Why should we come back?

Published: October 11, 2011
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Pakistan is a country where illiterate people are breaking private and public property to get a convicted murderer out of jail. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan is a country where illiterate people are breaking private and public property to get a convicted murderer out of jail. PHOTO: REUTERS Half of the bureaucrats in Pakistan live in palaces, drive Mercs while the poor live lives of abuse every single day. PHOTO: INP

Pakistan is our home. It’s something we’ve been taught from the time we all were children. For better or worse, it will always be who we are, and if there’s something wrong with it, we have a duty to try and fix it. It takes a great amount of idealism to keep believing that, and sometimes, that idealism can be interpreted as idiocy.

Over the last month, I interacted with five Pakistani-born and educated bankers. Three are based abroad, two are in Pakistan.

They are all of different ages, they grew up in different cities, and under very different circumstances. Yet, in spite of the fact that they don’t even know each other, they all had one thing in common.

They don’t think Pakistan is home.

Why?

“Home is a place where your safe,” said one.

“Home is where you want your children to be,” said another.

“Home is a place where you’re taken care of,” said the third.

And so it went.

But really, don’t they think they owe Pakistan something?

“I was born in a private hospital, I went to a private school, I went to college on my own dime, I work for a private company, and I have to make my own electricity. What do I owe Pakistan?” retorted one.

I decided against pushing him on the matter.

“If I have to live in a country where I am just a number, I might as well get paid well for it,” said one who is now based abroad.

“Do you really think I want my daughter growing up here?” said another, echoing the sentiments of a local, except for the fact that he was talking about his boys.

But really, why do they think they don’t owe their country even one iota?

“I live in a country where my kids go to school for free, and not some crap government school where the teachers are under-qualified, overworked and underpaid.

“Here, government schools are actually good. Here, they’ll go to a world class university for next to nothing. Here, if I lose my job, the government will put me on welfare. Here, if I get sick, I won’t pay a cent at the hospital. That’s what taxes are for.

“The government can’t give security of life to anyone. Unless he’s the president (the actual word used is unprintable) or something, and even then, look at Salmaan Taseer. In fact look at the lunatics on the streets right now. I saw a sign that said the death penalty is evil, held up by people that call Osama bin Laden a hero.”

He even pulled up the picture on his phone. The caption said it was a member of a Wahabbi group, but that was not the point. He was right.

When the VIPs of the land aren’t safe, what will become of those without the VI?

Illiterate people are breaking private and public property to get a convicted murderer out of jail. At the same time eighth graders are being tried for blasphemy. Women get gang-raped or paraded naked at the behest of sub-human ‘elders’ and ‘nobles’. The army is bankrupting the country, yet it takes a bunch of American Rambos to find bin Laden next to GHQ? Why should I come back?”

Well, Rambo is a movie, they were SEALs, and it was actually PMA Kakul, but point taken.

“They take billions from us to ‘fight’ an enemy that hasn’t ever attacked us. They got us into four wars and lost all of them. They break their oaths and commit treason by overthrowing governments, and then they steal public money. And instead its politicians and bureaucrats who get hauled into court for corruption. How many sitting faujis were dismissed for corruption? None! So how come half of them live in palaces, drive Mercs, and have stupid-donkey (real word unprintable) kids getting prime jobs in army-run banks? For that matter, what kind of army owns a bank and a fertiliser company and whatnot anyway?”

I would like to think that the guy was fertiliser-faced, but after getting past his highly undiplomatic choice of words, I realised that his abstract facts were quite close to reality.

What hurt most was the fact that even a local boy who didn’t specifically criticise the usual suspects only had this to say: My parents are the only thing that keeps me from leaving.

At the end though, the starkest criticism was not of any institution, government body, politician or religious group.

It was of me.

“You write about tolerance, extremism, corruption and  abuse of power. Why don’t you cut the nonsense and write about who bred the intolerant extremists? Why don’t you write about the abuse that every man woman and child faces every day because of people whose salaries we all pay?

“The last time I checked, people who I pay are supposed to treat me with respect, at least to my face. Why do they treat us like they are our masters? If you think you can fix anything just by writing in a language that 90 per cent of the people can’t even read, your a fool.

“Why do you even try?”

Why indeed.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

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