Happy Independence Day, Pakistan! 64 years after this country was born, and we face numerous obstacles & challenges (understatement of the year?). And yet, for those of us who continue to work tirelessly for the betterment of Pakistan, hope has waned but it is not lost. At least, anyway, for me. Below, Aamer Arshad, who works in energy finance in the U.S. but was born-and-raised in Karachi, shares his thoughts on this day:
This past Sunday marked 64 years since the creation of Pakistan through the vision and dedication of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Having lived in America for over a decade now and visiting Pakistan regularly, I find myself drawing parallels between my two nations. I was born and raised in Pakistan, but I married and settled in America. Living in relative calm here in my new nation, I ache for those left behind in the panic-stricken being that is life in Pakistan. Reading the news of both countries each morning, I find both disheartening. But the stark parallel is ‘to what extreme?’
A word that has become mantra in Pakistan is “desensitized”. Apparently, we are no longer sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. I am told we do not feel any remorse when we see carnage ripping through our cities. They say we are accustomed to the blood that spatters our paths. Some blame the media for lambasting us with horrific scenes of butchery. Others say we are ravenous for the macabre. A guilty pleasure?
I disagree. I have spent time with Pakistanis from all walks of life. There are the haves and the have-nots, those that have-way-too-much, and those who have-nothing-at-all. These people walk very different paths and their paths drift further by the day. They are on opposite sides of the ideological divide that rips Jinnah’s Pakistan apart. But they have in common their propensity to feel. We need to show that we feel. We need outrage to engulf us every time we see the innocent massacred. We need our voices to become the wrath against this sadistic pastime. If, in fact, we are desensitized to everything that is transpiring around us, we need to change this now.
In America, seldom do we see grisly images on T.V. without a disclaimer advising viewer discretion. It is no surprise that Americans seem to be deeply affected by tragedy or misfortune. Memorials abound of calamity that happened eons ago. Vigils take place on the anniversary of each life lost. Moments of silence occur often enough to make it a quiet day. It is this remembrance of what is wrong that gives Americans the will to make it right. We need the same in Pakistan.
It is this rejection of injustice that will be our shield. It is the memory of bloodshed- that will be our sword. And it is the intolerance of brutality that will be our mandate to act against the senseless butchery that plagues our nation. We need to keep ourselves and our youth from being inundated with the godless mess that flashes across our screens every day. Those who say this is how we face reality – tell them that they are desensitizing themselves and their future generations. Pakistanis to come should be outraged by the mere mention of injustice; our memories should serve as their barrier against wrong; and they should be riled by abuse, as their American cousins will be.
I hear that Pakistan will never change. The ordinary wisdom is that our leaders will remain of the same cadre and demographic for ever. People say a common man can never be at the helm of Pakistan. This may be true today. But one of our strengths as Pakistanis is fast becoming our weakness; our capacity to endure calamity and persevere; our nonchalance towards the injustice that we face. We must not turn the other cheek. We must learn to feel cheated, robbed and raped. We must stand against the violation of our human and civic rights. And we must bring about change.
Just over 70 years after American Independence, this nation fought a bloody civil war that changed its face forever. Pakistan is still a very young nation. Let us change our posture before we instigate a war that will bring about our ruin. There are very few people who can single-handedly change the course of a nation. Let us focus our efforts to the future and give rise to a generation that will remember our struggles and never bow in the face of oppression.
The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.