What do I write today? To mark the day, as each year, I hoist the flag on my terrace. It flutters in the breeze, as if this is just any other day, unaware of the tragedy that has engulfed the land it represents. I take in the patriotic messages from our mobile service providers, with inspiring vignettes of local heroes and uplifting slogans, in the midst of advertising. I read the articles, the customary homage to Quaid-e-Azam, the reminiscences of independence, the lessons in history. I fume at the self-hating write-ups, the ones that question the value of freedom, doubt the worthiness of independence, casting doubt on the meaning of this country. Someone once told me — ask the Kashmiris, ask the Chechens, ask the Palestinians how precious freedom is. Even an imperfect one.
Our freedom is precious but when will there be good news? Each year we pray and hope and dutifully forward patriotic, even spiritual, emails and text messages. This year will be the turning point — it has to be. Things can only get better now. Surely, we have had our fair share of crises? I want to write something brilliant and inspiring, something that could help turn everything around, something to provide a solution to the morass of problems which face us. I am tired of the endless analysis, self-righteous criticisms and pointless discussions that pervade our airwaves. I do not wish to spread any doom or gloom, contribute to division and mistrust, give up hope. Yet I cannot gloss over the fact that most of our people have no faith in the men that call themselves our leaders. It doesn’t matter what letter of the alphabet they have appropriated for their political identity, what they claim to be or represent.
They are fundamentally the same — unable to provide any vision, any hope, any leadership, let alone any solutions. So I understand the national paralysis gripping us all because no matter what outrage is committed, what thefts and lies are exposed, the same people are still in control and the alternatives to them are no better. No matter what befalls the people, the power elite remain in place, undeterred and unfazed by their excesses. So, we, the people are no longer outraged, disappointed or even surprised that the world has given such paltry amounts for a catastrophe of biblical proportions. We can identify with the qualms of the international donors at handing over aid to those who display such a wanton disregard for honesty or humanity. For we too are experiencing the same feelings. We want to help Pakistan so much, but do not know how to.
That is exactly what Pakistan has an abundance of. What neither crisis, calamity nor corruption has eroded — the tens of millions of people, ordinary folk, throughout the world who keep faith with Pakistan, no matter how near or far away they may be, who keep trying to find ways to help in whatever way they can. Who pray with their heart and soul, with tears and yearning for their dear Pakistan to be protected, to be safe, to become prosperous. Whose heartbeat resonates with the pain and suffering of their fellow countrymen. The millions of people that work honestly day and night, saving each penny for their families and futures, and yet are the first to give to their brethren in need. Even those Pakistanis who may have left their motherland for places where their merit was given opportunity, but whose every thought is still for their homeland. And those who remain in this land even in times of turmoil and distress, whose only wish is to be able to live in peace, who love this land unconditionally. That is where the future is. We will not find salvation in the rapacious hands of those who are too busy consolidating dynasties and industrial empires. We will find it from within ourselves, from the masses and the middle classes, who will never give up on Pakistan. For it is the only land they truly belong to.
Published in The Express Tribune August 14th, 2010.