Even by Pakistan’s low standards, the recent outpouring of self-loathing and revulsion in newspapers is remarkable. There is no shortage of tragedies in Pakistan. The national consciousness is currently preoccupied with the devastation of the floods. The recent atrocity in Sialkot and the Lahore bombings have added to the media frenzy. However, none of it is enough to justify the hysteria and foaming-at-the-mouth rage of our media commentators who seem to be falling over each other in their race to condemn the entire nation to eternal damnation. One gentleman even went so far as to label all of us (himself included, presumably) as ‘cockroaches of humanity’. Leaving aside that this might in fact be a compliment, cockroaches being one of nature’s most resilient beings, what has brought about this frenzy of agonised self-loathing by our ‘intellectuals’?
Let us remember that as a nation, for a variety of reasons, we have never enjoyed any semblance of independence in our domestic or foreign affairs. Subservience to international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and the largesse of foreign (usually western) ‘donors’ is something we share with other formerly colonised countries.
The few that decided to chart an independent course during the reordering of global national boundaries in the aftermath of World War II paid a heavy price. China, under Mao, is the most obvious example. The revolution of 1949 cost millions of lives, the ‘Great Leap Forward’ in the 1950s and the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in the sixties and seventies cost millions more. However, today, China is an emerging world power with the second largest economy in the world. Western powers, especially the US, look towards it with fear and awe and are impotent in the face of its promise. The Chinese today embody Iqbal’s verses: “Urooj-e aadam-e khaki say anjum sehmay jaatay hain/ Keh yeh tootaa huaa taara ma-e kaamil naa ban jaaye” (The stars shiver at the ascent of this Man of clay/ Lest this fallen star bloom into the full moon).
Pakistan’s ‘leaders’, on the other hand, accepted the domination of the West soon after its creation. The few stalwarts of the independence struggle who dared protest at our total prostration before western powers like Faiz, Mazhar Ali Khan and others were persecuted and jailed to silence their dissent. Their views were validated when Pakistan experienced its first military coup barely a decade after its formation. Successive governments since then have only bound us ever tighter to “aid”, “loans” and other handouts at the expense of elementary priorities such as education, health and infrastructure development.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2010.
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