Together we sit…. And not stand

  • A rise is yet to come

Many modern and developed nations of today came into being after at least one major revolution in their history. France’s democratic system is known to have evolved from its people’s revolution, where it overthrew the French monarchy to form the people’s republic. Mustufa Kamal Ataturk in Turkey led the movement to end the decaying Ottoman Empire and rebuilt the country’s political and economic system on modern, secular grounds to rightfully earn the title ‘Father of the Nation’. Although Iran and China’s revolutions are criticised for the former being strictly religious and the latter virtually intolerant of religion and forcibly bringing the country under communist rule, they both emerged as nations with a reasonably strong economic base and literate population, with China being a super power. Even in countries where nationwide revolutions failed, like the Nazi regime in Germany and communism in Russia, the countries worked hard to rise from the ashes and learning lessons from history, amended their mistakes. Unfortunately, at present, Pakistan falls in none of the two categories.

The history of the South Asians reveals that they have been plundered by many. From the Aryans to Alexander the Great, Mahmud of Ghazni to the Mughals and finally to the British, many came and conquered. Some left satisfied with their loot, some found it better to stay back and make South Asia their home. But while the South Asian culture was resilient enough to maintain its distinct identity, assimilating all foreign influences in its wide canvas, the lack of unity between various ethnic groups and sometimes lack of spirit forced the natives to succumb to invaders from outside. ‘South Asians have, thus, been invaded, defeated and conquered by all kinds of people, but have never been conquerors themselves. In fact they have never ventured beyond the Hindukush mountains. Historians have yet to explore the political and psycho-social implications of the slavish ethos that South Asians had acquired much before the British appeared on the scene, and have retained even after they left.’

After living hundreds of years with the ‘slavish ethos’, Muslims in India joined hands with Hindus in the War of Independence against the British. A century later, a notable movement of the people which took place in the region was the Pakistan movement, which united most of the Indian Muslims to raise a demand for a separate homeland and fulfil it. For the other Indians, the departure of British from the subcontinent was a triumphant chapter in their history. After the creation of Pakistan, however, it seems that its citizens were too deep in slumber and too fatigued from the previous hard labour, to rise and make any movement.

Much has happened during the 70 years of Pakistan’s existence. The horrific atrocities and crimes committed against East Pakistanis resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Today, we grieve at the handicap of Pakistan, but struggle to unite the remaining ethnicities in one nation. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto swept the nation with his fiery speeches and promises to deliver a man’s basic needs – roti, kapra aur makaan (food, clothing and shelter). What the man in Pakistan saw was rise to ethnic and religious intolerance, and fatal nationalisation, with the items of the famed slogan nowhere in sight. Although Zia’s dictatorial regime produced the best of art, drama, literature and journalism in the country’s history, the regime itself ended only when the dictator was killed in a sudden air crash. The 11 years of military dictatorship eventually numbed the senses of the Pakistanis, who accepted the pattern. A democratic government is given some time to play and when the rules of the game are not followed, is disqualified and a ‘wiser’ and ‘stronger’ coach takes control of all action. This has become the norm: why.bother to challenge, why waste time and energy, blood and sweat on something which is none of our business.

So, as a nation, we sit and watch all the tournaments of all the games played in our country. The interesting part is that the stake holders and key players of the games have joined in the trend too. A girl is paraded naked to settle issues of honour and we sit and debate in the assemblies. A senator informs fellow members that the CPEC project will entitle China with 91 percent of Gwadar port’s income and we will be allowed to enjoy only the leftover change – the members sit back, listen and chant slogans of Pak Cheen Dosti Zindabad. Some self proclaimed protectors of the sanctity of the Holy Prophet PBUH sit in for days until fulfilment of their demands, forcing others to sit back at homes or sit in their cars waiting for some traffic to clear, the authorities sit together to decide on a strategy to operate, the army chief sits in his office and conveys his advice to the prime minister over the phone and we sit in our abodes, waiting for the social networking to resume and the sitcom to end. We tell the next generation nurturing in our guidance to sit in their rooms and not their classrooms, their home ground but not any playground and be patient. We, as a nation, have become an expert in the art of sitting.

The history of the South Asians reveals that they have been plundered by many. From the Aryans to Alexander the Great, Mahmud of Ghazni to the Mughals and finally to the British, many came and conquered

I ask myself: what can we do? A meek but firm voice rises from my heart – let us stand, against everything wrong. Let us start boycotting these so called clerics and tell them on their face we do not accept them. Let us educate at least one person around us about his or her rights, as the citizen of Pakistan. Let us start a petition and get it signed by others like us and send it to the authorities demanding a stop to any nonsensical act which takes place. Let us hold talks on the streets, in public places and tell each other to stop hating and start embracing for the sake of our future.

I feel the glare of a million eyes and at first subdued and then hearty laughter. ‘Are you mad?’ the voices from outside roar. ‘We can’t do this, why should we? It is not our duty. It happens all the time. It will be over soon and if it does not, we can simply go elsewhere for survival. What has this country given us anyways?’ the voices shrug and exclaim. Mustering all the knowledge I have acquired from this country’s teachers, lighting up my room with the energy provided by this country and using my right of freedom of expression as a citizen of Pakistan, I sit back in silence and prepare to send my article for publishing.