan whose work comprises of ghazal evenings and Eid dinners) can afford. Reminds me of a scene from Act 2 of Pygmalion where Pickering asks Mr Dolittle:

“Have you no morals, man?”

He replies:

‘Can’t afford them, governor. Neither could you if you were as poor as me.”

How can one expect the common man of Pakistan who will either die of hunger or be shot on the road because some political party wants to showcase their strength to feel patriotism? Such immense patriotism that it is expected to go above and beyond his basic feelings of hunger? Hurt? Pain? Fear? And instability?

Nations were built to provide citizens security, stability and most importantly to give them a right to life, the most basic right that every individual deserves, a right that is the first right afforded to citizens of a nation under the Human Rights Act.

How can one expect a man who does not know if he will be alive tomorrow to feel patriotism and ‘give’ to his nation?

This whole propaganda of ‘your nation may not have given you anything but what have you given your nation’ is a façade – a kind of escapism, a denial of our state’s failure. If a nation cannot give its citizens a basic sense of security in terms of life, it is impossible for its citizens to give anything to their nation including a sense of pride in being Pakistani.

Maybe I can ‘afford’ to be a patriotic Pakistani but the common man can’t. Can you really blame him?


Maham Durrani

A barrister from London who is interested in human rights and writing.

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

  • Radha

    Agree in principle. But those who can’t afford it are still patrioric. They need something in to love.Recommend

  • Raj

    @Maham – A very fabulous post. What you said is quite universal and applies to nations across the globe. Patriotism is a great quality which helps in binding a nation, but then how many of us know exactly what it is? How many of us are ready to make our contribution to our nation rather than just feeding like a parasite.Recommend

  • Frank

    The poor in Pakistan are much more patriotic than the idle rich. They are of the land and the soil in a way the English speaking chattering classes of Lahore and Islamabad can never be and can never understand. If the idle rich are so concerned about the poor of Pakistan they can start helping them by no longer evading paying taxes.Recommend

  • hammad

    no the narratore has come up with extreemly bogus idea…Patriotism is rooted deepinside every Pakistani..the donations of enourmous size made by Pakistanis during the natural disastersblike earthquake and floods proves that ordinary Pakistani feels for the pain of his countrymen.More ever if you go out to know how mue to have a decent supperch charity is done in this country , you will be amazed toknow that no person in this country sleeps hungry at night, even the poorest can manage to have a decent supper….Ordinar people are so much concerned that they regularly buy newspapers and show concerns about there nation to there fellow colegues , and every one atleast has a feeling to make this nation a beeter place..if this is not patriotisim that what is it…the patriotism and the feeling over terrible state of nation is there however that degree of patriotism which motivates and drives action is not abundant but as the populace is becoming more aware there Patriotism and feeling of nation will eventualy get translated into some sort of action which will make things better Inshallah Recommend

  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos

    @ Maham Durrani. Something that I always wanted to write about. I appreciate your feelings towards the poor, the bulk of our population. You have done a great job writing this article.Recommend

  • MF Hussain

    I detest Pakistan.
    and I’m beginning to detest the PakistaniRecommend

  • Forced Meditation

    This is brilliant, something that I strongly agree with despite being unable to pen it down as eloquently as you have.

    The whole ‘what have you given to your nation instead of just whining about it’ seems a favorite response from people when you tell them that you just can’t sometimes bear living in a country like Pakistan.

    Also, when people tell me that I’ll be a ‘second class citizen’ in any country I migrate to need to be reminded that I’m treated as a ‘second class citizen’ in my home country too, because I don’t have the resources or the ‘sources’ to live my life in the same manner as the elites of my country do. Har cheez ke liye pesa aur pawwa chahiye, and if you don’t have that, then you’re a second class citizen Pakistani in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Habiba Younis

    very true! great postRecommend

  • Salman Qureshi

    If we look at the current situation in Pakistan, then we should expect no one to be patriotic. However patriotism is not to the current government, the current state but rather to our land and our people. And we need to continue to believe that we can pull ourselves out of this mess we are in at the moment – that won’t happen by questioning the very existence of patriotism in people. On another note, what is up with you people who continue to cast a suspicious and downgrading eye on pakistanis who live overseas? I’ve been raised abroad but continue to call myself Pakistani and have not taken on another nationality (and I did have a choice to otherwise). And there is A LOT that we overseas Pakistanis do besides the eid melas and ghazal nights. Don’t be so judgemental!Recommend

  • Ali Mehdi

    Very true. A Wonderful post highlighting the real reasons why so many people leave their countries and settle abroad.Recommend

  • nada

    totally agreed but is this are fate ?? insecurity, theft, corruption, injustice , hunger :/Recommend

  • Cynical

    Excellent post.There is an element of universal truth in it.Recommend

  • Ahmad M. Qamar

    Is ‘law and order situation’ an English idiom? I would like to know Miss Durrani..Recommend

  • faraz


    But in Pakistan the demand for increased defence expenditure is considered a symbol of patriotism, the poor only struggles to meet the basic needs of life, he has no time for India centric nationalism. In 1947, the elites materialized their own fantastic ideas and theories, but it was the poor man who was massacred and later denied the right to live with peace and welfareRecommend

  • Muhammad Irfan

    @ Frank
    You won the day.
    These poor vermin, the rich so call them, though die for no reason, have a sense of sand and soul. They are honest. One can’t fathom their depth of feelings for the country.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Most people find it difficult to differentiate between patriotism and jingoism. Every hot-headed, banner-waving, India-hating, slogan-chanting moron isn’t a patriot.

    A true patriot is the one isn’t afraid of highlighting his country’s weaknesses and offers answers to these problems…not the one who tries to pretend that these problems don’t exist and is content with mindless chanting “Pakistan zindabad!” while drowning in a sea of filth.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    You’r spot on!! for you first blog. The point around which patriotism revolves is protection of human life along-with providing the basic necessities to lead a respectable life, in every country. If we look at the newly created South Sudan or the one of oldest liberated France all the citizens of any country would loved their homeland if it take care of these things mentioned above. A common phrase is surfacing in the youth of this country is “Pakistan zindabad nahi Pakistan se Zinda Bhaag
    The reasons are as you said. My I include on more People of any country look for credible leaders and right now we have non. Moreover those who have reign of power couldn’t deliver in 3 years. Infact they have protected establishment of bureaucracy, military and foreign influence.
    It might be saying a lot but honestly this 14th I can’t feel to hoist the flag even let alone upper/bigger than anyone in my neighborhood. Recommend

  • Sobya Saeed Paracha

    i may not agree with you but, i am quite worried as this is how the pakistanis are looking at the problem now….we cant judge you on the basis of this….but dear maham i really wish the political elite was as patriotic as luxurious it seems to you! i think the real problem now would be that niether elite nor the common man would be ready to own this country….everyone wants their share and then move away……..the problem is not wheather patriotism is a luxury or not….problem is weather there is patriotism in pakistanis or not….? what do you think had every common pakistani fullfilled their share of duties in past 64 years, this is what pakistan would have turned into?Recommend

  • parvez

    You have raised an nice point and clearly expressed your view. Enjoyed reading this.
    Also remember the saying : Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.Recommend

  • My Name is Khan

    As a Pakistani American I have to disagree with your hit on Pakistanis abroad. Many of us left Pakistan because of the increasing religious fundamentalism and lack of opportunities. We want to see Pakistan live up to its vision rather than be a worldwide joke.

    The average Pakistani sadly supports these fundamentalists. I used to believe it was a minority who was radical but it is the majority. Recommend

  • Maham Durrani

    Thank you Raj,Fahad Raza,Cynical,Ali,Habiba,Forced Medidation,Syed Hussan and Raj for your appreciation.It is time for us to be realistic about our own nation and its problems.Recommend

  • Harsh Srivastava

    Nice reading it. Replace ” Pakistan” with India.. it will still hold good.Recommend

  • Deb

    @Harsh Srivastava

    Agree 100%.Recommend

  • Fauzia Ahmad

    Extremely well expressed Maham. Patriotism is only a luxury the elite can ‘afford’.

    “your nation may not have given you anything but what have you given your nation’ is a façade – a kind of escapism, a denial of our state’s failure. If a nation cannot give its citizens a basic sense of security in terms of life, it is impossible for its citizens to give anything to their nation including a sense of pride in being Pakistani.”

    Surely our poor people have not asked for much…only the basic necessities …..and if they can’t even have those, this country and its leaders have no right to expect the masses to be patriotic. Recommend

  • Saim Saeed

    Great sense of awareness. You’re absolutely right. I just want to point out though, that there’s no shame in being well-off. Being poorer does not make one ‘more Pakistani’ or being richer any ‘less’. Being poorer probably means one has less to be patriotic about.Recommend

  • Hassan

    Such a waste of space!Recommend

  • Sohail Anwer

    @Author, Miss the thing is that as a lawyer u should see both sides of the spectrum and try to reach a solution that best suits the situation. Second, i am surprised when u learned bout the victimized child, why haven’t u filed a 22-A and B petition for registration of a case U/S 302(b) PPC and 155 Police Order against the police officer if i were in ur place i would do that. As a fellow litigator could plz explain to me why the dead silence on ur side.Recommend

  • Frank


    But in Pakistan the demand for
    increased defence expenditure is
    considered a symbol of patriotism, the
    poor only struggles to meet the basic
    needs of life, he has no time for
    India centric nationalism.

    Being too poor to afford the high luxury of Liberal Idealism the common man in Pakistan understands life and the world in a direct and uncomplicated, hence correct, way. He knows that we live in a far from perfect world. He realizes therefore that just as he has enemies so does his country and that just as he has to protect himself from his enemies so does his country. What he doesn’t understand and what astounds and angers him is that he has to labour under the burning sun for Rs300 a day every day while burger kids in defence are spending that much on a cup of cappucinno.Recommend

  • faraz


    And who is the chairman of defence housing? The poor guy just cant imagine a corp commander acting as a real estate agent! Recommend

  • faraz


    Well poor man is way more liberal and tolerant than the middle and elite class. He doesn’t believe in abstract ideas of ummah, khilafat or resurrection of glorious past. He won’t hate his poor neighbor who belongs to another sect. The cancer of extremism was imposed from above, it didn’t come from below. It was the mullah-military alliance that recruited children of poor families and had them killed in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Taliban don’t represent the aspirations of the poor; Taliban are part of the poor who were indoctrinated by the elites to achieve absurd defense and foreign policy objectives. Poor people want education and health; it’s the elite that exploits them in the name of religion, ethnicity and nationalism. Recommend

  • http://deleted Frank


    And who is the chairman of defence
    housing? The poor guy just cant
    imagine a corp commander acting as a
    real estate agent!

    The irony is that this fact only grates the very same chattering classes who clamour for plots and kothees in the defence housing schemes and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else, nearer the heat and sweat of the real Pakistan. Recommend

  • Ibad Ur Rehman Ahmed

    Confusing patriotism and jingoism is an altogether different subject but I strongly disagree with your notion that the elite of this country are imbued with some sense of patriotism. Without digressing into how their non payment of bills and taxes, absence of land reforms and lack of altruism is the reason of most problems, the few (like you?) resort to living room conversation alone. The poor who you deem have less reasons to be patriotic about, will still stay and try to fight it out, and maybe even drive change someday; when the going will get tough, you and I and our likes, my dear, are more likely to run away to a ‘secure and developed’ country.Recommend

  • http://deleted Frank


    Please don’t project your burger boy liberal delusions onto the poor of Pakistan. Being unable to read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times the poor are hardly aware of the issues that so preoccupy the chattering classes of Lahore and Islamabad. Go out and talk to them and find out what they really think.Recommend

  • Natasha

    Great article! Hope to see more of your writing! :)Recommend

  • Ummar

    nice work
    atleast some one calls spade a spadeRecommend

  • faraz


    I consider myself fortunate that I don’t belong to the Zia’s lost generation for whom that tin pot dictator was the greatest thing ever to happen since Saladin. After losing the wars of 48, 65, 71 and 99, and after 40,000 deaths at the hands of army’s very own strategic assets, you can’t expect love and applause from the bloody civilians. Army takes up 25 percent of the budget, and their security state is a major reason behind widespread poverty. Who forcibly acquired land for Rs. DHA at 57,000 per acre from poor villagers? The poor want food, education and health, not a bunch of FA pass generals who recruit to civilians to wage proxy wars. It’s not about liberalism or conservatism, the idea of army recruiting civilians is just abnormal!Recommend

  • Shu

    Well Maham to begin with, i agree with the main idea behind your opinion which you presented here in a ell elaborated manner. For those of us who have access to the basic necessities of life and do not have to worry about arranging a meal thrice a day for our families can come up with detailed and sometimes fascinating ideas of hope. Ideas which seem appropriate only in theory but cannot be implemented. Meanwhile it is the poor who are on the street every day protesting for a right to survive in what has come to be a barbaric form of existence. We know nothing about what its like to stand in the scorching heat and yell your lungs out for water or electricity while the authorities shell with tear gas and in most cases a real good smacking of a stick!

    However as extreme as the situation may appear on one side, it is also important that we appreciate the fact that more and more people from the new generation are stepping up to take up greater social responsibility. And yes, it may be disappointing when some NGOs care more about their PR and lavish dinners and events, but lets not forget those NGOs who are still upholding the foundations of our country and actually making a positive contribution towards improvement.
    To the rich, I say go ahead and make plans but implement them too. It will only be effective once people like us step into the filth and tr to clean up the mess. Recommend

  • narayana murthy

    Pervez Hoodbhoy wrote in a column that “you pledge allegiance to a country, in return for protection of your interests, way of life, belongings and family”.

    Pakistan, India, America…are all just names. The day they infringe upon your interests, you move on. Only real people understand this, fanatics won’t. Recommend

  • maliha rahmani

    i think its a fabulous article,pinpointing alot ov harsh realities of our coumtry,beautifully expressed.loved reading it maham…keep it up:)Recommend

  • Frank


    I consider myself fortunate that I
    don’t belong to the Zia’s lost
    generation for whom that tin pot
    dictator was the greatest thing ever
    to happen since Saladin.

    I hardly know anyone, of any social class, in Pakistan who considers Zia a hero. On the contrary most consider him a villain who got us into this mess. You burger kids seem to live in a different Pakistan in a universe parallel to ours.

    Army takes up 25 percent of the
    budget, and their security state is a
    major reason behind widespread

    The army takes 16% of the budge not 25%, but at least you didn’t claim the usual 80% of Pakistani liberal urban myth. The widespread poverty is due to the incompetence and corruption of the politicians and of civil society. This corruption includes the massive evasion of taxes by the rich of Pakistan. The burgers of defense are happy to splash out on expensive fiber optic connections to preach Liberal Idealism to us, but they aren’t willing to pay their fair share of taxes. This is the fundamental problem in our society and for our ecnonomy.

    The poor want food, education and
    health, not a bunch of FA pass
    generals who recruit to civilians to
    wage proxy wars.

    What percentage of Pakistani civilians are engaged in proxy wars? The Liberals work themselves up into a lather about this issue but it is a non-issue for those of us who don’t read American newspapers. You really need to get a grip on yourself.Recommend

  • D

    very well written. Good job!Recommend

  • yousaf

    could not be written better about the prevailing state of affairs in Pakistan.All praises to the writerRecommend

  • A Zaidi

    The blog not only fits Pakistan in the frame of opinion, but I, being an indian, would strongly agree on the views here as being similar to my country as well. It is easy for a Rich Indian to say ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’, but, how many of the poor mass would support the ‘Naraa’ of Bharat being Mahan, when their kids would sleep without a proper meal, waking up next day to yet another miserable day full of pain and hunger.

    The blog is very well written, pointing out the bitter reality.Recommend

  • faraz


    Why don’t you love Zia, after all he fathered the idea of recruiting civilians for proxy wars? If you support militant groups, you should support Zia. Well in 50-60s, army took up to 70 percent of budget, and in 80-90s it took 50 percent of budget. Of course people don’t pay taxes, so why didn’t the army collect tax when it remained in power for 35 years. And military is relatively powerful in Pakistan; the bureaucracy and civilian elite are equal partners in the loot. But army is solely responsible for foreign and defense policy disasters. There are about 500,000 civilians who are part of militant groups; there is no other example in history of such scale of recruitment of civilians. A small fraction of these strategic assets went astray and killed over 40,000. And these 40,000 were Pakistanis, not Americans.Recommend

  • HIK

    Agree with you but you do know that our soldiers, who bravely give their lives for their nation, come from the lower classes.Recommend

  • Frank


    Why don’t you love Zia, after all he
    fathered the idea of recruiting
    civilians for proxy wars?

    Can you really put your hand on your heart and say that Zia ul Haq fathered recruiting civilians for proxy wars and not Ronald Reagan and other senior American politicians? You are now betraying the fact that you rely only on the American media for your ‘information’.

    A small fraction of these strategic
    assets went astray and killed over
    40,000. And these 40,000 were
    Pakistanis, not Americans.

    Oh please. Now you are writing total fiction. Those 35 000 Pakistani were murdered by Al Qaeda and its Pakistani branch the TTP. The leaders of the TTP the Mehsud brothers were recruited by Bin Laden for his cause after American incompetence allowed him to escape from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Once again you are just parroting American propaganda.Recommend

  • faraz

    Reagan paid money to support the Afghan jihad; he didn’t specifically link this money with indoctrination of Pakistani civilians. It was purely Zia who brought mullah into power, and the mullahs further entrenched themselves by recruiting civilians. The sole purpose was to extract more money from US, middle east and private charities. I am not entirely opposed to the idea of supporting Afghans, but indoctrinating our own society is just criminal. Pakistan could have simply acted as a supply base, and Afghan refugees should have been located in specified areas. Zia openly supported sectarian gangs against minorities. And after the jihad, it was the military which decided to expand the scale of jihadi groups.

    TTP recruits members from the pool of strategic assets. Similarly, violent sectarian groups draw members from jihadi groups which are meant for Kashmir or Afghanistan. It is impossible to control the activities of armed militias. Armed militias whether religious or ethnic (as in Karachi) gradually erode the writ of the state. Only the state should have monopoly over use of force. And it’s just unethical and immoral; although I hate these extremist ideologies but I sympathize with the child of the poor family who was picked up, indoctrinated and ended up getting killed somewhere in Afghanistan. States cant exploit people so mercilessly forever.Recommend

  • Khalid Durrani

    Woderful writing Maham. You indeed have a strong and affective power of expression. Nonetheless, we have to make sincere efforts to improve the situation at home. Looking outside our home for shelter or solace is not the solution. We must learn from Malaysia, China, India and even Bangladesh. If they can do it, why cant we? Recommend

  • Ahsan Ahmed

    Havent read anything better in AGES! Recommend

  • someone

    Now that’s what i call a good piece of writing.
    Well done. Recommend

  • TLW

    I agree. I’ve felt this relating to Pakistani displays of patriotism on 14 th August for a very long time. Going back decades in fact.Recommend

  • A

    I agree with you. That is our basic problem. The needs of the poor make them vulnerable and that is what our political parties make good use of. Obviously the poor village will vote for a party who made a new road for them to ease their transport, because that is their basic necessity. Who would then think deeper in to the potential threats of one’s vote and future of your country when you don’t have food on the table? this is true, patriotism is now a phenomenon of the rich, a feeling which has no value except for the sole purpose of a good debating or discussion point in the lounge. And the poor can’t be blamed for having none at all, because when you find your loved one’s dead back in a sack, there is no love left to feel. Neither for your government, ur people or ur country.Recommend

  • samra naveed

    A true depiction a layman’s feelings. can’t express it better. i think time to Ponder has long been faded away and now its time to act. Its something above being Patriotic we have to prove that we can save ourselves from the clenches of this cruel government and ruthless systemRecommend

  • Syed Anas Baqi

    One of the best blogs of express tribune i have ever read. Seriously.Recommend

  • AJ

    I totally agree with writer in fact i like to take it more ahead.. what impact does it will have on life of poor and middle class whether a country exists or not ? they all have to earn their bread and butter by them selves.all these third world countries and their army are actually protecting Elite class assets and the poor and middle class are feeding armies.
    NO Country…NO ARMY…NO IDEOLOGY (1/2 OR TWO) Recommend

  • AJ

    poor are always exploit in the name of religion, ideologies, patriotism, to protect elites interestsRecommend