What is it to be a ‘true’ Pakistani? — by Zaair Hussain

The new Pakistani

In a country where a Senator has stood before the House and declared, with a gall that must surely have blotted out the sun, that the respectable tradition of burying women alive should not be unduly interfered with, it is the trappings of westernisation that are still the object of venomous ire

What is it to be a ‘true’ Pakistani? The appropriation of this term by the conservative wing of this nation is staggering in its vulgar daring, and in its unqualified success. By and large, the liberals of this land accept this annexation of ‘Pakistani-ness’ with either a timid, subconscious shame or a cheap, impotent rebelliousness. Neither attribute is healthy or productive.

Having metaphysically hijacked the portrait of a true Pakistani and defaced it to their own ends, the ultraconservatives are swift and shrill with complaints about anything or anyone that does not fit into this vandalised caricature. Whenever an idea is attacked as Western or non-traditional, the corpulent bulk of collectively offended dignity is viscerally felt.

Dear readers, I invite you to join me in an intellectual exercise: exploring some of the most patently non-Pakistani habits that our moral minority (or, God help us, majority) would so quickly descend upon first like hawks, and then like vultures.

Who, by their standards, is a true exemplar of Pakistaniness?

This could, I fear, be summed up in one concise line with little value that would degrade both the creator and the consumer; the literary equivalent of KFC’s Hot Shots. Leave us eschew this sordid territory and embark upon an imagining of who would not be considered an exemplar.

First: secularism. The slander of secularism must truly be considered one of the most egregious crimes against the Pakistani populace. Secularism per se has a rather commonsensical and pedestrian meaning: a preference for the separation of religion from politics that can be housed in either a religious or non-religious soul. A mere word and its defenceless definition, however, has never been a match for the profound power of politicking. A secularist in Pakistan, ergo, is often fitted neatly by his or her peers on a scale that begins at “thoroughly dangerous influence” and ends with “Satan’s little helper”.

A secular man who protested not only his Muslimhood but his status as a representative of Muslims would be condemned for his ‘shameless deceit’, with a liberal approach to the “tar and feathers” school of constructive criticism.

An ability and willingness to cooperate with non-Muslim states, even if the collaboration would be mutually beneficial is harshly derided as ideological treason, a willingness to bend before infidel winds for the unspeakably petty goals of progress and better living standards. Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, has come to mean “Death to the Impure”. The idea of interaction with non-Muslims in a way that does not involve proselytising, violence or (everybody’s personal favourite) proselytising through violence has become hateful to far too much of our body politic.

So much, then, for the secular man. God help, equally, the westernised man. With time and misplaced patriotism, the elite of our good nation have developed a peculiar attitude towards the West; an antagonism that is holistic by name, but selective by nature. Conservatives and liberals respectively denounce or ape the shallowest trappings of westernisation, while ignoring wholesale the deeper cultural hallmarks of individual freedoms, work ethics, classic literature and so on.

The conservative elite will live in the British Cavalry Grounds and Cantonment, clamour for membership in country clubs established by the British, send their sons and daughters to schools with British degrees (O and A levels) and later to universities in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, but God forbid anyone call them or their offspring “westernised” and disparage their Pakistani credentials.

In a country where a Senator has stood before the House and declared, with a gall that must surely have blotted out the sun, that the respectable tradition of burying women alive should not be unduly interfered with, it is the trappings of westernisation that are still the object of venomous ire. Anything seen as ‘our culture’ is by and large treated as sacrosanct, however profoundly it may clash with our Book, our sensibilities and our law. Look upon thy values, ye Pakistanis, and despair.

Faux-liberals, conversely, will latch on to the most superficial frayed threads of the tapestry of western culture — most of which can be helpfully summarised in the ‘Everything Shown on MTV’ category — and wave their lack of Pakistaniness like a lonely flag in a cultural wasteland.

But both groups agree, astoundingly (for they agree on little else) that westernisation and ‘Pakistaniness’ are mutually exclusive.

Let us reflect upon another stroke in the painting that will give lie to the contemporary Pakistani portrait: allowing oneself to be “dishonoured” by the women one is closest to. It always escaped me how the women in a man’s life could so raise or dash his honour, such an intensely personal attribute. It makes sense only when viewed through an ultraconservative lens: taking a woman not as an end unto herself, but as an extension of her male proxies; the rib of Adam, as it were.

What of the man who marries a non-Muslim woman and, furthermore, has a sister in the public eye? In today’s moderately enlightened times, the women will be considered an affront to all that is ‘truly’ Pakistani, the man a weakling who, by virtue of the women in his life, is somehow diminished for sparing the rod and spoiling Pakistani womanhood.

To what end this negative-portrait, this description of all that the modern Pakistani must not be? Forgive my indulgence, but I know of a man who was secular, western-educated and westernised in mannerisms, finery and pastimes, a man who married a parsi, had a sister in politics and worked most of his life for Hindu-Muslim unity. He was a self-styled representative of Muslims and though he failed every test of modern Pakistaniness outlined above, I stand by Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

He would have every right to despise us, we whose unity has become uniformity, whose faith turned to fanaticism and whose discipline crumbled before demagoguery.

But the great tragedy of our time is not that, were he to return, the father of our nation would be ashamed of us.

It is that we would be ashamed of him.

Zaair Hussain is a Lahore-based freelance writer. He can be reached at zaairhussain@gmail.com

Source: Daily Times

6 responses to “What is it to be a ‘true’ Pakistani? — by Zaair Hussain”

  1. Bookshops dying

    Thursday, February 04, 2010
    Muhammad Izharul Haq

    For decades I spent hours in the Zainab Market area whenever I travelled to Karachi. On a recent visit there, when I did not see the age-old signboard of Almas Book Shop on the opposite side of the road where Zainab Market is situated, I got panicky and asked my driver to park the vehicle where the shop used to be.

    I called over the panwaala serving customers at the closed door of the shop.

    “There used to be a bookshop here. Has it been closed?” I asked

    “Yes. It has been sold.”

    “And where is the old shopkeeper?

    “I do not know.”

    The shop-owner was an elderly ethnic Iranian, Ali Asghar Farzaneh, whom I used to visit whenever I came to Karachi. Besides practising my rusty Persian with him, I would look for books of classical and modern Persian poetry fabulously produced in Iran. He would proudly show me his latest imports. At times, when my budget stuck out, I would buy some of these books.

    The death of this bookshop is not the first catastrophe for booklovers. When I started my civil service career from Karachi in the early seventies, there were a number of bookshops in Elphinstone Street (now Zaibunnisa Street). Entering from road from the Regal are, one would come across “Kitab Mahal” to the right. It met its demise ages ago. Then Pak American Commercial Inc was gone. Almas Book Depot (Aryamehr Book Depot until the Iranian Revolution) was one of two old shops left in the Saddar area, the other being Thomas & Thomas, which is almost directly across the landmark former Regal Cinema, with the famous “Regal Chowk” between the two. Let us see how long it is going to take for the few square feet of space providing sanctuary to Thomas & Thomas to be taken over by a more lucrative business.

    A journalist bewailed that the recent funeral of a famous columnist was attended by only a couple of hundred mourners in Lahore, whereas that of Tipu Trukkanwala (Tipu the Truck Man) on the same day was attended by thousands. Tipu Trukkanwala was a notorious underworld star of Lahore, equally popular among the police as well as people of his ilk. The truck drivers’ association called for a strike to mourn his death.

    In a society where there are no libraries and bookshops are fast vanishing, it is no wonder that hoods are more respected than scholars. A PhD professor would be looked down upon as a “master” (i.e. schoolmaster), whereas a patwaari or an SHO enjoys high esteem. A magistrate summons the principal of a college and assigns him “duty” at some polling station. The majority of the elected “cream of the society” are not even graduates. In countries like Singapore, even India, more than half the cabinet members are PhDs; most of our ministers cannot speak properly or write — if they ever write.

    The nation’s aversion to books and writers has brought the country where it finds itself today. How many bookshops are there in FATA and Swat would be in inane question. How many universities or even colleges have been established in these areas during the last 62 years? What about the Bugti and Marri areas and other parts of Balochistan? Is there any university in Qalat, Zhob, Gwadar, Khuzdar or Chaman?

    Food streets are thriving in our cities. Bookshops are shutting down. A multinational fast food outlet received 35,000 customers on its first day in Lahore. Open a branch of Borders, Waterstone’s or Barnes & Noble and see the knock-over!

    The writer is a freelance contributor. http://www.izharulhaq.net


  2. Over the top
    Dance of the baboons

    Sunday, February 07, 2010
    Masood Hasan

    You may recall the story about a man who wandered into a Jinn’s lair. Seeing the man, the Jinn laughed happily and then started weeping profusely. The perplexed intruder asked the Jinn why he had laughed and then cried. The Jinn replied, “I laughed because I was so happy to see a man after such a long, long time.” “But,” persisted the man, “why cry?” The Jinn sighed, “Because I am going to eat you.”

    This is the quandary in which ordinary citizens find themselves every day, as they open newspapers and get slapped with more bad news. Consider for a moment.

    The former head of Lahore’s Bar Association (no, it is not a drinking body), is implicated in the bizarre torture-murder of a 12-year-old Christian maidservant. The police, bless their black hearts, refuse to register an FIR, and all kinds of accusations, insults, threats begin to fly around. Conflicting claims pour in, confounding the situation. The wretched Christians, downtrodden and miserable as they are, long having been a dispensable minority, come out on the streets. The media has a field day, but pretty much nothing happens, except that things getting murkier and murkier.

    The state of sordid affairs leads a Lahore observer to quip that “although the white in the Pakistani flag does represent the minorities, let us not forget that it is the same white which is shafted by the flag post.” Hardly has the maid servant drama begun to subside when, lo and behold! we have Punjab’s exalted Chief Secretary, a man more powerful than you can imagine, who makes a clean getaway from a hit-and-run case. His car, over-speeding (by some accounts) knocks down an elderly gentleman who dies for lack of timely medical aid. The man is a retired colonel and his family and the people rise up in anger and frustration.

    That the Chief Secretary never stops, that he boards another car from his considerable entourage and carries on nonchalantly, that he does not call the police, does not hand over his driver and does not allow the registration of an FIR (the police refuse to register one, as in the maid’s case) – these are facts already known to all. What the CS or the former Bar Association head should have done is known to the dumbest ass in Lahore, but it did not happen. The province’s VIPs descend on both homes, utter pious prayers, look solemn, croak out promises of “justice will be done,” make other appropriate noises, announce/dispense cash and are gone at speeds that would impress UK’s Lewis Hamilton, sirens wailing and traffic frozen. Another day at the office.

    And then there is Shahid Afridi or, to get it correctly, Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi, him of the team of baboons chattering and jumping about as the Aussies systematically roasted them over large bonfires lit by the baboons themselves. Till mid-Jan this year, the man has played 293 ODIs 26 tests, 57 Twenty20s, is almost 30, if he is to be believed. Yet, in the 5th ODI, in the tense 46th over, he starts to tamper the ball, gnawing at it like baboons do. “I was smelling it,” he says later. Oh please, Mr Afridi. He chews at the seam in the middle of a packed Perth ground with dozens of cameras capturing every moment in super slow-mo.

    The terrible cricketing crime is seen by millions on TV. When confronted, as he was going to be, the Sahibzada apologises and says he was tampering the ball so that Pakistan could win the face-saving 5th ODI – “just one match,” he pleads to Geo. Hello? “All teams do it,” the genius next announces. That, of course, makes it right in Afridi’s thin book of rules.

    He is banned by the ICC under the rules governing this series for the next two matches and is also unable to take part in a later match vs. England in Dubai. But this is the ICC, not the PCB.

    Mr Intikhab Alam, who has to be hoisted up the team bus and gingerly unloaded on arrival by willing hands, condemns the action. And in the same breath, being the eternal compromise man that he has always been, declares astonishingly that he “feels sorry” for Afridi. Sorry? What for? Afridi is a habitual offender. Anyone recall the pitch tampering the Sahibzada indulged in to “help” his side’s bowlers? Intikhab Alam should have fined Afridi on the spot or got the somnolent PCB to do the needful and send him home in disgrace.

    Yet, like the former Bar chief and the now-on-forced-leave Chief Secretary, he does not do the right thing, the correct thing, the only thing an honourable man, whatever the consequences, whatever the odds, should do. He compromises and lets time, the great Pakistani opiate, help him get over this little wobble. Escape Plan No. 54. Back home it merely disillusions further the battered, robbed and assaulted ordinary people of Pakistan who know only too well that nothing really ever changes.

    In Karachi, only the chief selector, the only half-way honourable man in a pen populated by vermin and scumbags, resigns, citing our disgraceful performance. The PCB head — who has done everything wrong and nothing right, broken rules and taken terrible decisions, or none at all, who is shamed daily by the media, cricket’s disillusioned fans, the entire Senate and the National Assembly which summons him every five minutes and lambastes him – he takes all this punishing blows and hangs on for dear life.

    What is in this chair that mesmerises otherwise halfway-decent folk who think nothing of abandoning established rules of conduct, hallowed by time and tradition, as long as they stay put? Even Pervez Musharraf, not much of a thinker, wondered why everyone was forever chussing up to him (as we said at school) and begging him to be appointed head honcho of the PCB? As a body the PCB should have resigned at the end of the Tests, not even waited for the humiliation of the 5-0 ODI whitewash that all of us saw coming. After all, how further badly would Pakistan have fared without the PCB at its back?

    But to get back to our Jinn, although in its present state, the Pakistan cricket team, well over 19, is hardly the kind of meat anyone would wish to eat — stale, smelly and rancid, it is best to avoid it. Like the Jinn the Pakistani people are confused whether to laugh or cry over the bizarre events that have unfolded like a bad script ever since the miserable Pakistanis landed Down Under, a team asunder from day one. What has since happened is less and less like cricket and more and more like a very bad joke that has been remorselessly thrust down our throats by the clowns who call themselves Test cricketers. A bunch of highly erratic baboons would have done better than these “seasoned” campaigners and “talented” youngsters, the combination of which was touted as the best thing to happen to Pakistan cricket. Sure.

    While I am no expert, I can surmise, like many of us can, that there are four theatres that are in play that together add up to what we call Pakistan cricket. There is the PCB which specialises in being the goofiest organisation known to mankind, there is the team, a bunch of unruly, greedy, under-performing yahoos, there is the team management which is as inspiring as a log of wood on a rainy day. And then there are the yobs in the Senate and the National Assembly who have nothing better to do all day than rant and rave, pronounce judgments and summon all manner of people to appear before them – all this noise leading to nothing. These interfering nobodies are just as bad as all the other components that cause national embarrassment, day in and day out.

    This nonsense has simply gone too far. Are there any good men or women ready to bury the rotting cadaver called Pakistan cricket and begin the daunting and frightening task of rebuilding the game, from A to Z (an unfortunate expression, I confess)? My answer is, “No.” Baboons will be replaced by baboons. That’s the way it goes.

    The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com


  3. The patronage networks
    By Ayesha Siddiqa
    Friday, 12 Feb, 2010

    Not allowing their colleagues to represent 12-year-old Shazia’s family in court depicts the power lawyers have acquired by being part of the lawyer’s movement. The movement seems to have granted lawyers the right to be above the law. – File photo
    A COUPLE of months ago while walking through the F-9 park in Islamabad I met a young undergraduate studying information technology. He was critical of corrupt politics and the feudal mindset of the ruling elite. He was bitter about our leaders who he said do nothing but grab and exercise excessive power.

    The conversation went fine until I asked him about his future plans. He wanted to take the civil service exams. Why won’t you pursue the profession for which you are training, I inquired. The answer was that he wanted to have power, since you cannot survive in the country without it.

    I was reminded of a similar conversation I had with another person aspiring to join the civil service. This person was pursuing postgraduate studies abroad and wanted to become a bureaucrat to avenge the system that killed his parents. Being poor, the only option he had was to take his ailing parents to a government hospital without sifarish. Naturally the doctors on duty couldn’t care less and the man’s parents died. Now the young man who got an opportunity to go abroad for studies thought he would join the system and change it from within.

    ‘Changing the system from within’ is quite a popular argument. Those distressed by the ‘system’ are told to take it easy and watch the incremental changes which will be brought about by qualified bureaucrats or others. You are told to ‘look at the glass as being half-full rather than half-empty’. It’s your fault not to notice the small changes which have taken place or those that are in the pipeline.

    Many of us must have met retired bureaucrats (both civil and military) and heard them talk endlessly about how well they ran the system. They will tell you about their adventures, their vision, brilliance and originality. Interestingly, all retired bureaucrats sound the same: lots of endless storytelling but no clue as to why their individual brilliance and that of their colleagues hasn’t made the state more efficient. They almost never confess to the sin of working the system just to enhance their own power.

    Deep down I think the young men I talked to were lured by the power of ‘power’ and would eventually settle for greater nuisance value for themselves rather than change the system. In both cases I tried to tell them that they probably wanted to have more power just to serve themselves and would adapt to the ‘system’ rather than the other way round.

    The civil and military bureaucracies in the country are two patronage groups which can assure entry into power circles. This does not mean that everyone aims to gain influence, but becoming part of a patronage network ensures you can survive in this environment. A common citizen has no value.

    So ultimately things don’t improve. Just look at the menace of terrorism, for which we have no answers. According to the popular narrative it is the work of American, Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies. This means that the threat is enormous. But it shouldn’t necessarily mean that nothing can be done to counter it.

    How about tactical moves like improving and sharing intelligence? The country has no system where different agencies can sit together and share critical information and technology to fight terror. The police generally do not have the capacity to intercept communications between terrorists. They have to go to military intelligence agencies to, for instance, trace mobile phone calls. So lack of timely information does not help the police as a lot often depends on interpersonal relations.As for sharing information at the organisational level, this is also a non-starter due to turf warfare. Thus opportunities like the newly established National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) are lost because every boss wants to be bigger than the other. This power-grabbing behaviour is replicated at all levels, the best example being the opposing views of the president and the army chief on ‘strategic depth.’ While the president being the head of state disowned this particular option, the army chief spoke openly about maintaining this framework.

    Sadly no one bothers to even take responsibility for his or her actions. It was interesting to read in the newspaper that it was the Rangers’ sniffer dog that failed to detect the bomb that went off outside the Jinnah Hospital in Karachi. The government should now move rapidly and punish the dog lest he refuses to take the blame. Or perhaps even he might be accused of being a foreign agent.Such behaviour is also found among non-bureaucrats. One would not like to exclude well-trained and educated professionals like doctors, engineers and lawyers from this list. Taking responsibility also means subjecting yourself to accountability which, given the desire for individual power, is certainly not the goal. Will education change this? But then education is sought not for personal enlightenment but for social mobility of the kind that means greater nuisance value. The educated are some of the biggest crooks of our society.

    Recent incidents like the death of children due to the alleged negligence of doctors who then failed to subject themselves or other members of their profession to accountability, the tragic death of Shazia Bashir Masih and the appalling behaviour of lawyers, or retired Brig Obaidullah Ranjha allegedly subjecting Professor Tahir Malik to brutality are all examples of what strong patronage networks can do for individual power.

    Not allowing their colleagues to represent the 12-year-old girl’s family in court depicts the power lawyers have recently acquired by being part of a movement. Instead of making them conscious of the primacy of the rule of law, the movement for the restoration of the judiciary seems to have granted lawyers the right to be above the law.

    The murdered girl’s family may also have little chance to knock on the doors of the PTI, JI and other parties because being a member of a minority group, Shazia Masih is perhaps not considered a daughter of the country. This case looks exceptional because no one wants to own it, which goes to show that it may not bolster the country’s reputation nationally and internationally.

    As for the professor, he is up against the most stable patronage network. The brigadier accused of manhandling him may have resigned but the ex-army man is unlikely to pay a price that is commensurate with his actions. As for the boys mentioned in the beginning, I welcome them to the world of patronage networks which continue to thrive. That’s the only glass that’s full.

    The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.



  4. Beyond redemption?

    Legal eye

    Saturday, February 13, 2010
    Babar Sattar

    The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

    Why is it that most people in Pakistan don’t sound hopeful about the future, wondered the visiting head of an international research and development organisation, in a recent conversation. Are we really depressed as a nation? A bystander dispassionately observing our public discourse as well as cocktail conversations would probably argue that we seem to be reinforcing our collective sense of despondency. If you belong to the upcoming generation smitten with optimism (which the seniors lovingly call naiveté) and refuse to be cowed into defeatism, there are at least four theories that explain this phenomenon.

    The first, and a personal favourite, is the incorrigible state of cynicism afflicting our older generation presently in control of the levers of socio-political change. This is the generation that was born around the time of Pakistan’s independence, grew up in an independent country, got accustomed to the back and forth between military dictatorships and malfunctioning civilian autocracies, endorsed expediency as the omnipotent political and professional ethic and hypocrisy as the means to deal with questionable social, cultural and religion-inspired norms. There are exceptions, of course, to be credited for keeping the ship afloat and offering hope and solace to the youth.

    But as a general matter this generation seems to have lost faith in its ability to change for the better. As prisoners of their experiences and having made their peace with rampant opportunism, cronyism, corruption and a life of underachievement as a nation, individuals from this generation will tell you that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The psychological imprint of a chequered history seems to have contributed to a poverty of imagination that disables this generation from visualising a future different from the past. Its approach to change is summarised by the oft-heard phrase “can’t be done.”

    The second theory explaining a sense of defeatism is linked to our history of disruptive political and institutional processes. Change can either be ushered in through the disruptive means of a revolution or by virtue of a constructive evolutionary process. The proponents of the evolutionary route advocate uninterrupted continuation of the democratic process as the preferred path out of the woods. The idea being that uninterrupted political process is both educational and curative, and if allowed to run long enough it will not only find and groom political leaders but also nurture institutional maturity and stability.

    The opponents of such progressive change don’t dispute the theory behind it but deem its practice unworkable in Pakistan. This rejection of evolutionary change through continuity is informed by three interlinked factors. One, a sense of urgency that the country is going to the dogs, and unless extraordinary measures are taken immediately the sky is going to cave in. Such panic-stricken mode cultivates the flawed and deceptive sense that a change of façade, even in absence of change in policy and direction, will arrest the impending doom.

    Two, the absence of historical evidence from within Pakistan that continuity of the political process delivers. After every autumn comes winter. But if each winter people were to turn the hands of the clock back to the milder autumn, which is more amenable than winter, how would they ever experience the bountiful spring. We have no empirical evidence supporting the likely benefits to be reaped from continuity because we have simply not allowed ourselves to gather such evidence. It is not through any extra-constitutional fire-brigade operation, but only through an uninterrupted political process that we can rid ourselves of discredited and compromised political leaders.

    And three, a sense of psychological and political disempowerment that manifests itself in three ways: (a) the conception of a warped institutional structure within Pakistan, on the basis of which it is argued that if rulers are allowed to continue unhindered the incumbent would manipulate the system to stay in power till eternity; (b) ubiquitous conspiracy theories that US-Euro-Ziono-Hindu-imperialistic forces will never allow a Muslim state to achieve its potential, and thus only such political parties will remain in power that are minions of dark forces of evil; and (c) the obsession with individuals as opposed to institutions and processes, based on the belief that our deliverance will be secured be a messiah (or a knight in shining armour), and not policy reform.

    The third theory is one of misfortune. Pakistan has been responsible for cultivating three fault-lines exacerbating conflict within the country: the civil-military divide; the centre-province divide and the religious divide between moderates and extremists. The timing of Pakistan’s transition to democracy overlaps with the US-led Western war against extremism and a global financial meltdown, which has heightened our security imbroglio, furthered our financial resource deficit and deepened all the three fault-lines that challenge us as a polity.

    Dealing with overarching questions about the relationship between minority provinces and the state, the formal role of Islam in a Muslim-majority state in an age of global religious polarisation, while also striking a new balance between the khaki and civilian authorities, would be a daunting task for any country. And we are especially vulnerable as many of these challenges have been left to the mercy of pygmies who neither have a sense of urgency nor the seriousness of purpose to grasp their magnitude – the same lot that we hope to replace through the continuity of the political process. But, then, these are the cards we have been dealt. Quibbling with providence over fate is only another sign of depression.

    The last theory is that of masochism – our tendency to derive pleasure from self-imposed pain and humiliation. And in this sense we are all guilty. Our journalists, columnists and intelligentsia have the propensity to exaggerate the most grotesque realities of life, without always contextualising and distinguishing between exceptions and rules. The politicians play along using the shared collective disquiet to demonise the ruling politicians as unworthy and unwanted. Negative rhetoric, whether repeated by the press or rehearsed by politicos, has the dangerous ability to look a lot like reality.

    This is certainly neither an argument seeking indulgence in jingoistic delusions of grandeur or complacency vis-à-vis the ugly realities that need to be changed, nor one advocating the emergence of a pliant media. But that criticism, which is welcome and extremely useful, should be put into perspective. Our experience with dictatorship is often contrasted with the continuity of democracy in India, because of similar socio-political problems that both countries face. India has done exceedingly well for itself over the last decade and a half. But let us not forget that in proportionate terms its poverty indicators are worse than Pakistan’s, economic disparities are greater and the level of crime in politics much higher.

    These statistics are neither meant to criticise India nor prop it as an ideal to be imitated. We must only understand that problems as acute as poverty, corruption, crime and compromised politics need not strangle the spirit of a nation that has the confidence and the resolve to make amends. Pakistan’s future and fortunes must not be measured on the touchstone of history, for the rise and fall of nations is linked to their present and how they shape their future based on their self-perception and sense of purpose, not their past.

    There can be no quarrel with the proposition that we need change – a change of policies and attitudes, and not façade. As a country where the average age is 23.5 years and 73 percent of the population is below 35, our attitudes, self-perception and fortunes can change pretty swiftly. Let us not be afraid to dream.

    Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu


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  6. I cannot believe the slaughter of these animals. You are more beast than the beasts!These stupid texans, solve every problem by giving death. Assholes!Is this the America that we want?