Regardless of the many arguments and counter arguments being shouted across the drawing rooms, offices, street corners, and practically all around the country, one thing now is established, there is a certain new element to the socio-political atmosphere that at least in the quarter centennial of a life span, I have not witnessed, making me yet again question my Identity.
Growing up in an environment where Iqbal and Jinnah were always cited and discussed as the visionaries of Pakistan, a place created to protect and shelter the Muslims of India, where all were to be equal, and dreaming was to be the way of life, it has been an uncomfortable journey trying to fathom what it means to be a Pakistani.
While books painted a glorious picture as to what Pakistan was to be, it also left me with various questions. While I am never expected to know why Jinnah gave his 14 point agenda, I am however expected to know all the 14 points if I am considering a good grade. Likewise, Ayub Khan’s era is still taught as the “golden era” of Pakistan, only now to be told how bad military dictatorship is. And if that was the Golden Era, have we already passed our peak, or the term Diamond Era will be concocted by the time some fool ends up marrying me, and worse commits the biggest mistake of having a child with me, whose schooling I am able to afford by the time he/she needs answers to question only teaching institutes can provide. Otherwise, teaching the kid myself, he I am afraid might end up being more confused than I am. Likewise for a common man, having buried 5000 plus bodies on the streets of Karachi is still being told to believe that democracy is his savior, and the Army General who provided you with cheap sugar and wheat was Villan. The contradictions just don’t seem to end. While Bhutto, who has now finally been cleared as a criminal by the same Courts that convicted him; is the same man who is hailed as hero, but no one seems to know why the Champion of Pakistani Democracy did not accept his defeat in the only fair election this Country has ever seen. Result is that the country is broken into two, yet to this day, we have no idea who was to blame.
Conveniently before any answers are ever given or someone tries to understand what it means to be a Pakistani, there is an ideological shift, which seems to be the only answer to all the problems. Having been created on the model of the State of Medina, it soon turned into a socialist country, only to become the Hero of the world for defeating the Soviets driven by the fuel burned under the banner of Islam, to a capitalistic era, and now finally being told that holding a green passport automatically qualifies me as a Member of the Exclusive Extremist/terrorist group and identifies me as the same around the world. Oh wait, forget not, being a Pakistani now towards the start of this new decade, there is yet another paradigm shift. This time I am being told that the land of the pure produces corrupt people. Ahhh… we have demonized those poor 3 men, who thought dishonoring the Green Shirt is the best way to represent the country but they won’t be too wrong. When my President visits other countries during the time when his people are lamenting in the murky disease ridden flood waters, newspapers are advising their respective Premiers to be careful of Mr. 10% as he might slit their fingers off during a handshake. Yet he still enjoys all his meals, travel, boarding, lodging, high end shopping, which also includes Surrey Palaces, and Park Lane Apartments, at my expense.
So standing at the end of this tumultuous, yet more interesting than all the Star Plus dramas combined, we are faced with the same question. Is Pakistan at a brink of another identity shift? Are the history books about to add another chapter without explaining the previous? Will I again have to remember the 14 points or will I ever be told their significance? Will I ever be told what Iqbal ka Pakistan really was? Or merely eluding to the idea of living in Iqbal’s dream suffice?
There is however the sense for a need to change. Never has the sound for over-hauling of the status-quo been this loud. For the first time there is the demand of a voice that is not just accusing the other, but defending their actions. The demand for justice, institution building, better education, affordable health, nepotism free work environment, and above all the sense of accountability is ever increasing amongst many others. The time seems to be ripe to yet again decide the kind of Pakistan we want, and the identity we want to carry forward. It is the perfect time to realize that the adolescent period is over, and the responsibility to give a direction to the explosion of young hormone within the Nation is ever more necessary than in the past.
Whatever it turns out to be, I am sure, it will be some time before anyone might be able to understand or even explain what our National Anthem actually preaches, however, never in my life have I ever witnessed such a patriotic fervor I witnessed to the tune of “Pak Sar Zameen” as I did on October the 30th at the Birth Place of Pakistan. There seems to be a sense of rejuvenation the midst of all the darkness; I just hope the spirit of it does not fall prey to lust of many in action. As Shakespeare wrote, “All this the world well knows, yet none knows well: to shun the heaven that leads men to this hell”; thus let’s hope this time we get our Qibla right and carve an identity out of a canvas the God so generously keeps providing us again and again.