I am Pakistan
I realize that the independence I had been celebrating was artificial. As a Pakistani, I am in no way free.
The first time I got into a public brawl was on my way back from work, on the roadside. A crowd had gathered, to watch a man beat up a little boy because he had taken a wrong turn on his bicycle to avoid being hit by the man’s car.
Ten minutes later, I managed to stop the beating by utilizing my strength as a woman in Pakistan.
The second time I got into a public disagreement was while at gender conference in Lalamusa, with a government official who recently returned from training in Japan. He was boasting of a 400 yen haircut he’d had while there on government expenses, and was offended when I asked if this was where the tax we paid went to?
I propagate human rights. But I have no defined rights of my own. Being a woman in a metropolitan city in Pakistan, with liberal parents and an opportunity for good education, I always thought that the world is an easy place to live in. Your circumstances define your rights, you simply happen to be there.
Choose any road you want and do whatever you want to with it. Unfortunately, I became a realist and realized that achievements are nominal, wants are unlimited and all sense is lost when you step out of an air-conditioned car.
I have seen myself evolve as a person, as an individual and as general public.
Over the past few months I have I come across the literal definition of independence: freedom from the control, influence, support, aid.
I realized, that for the past two decades, the independence I had been celebrating was artificial. I am, in no way, free from the influence of others.
When my money finishes, I go to my father, and he frowns at me, but eventually pays my bills. When I get hungry, I go to my mother, and if she’s not tired, she makes me food. When I am lonely, I go visit my friends, and we spend money on random things. When I am sick, I am taken care of. When my car breaks down, I get it fixed.
In what way, exactly, am I independent, then? Interdependent seems to be more like it.
The same goes for Pakistan. When her money finishes, she asks for aid. The other countries frown at Pakistan, but eventually pay off her bills, with certain strings attached. When she faces extreme hunger and poverty, the older countries – the mother figures – feed her people, with whatever they like. When Pakistan is lonely, she signs on papers friends forward to her. The only difference: when Pakistan breaks down, the government does not fix it. All the Government does is, to be the most taxing landlord in the history of countries.
How then, is Pakistan independent in the truest sense? What from, is Pakistan free of?
I still claim to be a proud Pakistani. I still pretend that I can handle the glances others give at my green passport. I still sing songs of unity and joy, united with my brothers and sisters (who by the way, have already been divided into a separate province) from across the country at conferences.
After all, mein bhi Pakistan hoon, tu bhi Pakistan hai.
This year, I put down a list of to-do things in my New Year’s Resolution. My personal favorite is “to be the President of Pakistan”. I want to be the most powerful person in Pakistan.
But, before that, I want to be the man who can afford to care about politics, once he has successfully provided for his family.
I want to be a veiled woman with an access to a driver’s license.
I want to be a 7-year-old boy who, instead of washing cars can go to school and progress.
I want to be a little girl, whose future is not decided by her menstrual cycle, but by her own self.
I want to be a transgender who will one day be accepted into the corporate culture.
I want to be a Christian who can read his Bible alongside a Muslim reading the Quran.
I want to be a Hindu in Kandhkot, who has access to his own house and his temple, without fear from the majority.
I want to be a journalist who carries explosives. Explosives called words, to blow you away.
But that’s just me. What you see would be Pakistan.