Today is Pakistan Day. Although we celebrate our Independence Day on August 14, today commemorates March 23, 1940 - when the Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution. Dubbed “the cornerstone of Pakistan’s independence,” the resolution cemented the idea of Pakistan as a separate Muslim homeland.
This concept has been the source of constant ideological wrangling throughout Pakistan’s history, as the country continues to search for a coherent and cohesive identity. But rather than fixate on an exhaustive list of our pitfalls, or our Derek Zoolander state of affairs (I’m not writing our eugoogly yet), I decided to resist becoming the Grinch who Stole Pakistan Day.
There’s a lot I criticize Pakistan for on a daily basis. But today I think it’s important to list the people and efforts that make me proud to be from this country:
- Abdul Sattar Edhi – The founder of the Edhi Foundation is one of the most active and well-respected philanthropists in Pakistan. Born in 1928, Edhi and his family migrated to Karachi from India after Partition. In 1957, a major flu epidemic swept through Karachi. Edhi was quick to react, setting up tents on the outskirts of the city to distribute free immunizations. After hearing of his work, Pakistanis throughout the country donated to his efforts. With the donations, he bought the rest of the building his dispensary was located in, soon opening a free maternity center and nursing school. Today, the Edhi Foundation has established hospitals, takes care of orphans and the mentally ill, and provides relief services after major natural disasters and bombings. In fact, it provides transportation to over one million people annually to hospitals throughout the country, setting the Guinness World Record in 2000 for having the largest voluntary ambulance organization in the world. Most recently, Edhi won the prestigious United Nations prize for promoting non-violence and tolerance.
- Innovative organizations & social enterprises - Recently, there has been an increasing number of socially innovative non-government organizations and enterprises that are thinking strategically and revamping traditional approaches to development. Although many have said that microfinance could not be replicated in Pakistan, the Kashf Foundation has over 300,000 clients and $100 million in loans, becoming the second largest private microlender in Pakistan. Focusing on women, Kashf’s goal is to reach one million women in Pakistan by 2010. Naya Jeevan, a social enterprise dedicated to providing urban low-income families affordable access to quality, catastrophic health care, is also making waves in the development sector by instituting an innovative model that can not only be replicated and scaled, but will also be sustainable in the long-term.
- Maria Toor & Naseem Hamid – Though few and far between, these female sports stars are truly setting an example for young girls throughout the country and further making the case for why funds should be invested in women. Toor, Pakistan’s number one ranked squash player, would chop off her hair in order to play sports with boys in South Waziristan, [see this related post]. Hamid, from a low-income family in Korangi Town in Karachi, recently became the region’s fastest women after she won a gold medal in the 100-metre race at the South Asian Federation Games.
- Coke Studio – The immensely popular television show, which “embodies a musical fusion of exciting elements and diverse influences, ranging from traditional eastern, modern western and regionally inspired music,” recently completed a successful second season. In an interview with producer Adnan Malik, he said, “My favorite aspect of this show is its engagement in helping define a Pakistani identity. We are clearly at a crossroads in terms of a collective cultural ethos, and I believe that this show is an example of how we should engage with our past, present and future.”
- You – I am always inspired by Pakistanis who never give up on this country. And, although I generally dislike the burgeoning numbers of Facebook groups or online petitions that call for national solidarity against terrorism but don’t provide anything tangible to the debate, I do think there is some value-added there. Currently on Facebook, 33,279 Pakistanis around the world have pledged to wear green “against terrorism.” While I’m skeptical of what wearing a color does to combat terror, I do think those same people can be mobilized to actually do something for Pakistan in a strategic and centralized way. For overseas Pakistanis, this could involve turning that anti-terror solidarity into tangible funds for organizations that provide aid to victims of terrorism and their families, (like the Edhi Foundation). For Pakistanis at home, they can support these causes financially, volunteer, or start their own local initiative based on the needs of their community/area, (like these young Lahoris who picked up trash in their neighborhood).
So there’s my list. I look forward to reading your really ridiculously good looking ones too. Happy Pakistan Day!