Meaningful introspection: A concept lost on us

Published: July 12, 2013
The writer is a senior at LUMS studying Economics and Politics and tweets @SarahKhan50

The writer is a senior at LUMS studying Economics and Politics and tweets @SarahKhan50

The Abbottabad Commission Report recently leaked by Al Jazeera has put Pakistan’s state machinery in an embarrassing position and for all the right reasons. It is increasingly distressing to watch the blame-games and finger-pointing theatricals being broadcast on television. The civilian leadership is insistent upon hurling all sorts of accusations; while the representatives of the military, euphemistically known as the defence analysts, appear eager to elucidate that the civilian authorities are equally responsible for the colossal debacle.

It is a very simple principle to understand that the act of not owning one’s mistakes is equivalent to a gravely stubborn impasse which defeats the purpose of a thorough inquiry in the first place. In order to redress a failure, improve a system, and avoid similar disasters in future, it is absolutely imperative as the first step to own the fault. How can a mistake be corrected if no one is even willing to accept that they have made it?

Future stability at the cost of temporary humiliation is not an irrational trade-off at all, if larger national interests are as sincerely considered as fervently as patriotic sentiments are brandished. In order to break the pattern of national humiliations, there must be a consensus upon placing the future above the past, and national prestige above personal egos.

I have always found finger-pointing habits ingrained deep in our culture and character. There are numerous instances when we have absolved ourselves from our self-committed faults and allocated all energies towards external conspiracy-laden explanations. To note two recent examples: nine foreign tourists were brutally massacred near Nanga Parbat, and some of our well-known anchorpersons and analysts began to say that perhaps India may be involved in this. Similarly, in the case of the bombing of the Ziarat Residency, there was an almost immediate uproar about a foreign hand.

Surely with evidence, a foreign hand in any of the incidents can be proven, or disproven. But the point is that it is far more important for us and our state to own up to the blame that were incompetent in the case of the May 2 raid. Even in the case of the Ziarat Residency, the incident should, more than anything else, prod us to reflect upon how our own stubborn negligence bore separatist movements in the first place. But unfortunately, meaningful introspection is a concept lost on us as a nation.

For our pathological selective blindness, the diagnosis of the root-cause is not as elusive as the remedy. Most of us have been brought up, educated, and socialised to believe that we can do no wrong. Take for instance, Pakistan Studies which indoctrinates us with a conflict model of history through which we choose to portray ourselves as the innocent victim while the ‘wicked bloodthirsty Hindus’ incessantly ravaged our existence. Similarly, government textbooks emphasise the villainous role of the Indian army that led to the creation of Bangladesh, instead of displaying even a shred of regret at the way West Pakistan treated its eastern counterpart.

Our history lessons tell us that our country, our nation, has never been the aggressor in any war or conflict. That the provocative attack has always been launched first by the evil ‘Other’, is an idea embedded so deep in our minds that we fail to accept the objective view of history that might tell us a very different tale. My point is that, we as individuals and as a nation, find it practically unthinkable to see ourselves at fault, as a result of such indoctrination during formative years.

And therein lies the problem. Patriotism or loyalty to institutions should not mean blindfolding ourselves to our glaring failures, and to our history’s fiascoes. Love for one’s country must go beyond hollow sloganeering. A crumbling society cannot afford the luxury of blame games. Let us encourage among ourselves and also invite our rulers to develop the positive culture of introspection. The only hope of reformation and betterment lies within this noble habit of accepting our faults.

Let it be known that there is no treason in speaking up the truth.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Rahul
    Jul 13, 2013 - 12:14AM

    Pakistan is a nation conceived in deceit. Do you really expect honesty?


  • Ricky
    Jul 13, 2013 - 1:56AM

    We were great and best in the world. We have a divine right to rule the world and force our kind of religion on everybody. We have to continue to glorify our past myths and praise ourselves. When we have been so great why change course now? Modernity in all its forms is our enemy and we are waging a jihad against modern education, form of govt, freedom and human rights.


  • Arindom
    Jul 13, 2013 - 4:10AM

    why do you want to see the light? you guys seem to be doing so well in the dark!!


  • Quantum
    Jul 13, 2013 - 7:53AM


    Very well said


  • Zahid Jamil
    Jul 13, 2013 - 11:27AM

    An excellent piece. My congratulations to the writer. Only wish others could learn from you. Your advice is what strengthens a nation.


  • GB
    Jul 13, 2013 - 12:31PM

    Well I went through all of it, and frankly there was nothing new. The author just wrote what’s been there in the news now for good two years. It almost sounded like the traditional closing remarks from one our talk show hosts.

    Dear Editor, when I click on the “opinions” tab, I expect some thought provoking writings, things which are fresh, solution oriented unlike this one. And so, you are under an obligation to choose your articles wisely,

    Being a regular reader, I am disappointed. And you owe me an apology for having wasted my time with a piece of writing that had nothing new except some flashy phrases.


  • Shazam
    Jul 13, 2013 - 2:20PM

    Indian friends, guys take it easy !! :DRecommend

  • Shazam
    Jul 13, 2013 - 2:25PM

    Indian friends, guys take it easy !! :D


  • F
    Jul 13, 2013 - 3:29PM

    Never at fault, always the most honest, purest and greatest is Pakistan. No need for introspection. That is for the “others” – the wicked, villains, weak and impure.


  • Parvez
    Jul 13, 2013 - 4:10PM

    Very sensible piece of writing.


  • wonderer
    Jul 13, 2013 - 6:44PM

    Sarah Khan is a brilliant and concerned citizen of this benighted land-of-the-pure. Chances are she will leave this country after LUMS, when she is ready to make a meaningful contribution to our society and nation. Why shouldn’t she? Hardly any one in Pakistan listened to Malala’s speech at the UN on Malala Day, celebrated all over the world yesterday on Malala’s sixteenth birthday.

    If we were a talent and courage honouring nation, there would have been live telecast of the speech beamed from giant screens in all major stadia. And the crowds would be surging towards them like they will do if ever we can host a cricket match again.

    We have lost the capacity to think. How can we accept out follies? We can manage the most original conspiracies to hide out blushes, can’t we?


  • A-B
    Jul 13, 2013 - 7:52PM

    Sarah, a very well written! Us humans are very good at deflecting blame from ourselves and unfortunately shy away from the truth as it often hurts…


  • Sajid
    Jul 13, 2013 - 8:51PM

    So heartening to see that there are such young people with this serious approach.
    Keep it up’


  • Junaid
    Jul 13, 2013 - 9:01PM

    Sign…. another liberal preaches at us…..


  • Babloo
    Jul 13, 2013 - 10:31PM

    When Pakistanis do introspection , i feel no need to list their flaws.Recommend

  • Shams Zaman
    Jul 16, 2013 - 12:53PM

    Introspection alone wouldn’t make a difference. There has to have a clear and transparent system of accountability as well. But the big question haunts us. Who would do it?? They all are one!


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