‘Sir, why are you anti-Pakistan?’ ‘Oh, why do you say that?’ ‘Well, sir you tend to point out what’s wrong with Pakistan.’ I usually have this exchange when I teach the history of Pakistan to students. Often then I reply by asking them: ‘Are you happy with Pakistan’s current state?’ Most students say no, and so I further ask: ‘Then if you are unhappy with what’s happening with the country then something must have gone wrong to make you feel like that, right?’ At this time most students simply get more confused and just retreat into what has been ingrained into them for more than a decade and exclaim: ‘Yes I am unhappy with things in Pakistan, but there is nothing wrong with the country.’ The conversation ends there.
I have now been teaching in Pakistan for over five years now and have taught people from all provinces and regions, hailing from about 60 per cent of the districts of the country. This has given me a fair, though still anecdotal, idea of how students think in the country. Most of our students have been so ingrained with doctrinal conceptions that by the time they reach university it is almost too late to do anything different with them. For over a decade they have simply been told: ‘If anyone criticises Pakistan, then that person is anti-Pakistan.’ Having that concept drilled into them stifles their thinking capacities and prevents them from asking questions. Eventually this pattern of thinking adversely affects the civil society and civic action as very few people then actually care about improving their surroundings and tackling issues in their society, because, as they have been taught, nothing is wrong, and those who criticise and point out problems must be foreign agents.
Ironically, the people we most revere in Pakistani history are the ones who criticised. Starting from Sir Syed Ahmad Khan to Sir Muhammad Iqbal to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, all these men severely criticised the state of Muslims in India and tried to improve their lives. Sir Syed lamented the educational backwardness of Muslims and even survived Fatwas against him and Iqbal was severe in his criticism of backward Muslim thinking. We also often forget that even Jinnah’s famed August 11, 1947 speech is a litany of problems in Pakistan and how we must be cognisant of them. Right at the beginning Jinnah spoke of ‘bribery and corruption,’ ‘blackmarketing,’ and ‘nepotism and jobbery’ — not the euphoric speech of a dreamland one would have thought of! Jinnah was a realist and he saw that rather than giving a glowing, flowery speech at the inception of the country he must apprise people of the harsh reality and the tough task at hand. No wonder people immediately became unhappy with him.
One reason why we still go back to Jinnah often in Pakistan is that we have yet to understand him, listen to him, and learn from him. While a number of his speeches post-independence are full of hope and zeal, a large majority are exhortations against corruption, crime, civil strife, etc. Jinnah knew that unless Pakistanis accept that these ills are a reality and need to be weeded out, the country would not develop, and, in fact, end up much worse. Nearly seventy years since his words, we seem to only like putting his picture up in every office, but not listen to him.
In today’s Pakistan, even Jinnah and his speeches would be deemed ‘anti-Pakistan’ since he had the gall to criticise conditions in the country. So, going back to the student’s question, yes I’m happy to be anti-Pakistan, and I hope more people join me in constantly repeating the words of the Quaid, till we actually wake up and change for the better. Let us all be anti-Pakistan in the Quaid’s manner!
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2017.
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