Giving up on Pakistan

Published: January 4, 2011
The writer is a dentist and blogs at Teeth Maestro

The writer is a dentist and blogs at Teeth Maestro

As we round the corner, saying goodbye to 2010 and entering the new year, everyone chooses to make a new year’s resolution. Promises are made, hoping for some miraculous conviction that will transform our wishes into a reality. But practically, each one of us knowingly accepts that these promises are meant to be broken, only to be remade the following year. Many wishes are egocentrically linked to personal wealth and happiness, while some fools, like me, choose to wish for a better and a peaceful Pakistan.

Innocent and howsoever utopian this resolution may sound, it should have an important place amongst every Pakistani. After the bloodshed from the escalating violence and uncontrolled terror attacks, one would have hoped that the disastrous year would have sent shockwaves compelling people to denounce terrorism with a very strong commitment to peace. Denounce they do, but it’s limited to a simple vocal chatter rather than concrete measures to prevent such bloodshed from happening again.

Shocking as it is, I get a sense that Pakistanis have lost all hope for peace. They have been reduced to pawns in a political chess match, being used by other people who have little interest in bringing peace to their country. I choose to share the example of two back-to-back days: December 31, 2010 and January 1, 2011. These two days, interconnected with a common midnight, presented a jolting reminder that the people are being used as pawns for something that is completely not in their interest.

On December 31, the political opposition pulled off a nationwide strike, opposing any amendments to the blasphemy law. The strike had more to do with exerting political pressure on their opponents and less to do with Islam or even the notion of religious freedom. It also, in some indirect way, reaffirmed that Pakistani society accepts this form of blasphemous violence as an acceptable norm and part of its culture. And this comes as a bit of a surprise, given that people, by and large, condemn acts of terrorism perpetrated by militants and extremists.

The very next day on January 1, 2011, the Aman Ittehad, an apolitical citizen platform striving for peace, democracy and justice in Pakistan, organised a peace rally in 109 cities across Pakistan. One would imagine that such a call for peace would get strong support, yet I stood outside the Karachi Press Club with only a few dozen likeminded citizens chanting slogans for peace. The biggest crowd-pullers were in Islamabad and Lahore, which only managed to muster a few hundred supporters of peace each.

Only a few thousand people across 109 cities is a shocking reminder that the issue of peace is not on the radar of either the political parties or the citizens of Pakistan. I’m not an easy man to get disheartened, but when I walked back home from that rally in Karachi, I realised the stark difference between the two days. Ruthless politicians have degraded the people of Pakistan to such a level that they have lost any glimmer of hope to wish for peace in their own country. Call me stupid, but with such overwhelming odds, I’m probably barking up the wrong tree.

The politicians, as we all know, will continue to play their game of musical chairs, ensuring that the public remains mesmerised in their mystical trance, while the media plays alongside, focusing on its own gallery of viewer ratings. The ruling clique, and those associated with it on the periphery, will never seek to change Pakistan. After all, why should it, since it is achieving its own set of handsome profits at the behest of Pakistan’s disasters.

Is it possible that I might be living in a country whose people have forgotten what’s best for them? I hope not. But one thing is for sure. I get an overwhelming sensation that we have given up on Pakistan. Have we? Please prove me wrong.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • M. Naqvi
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:43AM

    Yes, there are critical challenges within Pakistan which are hard to overcome, but we will overcome. I am reminded of the history of the American Civil War. There were evil norms such as slavery which was legal in America. On top of that, Americans were divided between the North and the South. The country went to war within itself. The President stood strong in his views, in attempt to unite and strengthen the Union. That President was Abraham Lincoln. He was assassinated. He was beloved in the North, and not beloved in the South. Today, we remember him among America’s greatest Presidents. One can only win when they are willing to have courage and give sacrifice. One could have said that his assasination would break the union, but he stood strong.

    A lot of sacrifices have already been made, we must not give up on Pakistan. For the sake of those that have passed away, for the sake of father Jinnah, for the sake of millions who died during partition and the great migration. The greatest challenges aren’t the easiest. But we most politicize. Not doing so is letting them win. Giving up is the easy thing to do, but nothing good comes easy. It will be a dishonor to Mr. Jinnah and those who died in the Partition to give up on Pakistan. We can take the one way flight away from Pakistan, but that won’t solve anything.

    Mr. Jinnah brought hope to a hopeless society. It is no fault of him that we were unable to sustain that. Even in today’s circumstances, he would want people like you to remain standing up. A movement starts with only a few. We may not have a Mr. Jinnah today, but we don’t need Mr. Jinnah today. We need each other. He set forward on a mission and his mission was accomplished. We are his students and he has given us homework. Politicians will play musical chairs until we make them stop. We can’t wait for people to step up, we must politicize, even if the odds are against us. One doesn’t take on challenges, because they are easy, one takes on challenges because they are hard. Recommend

  • Noor Nabi
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:43AM

    The article closes with the following lines: “I get an overwhelming sensation that we have given up on Pakistan. Have we? Please prove me wrong.”

    What Pakistan? The Lahore Resolution of 1940 was invalidated and rubbished by the secession of what was referred to as East Pakistan. Since then the residual rump of Pakistan has been kidding itself by holding on to a deceptive self-belief that all was well. The crumbling structure of the state, combined with a poisonous and perverted interpretation of Islam, make a dangerously potent weapon which the Jihadis have deployed to their advantage to Talibanise the country.

    Is this response sufficient to answer your questions Dr. Alvi?Recommend

  • Jan 5, 2011 - 1:15AM

    I feel with all my heart for all my Pakistani friends,2010 was a terrible year, and the bad news continues…insh’allah the trouble will end soon. Im doing what I can , I think the key is to focus on all that is good about Pakistan and have projects in the pipeline for 2011.
    Pakistan Zindebad :)Recommend

  • Rana Faisal
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:05AM

    No we haven’t. All the people I know are more patriotic than me in every way. Where the country is heading towards, is the favorite topic of youth and middle aged group’s – drawing room or coffee shop social discussion. Whenever you bring it up, They become emotional & exhaust themselves in arguing whatever they feel for Pakistan, without realizing that they are ruining the time in intense, stressful arguments with their friends, whom they are suppose to have nice relaxing time with, which shows what they feel for their country.

    On the disappointing turn out point, I used to feel the same and I understand it is very discouraging. But we have to keep making an effort to move people and never lose hope.

    When we do strategic planning at work, we review strategies and take corrective actions and change tactics when things are not working or not producing desired results, we review and change the strategy. So I think people like you, me and many others need to do the same here. I am not claiming that I am an expert but I’d like to make a few suggestions. I feel that people like you and me have always been targeting wrong audience.

    If I were you, I’d take the following actions.

    1) Translate this article in Urdu and try my level best to get it printed in most widely circulated Urdu newspapers.

    2) Rather than my social circle and people I have access to, I’d reach out to masses. Go into areas when we hesitate to go or probably have never been to. Like Liyari, North Karachi, Bismillah hotel, Bara board, XYZ colonyb, Lalu Khait, the places where even today people have Baithak every evening which is a great opportunity to create awareness and invite them to do their part for the future of this country. I took part in 3 days tableeghi exercise & was shocked to see the impact of it.

    Many people who belong to much more well off families than me, used to sit on foot path and go to these areas every evening for half an hour to spread the message. A message which talks about benefits not in this world, but after world life.

    3) Try and be on Urdu news channels more and more instead of Dawn news and Business plus.

    Awab, it is because of you that ever since I’ve moved abroad for career, there is not even a single day I don’t miss the activist life back home. Some day or the other I’ll return and this time will be more and more active.

    I hope I’m wrong that I see you losing hope. I am sure you won’t but the answer to your question is in Yogi Berra’s saying, THE GAME ISN’T over till ITS over. We could lose hope when we will stop owning and loving our motherland, which will never happen. We will keep doing our part so at the end of the day, we stand proud in front of ourselves and say, I did my part. Recommend

  • BP
    Jan 5, 2011 - 4:49AM

    Is it possible that I might be living in a country whose people have forgotten what’s best for them?<<<

    I think the more appropriate statement is that people of Pakistan never knew what is best for them. Only the army establishment always “knew” what is best for the people.Recommend

  • vasan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 6:34AM

    Right or wrong; Pakistan is a separate country full of natural wealth and creative people. For politicians’ and military’s wrong policies, this country lost its focus and all it requires is reorientation with a visionary leadership focussed on right things. Come on Pakistani brothers, prove this author wrong. dont give up,. It is not the thing to doRecommend

  • Aristo
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:12AM

    @M. Naqvi: Easy for you to say, come and live in Pakistan first, then you can encourage people to do as you stated in the comment.Recommend

  • Jan 5, 2011 - 12:44PM

    Education of the masses is the key to all of this. Real education….not what is passing for education now.Recommend

  • gt
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:38PM

    Take small, feasible, concrete steps. First focus on the “distortions” in the political economy of agriculture. Subdivide the problem into tiny parts, solve each part one at a time. Better to achieve something, rather than feel overwhelmed.

    When you see the population projections for 2040, and that nothing is being done for their basic human needs, there is cause for dejection.

    Instead, gather thoughtful people around you, organize, and fight in meaningful ways. By which I mean achieve positive results on the ground in agricultural & human development. There are many technical experts like me who will assist. You get people enthused & mobilized, those among the affluent middke classes, those dozens & hundreds whom you can influence. They would be quite enough. But Express Tribune inevitably censors my pleas, so I cannot hope that you or any will read this. That is another inborn evil in this otherwise excellent paper: to hear only what it chooses to; what a perverted,ugly, evil, weltanschaung, on the part of the newspapers policy of filtering cooments in the guise of moderation, and this too is characteristic of the tragic flaw haunting Pakistan today. Would the learned moderators at Express Tribune pick up on the import of “tragic flaw”? I suppose not! Omoi pephredo?Recommend

  • ik
    Jan 5, 2011 - 3:07PM

    Only when Pakistanis agree that they are a failed state will a new Pakistan be born. Recommend

  • Khurram
    Jan 6, 2011 - 9:58AM

    As educated Pakistanis we all need to get off our high horse to serve our people. Faisal is right about spending time with struggling folks & in educating them about matters of the world and hereafter. These are the very same people who end up being exploited by the courrpt politicians, & others for votes who Promise them Roti, Kapra aur Maakan. Same line used for the past 60 years and it still works like a magic.Recommend

  • Mudassir Ali Khan
    Jan 7, 2011 - 1:14PM

    You are right, indirectly YES we have given up on Pakistan.
    I’ll make it simple for all.

    Will you ever give up on something your stake of any sort is associated with?


    Will you give up on something none of your stakes is associated with, and its piling up on the nuisance value for u every passing day?


    Pakistani society is visibly segmented b/w the owners and disowners of the land. The disowners have definitely given up on Pakistan. While the owners definitely keep the sense of belonging and care to Pakistan alive, but the problem is that they are not capable or capacitate enough to ascertain what is best in the interest of Pakistan. Their actions ironically are diametrically opposite and rather detrimental to their intentions, and this COLONY of naives don’t have what it takes to understand what they are sowing with all the wishfulness will be reaped in a ghastly disillusionment.

    We have not given up on Pakistan, in fact whatever chaos mustered has supposedly been materialized in love for Pakistan. But the problem is that all of our good intentions severely lack the right course and the remedial approach.

    Just like a sufferer keen to recover from the illness but taking the wrong medicine, because the ones responsible for his DIAGNOSIS have either faltered or exercised their part in mala fide to the sufferer.Recommend

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