Editor’s Note: August 2012
August 14, 2012… The Pakistani flag will be hoisted atop all government buildings. State functionaries will make their customary trips to the Quaid’s mazar to lay wreaths and the electronic media will, throughout the day, espouse the Quaid’s message of practicing unity, faith and discipline. As night falls, a myriad fairy bulbs will light up all public spaces.
Yet, on Pakistan’s 65th birthday, the country’s political landscape has never been darker.
What should we, the awam, be celebrating? The shattered dreams and hopes of a generation of people who crossed over to the promised land in search of a glorious future? The penury of their children and grandchildren who live below the poverty line, who lack food on their table and electricity, clean piped water and gas in their homes? The tears of mothers who bury their sons – victims of unknown sniper shooters?
Or conversely, should we be celebrating the flights of fancy undertaken by Pakistan’s top leadership: a trip to the UK for a daughter’s graduation with 40-odd friends in tow, on a private chartered plane and stay in a swanky hotel – all at state expense? Or to Dubai – for a medical check-up, or several trips to Saudi Arabia for Umra – also at state expense?
And, additionally, the shenanigans of their scions, whose penchant for the good life has allegedly driven them to strike shady deals. What’s an Ephedrine scandal or a Haj scam or an all-expenses paid ritzy vacation, when you have fathers in high places?.
Or maybe we should celebrate the obsession of the opposition with fast-forwarding the next elections – purportedly for the good of the awam – and their total obliviousness to the grave issues of extremism, terrorism, sectarianism, ethnic strife and insurgencies the country faces.
Should we be celebrating the brutality of our home-grown terrorists, who’ve made life a veritable hell on earth; who kidnap, behead, film their horrible antics and then distribute the video clips almost as if they were Bollywood films?
Or perhaps we should lionize and celebrate our banned sectarian outfits who murder fellow countrymen – Ahmedis, Shias, Hindus, Christians – and desecrate their places of worship, all in the name of religion.
Or the chauvinism of the ethnic groups that have torn apart generations that once lived together in peace – Punjabis, Pathans, Sindhis, Mohajirs – and who are now on an ethnic cleansing mission. Should we celebrate the inadequacy of our security apparatus that is stretched to the limits, not just by the war on terror, but by the growing demands of the growing number of VIPS, leaving them with little time to nab kidnappers, extortionists and dacoits? Should we celebrate the inefficiency of our over-sized public sector utilities whose failure to deliver has converted parts of certain urban centres into virtual slums?
Or should we, the awam, the nameless, faceless people who form the backbone of this country, just celebrate ourselves, our patience, our courage and our tenacity to brave all of the above and still not give up on democracy or Pakistan?
On your 65th, let these thousand flowers bloom – and maybe there will be light.
This article was originally published in the August issue of Newsline.
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