By: Arsalan Ali Faheem
The last two weeks have left Pakistan reeling from the many blows it has received. As If the daily splash of crimson on the front page was not garish enough, someone decided to add a new dimension to our nightmares and attack completely innocent girls at Islamabad’s International Islamic University. It puzzles the mind to think of what possible justification could have existed for such violence. It certainly has nothing to do with Islam. Day by day, the nature of the beast is evolving and it is becoming more ruthless and bloodthirsty. It is lashing out at every possible section of society that does not concur with its barbarian agenda. We, the majority of Pakistanis, are watching this horror unfold before our eyes, unsure of our role. Whom to condemn and whom to stand by? How and where did this begin and where is it going to end? Who started it? Will it ever end? How long will we continue to stumble forth, as a nation of confused and quarrelling masses, struggling to make it through to the next 14th August?
For those who watched the sub-continent give birth to Pakistan, these are times of sorrow and tragedy. From such august beginnings, this is where we have landed ourselves after more than sixty years of trying. From a well-educated brother and sister high in morals, recognized in profession, and outstanding in commitment to the state of Pakistan, we have come to know only incompetence and dishonesty. We have disgraced not only ourselves, but especially those who stood tall in 1947 and declared belief in the idea of Pakistan. Yes, a beautiful idea and one without precedent, a homeland for Muslims of the sub-continent. An experiment in building a nation-state that would provide justice and freedom for Muslims as well as people of other religions, people from every walk of life and of every cast, creed and colour. We promised not to commit the follies of the past and to undo years of suffering and oppression. We promised to live in peace with our neighbours and concentrate our energies towards building a prosperous, responsible, and stable state.
And yet here we stand, bewildered, in the heat, without sustenance, without direction, without unity, faith and certainly lacking discipline. We, Pakistanis, all of us, have not done justice to the aspirations and hard work of those who founded our country.
Yet, there is still time, though not much.
As a new generation takes the reins, we must move swiftly. There is no time left to remain fixated on the problems and prejudices of the past. We must learn to break the stereotypes and preconceived notions that we have all grown up with. Those that have convinced us that positive change is not possible, that encourage apathy in the face of such great challenges. The battle though, will not be won on the rugged mountains of Waziristan, nor the valley of Swat. It is in our minds that we must defeat our foe. This is encouraging, because this means that every one of us can participate, and that each one of us has a responsibility to act. And yes, we do have the capability. As teachers, teach well, as students, study hard, as parents, be affectionate and invest time with your children. Teach them that we are all equal. As children, respect your elders and learn from their mistakes, for they are likely to have made many. As members of society, let us move beyond talking about the length of shalwars and begin a conversation about working for our country. Let us speak of great men, and admire those who have chosen to sacrifice wealth and status in order to do the right thing. If you look hard, you will find many of them in Pakistan.
Around us, there is tremendous misery, intolerance, injustice, destitution and suffering. Yet we can change it all over time. It requires though that we begin to try, by improving our own characters. By being responsible citizens, loyal to the state and protective of whatever assets we have. It is our country, and ultimately, our actions will determine the course that Pakistan will take. No amount of foreign assistance or influence can determine the future of Pakistan. The future is the decisions that we choose to make today. As educated professionals, as businessmen, beaureaucrats, activists, and labourers, let us renew hope in a strong Pakistan. Let us begin to wage this war with hard work, good intentions, and support for those who raise their voice for what is true and fair. We can start anywhere and if you analyze your life even a little, you will know where to do so. Combining the talent and resources of Baluchistan, Sindh, NWFP, Azad Kashmir, Punjab and even FATA, there can be no doubt that we cannot attain stable prosperity.
Several years from now, when vigour has left our beings, I hope we will not look back and say that we shied away from the struggle. I hope we will think of our youth and be proud of the fact that we tried to overcome the ills of our society and rid it of practices that we found wrong. I hope that we will have the courage to raise our voice against prejudice, bigotry, violence and forced compliance – in religion, politics, education, economy, and governance. Friends, we stand at the cusp of history. Let us choose the less-oft traveled path, and venture into the unknown. Let us choose to build anew as we wish, as we will. Let us aspire to peace and harmony.
It is dusk. The day has long passed and reflecting upon it we see all our mistakes, and where we went astray. A long night surely awaits. Take some time to think of the journey thus far, and of what may lie ahead. Tomorrow, there will be a new day and as the fresh air hits your face, take a deep breath and march forward with confidence, determination, and pride.