Pakistan is no longer the country of our parents’ youth. As a child, my father would fondly reminisce about Karachi in the ’60s and early ’70s – the boys and girls who would line up outside the cinema and feverishly exchange phone numbers, the scavenger hunts on the beach followed by the bonfire parties, the scaling of the gated house walls to engage in typical teenage acts of mischief and rebellion. While this Karachi might still be likened to the present – there was one difference in his storytelling: diversity. My father would often speak of his Jewish classmates at Karachi Grammar School. He would tell me about the temples, mosques, and churches that formed a mosaic of cultural and religious tolerance and acceptance.
Today, these stories seem like a decaying sepia-colored photograph. The tiny pockets of utopian memories of my father’s past are drastically different from the scenes I see now – the flashes of my Pakistan. Today, violence and mobs are unfortunately the norm. Cities that once were relatively safe are now the targets of daily bombings, riots, and instability. Today, U.S. presidential candidates reference my Pakistan as “the most dangerous place on earth.” Today, assassinations of former Pakistani leaders are a tragedy not just because of the person or persons involved but because of the moderate voice that is extinguished in the process.
I say my Pakistan because despite it all, I could never abandon hope for this country. Call me idealistic, but for every violent incident that occurs, I grow a deeper sense of ownership and belonging. And that is where the idea of CHUP! comes from. For South Asians, the word ‘Chup!’ is self-explanatory – it means ‘Quiet!’ The extremist voice of intolerance has engulfed the media’s portrayal of Pakistan and has hijacked the very meaning and premise of this country. It has kidnapped the happy memories of our parents’ generation and held it hostage. As a Pakistani, I know this voice does not speak for me, nor does it speak for my family, friends, or many Pakistanis I have known. I am what has been aptly labeled a Pakistani “moderate” – but that voice has yet to be unified or truly defined. For this reason, I say Chup! to those who wish to define Pakistan on their hard-line terms and instead encourage the young and moderates to finally speak up – Changing Up Pakistan (hence also, CHUP).
I am establishing this as a forum to discuss socially and politically conscious issues and ideas among young, moderate Pakistanis. Chup! will be a platform to break the silence of the silent majority.