I don't think I've ever seen the mood of the country like this before. All the times we've gathered around our living rooms and heard the elders tell us how the country was going to the dogs, we shrugged it off, dismissing it as the moaning and complaining of a past generation. Now, maybe for the first time, some of us actually believe that our parents are right. Pakistan is collapsing. Get out while you can.
I often wonder what it means when they say Pakistan is going to collapse? Will all the buildings outside crumble to ground? Will Urdu cease to be spoken? Will shalwar kameez spontaneously degenerate before my eyes as all things Pakistani vanish into thin air. Will there be no kababs?
Who gets to decide whether we've failed as a state anyway? And once they decide you've failed, do they just revoke your license and tell you that you're not a country anymore? We shouldn't be talking about the end of Pakistan just yet. By most accounts we've been on the edge of kaput ever since we gained independence. I for one, choose to believe that the current crises being faced by the nation might be just what galvanises the people into action, positive action.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” was a memorable statement made by the current White House Chief Of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. If we, as a nation, didn't use this catastrophe as a launch pad for serious reform, it would be another tragedy. People argue that this is our nation’s lowest point, but for me, watching the way people have responded to the flood relief effort, I think it might just be our finest hour. I see Pakistanis for once putting aside differences and doing all they can, united in a common cause. Don't be distracted by the news reports of corrupt local government, mismanaged funds and sheer incompetence. The fact is the nation is responding and trying to rescue its own. It's only when you're backs are up against a wall that you begin to fight back.
The media has copped a lot of criticism regarding its sensational coverage of all the events but I would argue, on the whole, it's done more good than bad. The best thing an active, albeit slightly hysterical media has done is to expose everybody to the graphic ground reality. People might be depressed, shocked or despondent upon reading about the floods and the Sialkot lynching but one thing they are not is apathetic. The debates are raging within the columns of this publication but I don't see bickering I see analysis, ideas and opinions and I'm hopeful. We tend to forget that such a free exchange of opinions and beliefs is something we've only recently acquired and while it might seem crude or reflective of a divided society, it is the most essential indicator of freedom.
We Pakistanis forget that we're still more free than so many countries. That's why I choose optimism, I don't expect or advocate a revolution. I just want to point out that maybe this is the reset button we've been waiting for and it's finally up to us, bit by bit to actually be the change we want to see.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2010.