Message from a Pakistani apologist

No matter what cynics, nay sayers and disillusioned have to say about Pakistan, this is my home, and I'm proud of it

Jehan Naseem October 04, 2010
A few months back I was having a conversation with an American of Pakistani ethnicity. An American born, however, not a confused desi. She seemed like a reasonably well-educated, knowledgeable and articulate individual. I have always enjoyed striking a conversation with such people. Since I believe it allows me to enrich and broaden my perspective.

This person asked me: “What do you think of the place [Pakistan]?” My answer was: “You can make your place wherever you go, but this is my home.”

It may have its many downsides, but it would be ridiculous of me not to remember its upsides and the fact that, at the end of the day it all boils down to where you come from.

I asked this person the same. Now, normally no matter how badly my country is spoken of I try my level best to remain or act as a pacifist. However, this time I was livid.

According to her Pakistan is a completely unlikable place along with its people. An acquaintance had told her that “Pakistani people are the only people that are willing to give up their culture without hesitation.” Not to mention that this person also thinks Pakistanis have no moral sense left, they are no longer “traditional”. Apparently it is all about the flashy cars, money and not to mention the immorality of Musharraf allowing open alcohol purchasing in addition to the ongoing corruption of locals. Traditions have been forgotten and Islam has been abandoned, after all Pakistan is an Islamic Republic.

I tried my level best to explain to this lady--whom I started to think of as a jaded ABCD, that most of these acts of alcohol purchase, rise of money, power and the influence of the West were triggered in this area way before Pakistan even existed. There were so many traditions that were linked with Islam and done in the name of Islam which have abused the faith and continue to do so on a daily basis. To make random accusations without actually living here is just not permissible. This logic had nothing to do with Pakistan as a nation, rather with the individual acts that affect Pakistan on a daily basis. Yes, there are ways of making things better, but not through lack of faith and hope in which the ABCD clearly pointed out with one finger and the rest pointing right back.

I have never believed in blatant attacks without listening to the other side of the situation and I try my level best to find a solution rather just than sitting there and pulling my hair out while loudly screaming in disdain: “the fallacy, the poor fallacy”!

I tried my level best to change the topic since the ABCD had never lived here. This breed of “our people” don't know that they are “one of our own”. In lameness and in vain, I tried to end the topic with the statement: “Nothing can be said unless you actually experience it yourself, you haven’t lived here, and I haven’t lived in your country so there are going to be baseless misunderstandings”. The ABCD’s reply was: “You are making it so with logic without any premise that Pakistan is a failure, and your wish to ignore the problems makes you an immature Pakistani jingoist, and your denial makes you a Pakistani apologist.”

I stopped talking to this person and till day refuse to do so. However, this conversation did get me thinking and asking myself: "Am I an immature Pakistani jingoist and an apologist?"

For this reason I started asking a few people if they thought of themselves as Pakistani jingoists and why?

I am going to share with you some of the most interesting replies I received and more importantly I am sharing their replies with you for two reasons: These people have not only lived in Pakistan all their lives, they are also “foreign-returns”. They came back to serve their country in the best possible way as civilians rather then staying back in the UK and USA after completing their education.

Here they are with a slight briefing of their educational background:

1) This person would like to remain anonymous. However, this person has studied in a reputable university in the UK and now runs a well-established trading company throughout Pakistan and various parts of the world. His answer was, “What’s wrong with being a jingoist without harming anyone? (Not in pretext to the literal meaning of a jingoist). I want to run down the streets waving my country’s flag with pride and not harming anyone, then why the hell not? It is our country and we have to not only accept it but take of it and make the flaws history.”

2) Fasi Zaka happens to be an Oxford Rhodes Scholar, who is also a well-known writer and education enforcer. His answer was: “Jingoism implies mindless platitudes. So no, I am not a jingoist. I am a firm believer in my country, warts and all.”

3) Hasan A Gulfaraz, completed his education from Berkley (USA) and then went on to become a lawyer from the University of London. His answer was: “Hmmm...Let’s see here. I am a jingoist, yes to the extent that I am extremely patriotic, but not at the expense of other nations. Pride in your country does not translate to belligerence towards others and why am I patriotic? Well I’m a son of the soil. I think the educated Pakistanis I’ve met are the coolest people on earth and the common man is the most generous. If only we could get rid of the Neanderthal Taliban, this place would be ideal.”

Then it struck me. The ABCD I was enraged by wasn’t much of “our own”. She did not want to come back to help. By making assumptions on what she read, people she met momentarily, stayed in this country for a few days, did not make her “our own”. All in all, her predecessors never lived here and never came back as well. I am sure they have their own valid reasons as to why and why not, but it wouldn’t be fair for me to judge them as they were judging “us”.

This person kept confusing a secular form of State with non-secular. The only country I know that has completely balanced both secularism and non-secularism is Malaysia and has great economic strength in bad times and is a wonderful tourist attraction. We can learn from them, seek guidance and apply it. I am sure all of you agree with me that “we can”. Yes, granted Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, she kept forgetting that we are indeed still developing for the better. It is a long process; however, I am proud to say that with the likes of the “foreign-returns” I have quoted above, we as a nation will get there.

If me believing, having faith and striving as an individual in my very own country, without putting up with rubbish against the State on a daily basis and trying to make Pakistan a better place to live in the future, makes me an immature jingoist (without the harm intended and provoked) and a Pakistani Apologist - then so be it!
Jehan Naseem An independent financial consultant, with a finance background who resides in Karachi.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.