It’s the 14th August this week again, and this year, Pakistan is celebrating 71 years of independence.
But independent, is it really?
Yes, you see where this is going. Another year, another rant. Why bother so much – especially on a week like this – one may ask? Well firstly, because the human brain is a device that requires constant reminders for it not to lose sight of the ideals a person – and by default, a nation – is trying to achieve, and secondly… don’t they say that anger is a form of love?
As long as Pakistan’s situation remains the same as it is today (read: the opposite of what Quaid e Azam had envisioned), such pieces remain necessary and relevant.
Let’s face it, most people see Independence Day as yet another occasion to go shopping, dress up and click display pictures to update their social media accounts. The main goal is to relax on a bank holiday and be happily distracted by patriotic songs and programs on TV pulling our emotional strings. But how many of us actually take time to ponder over all the humongous human sacrifices that went into the creation of this country? More importantly, how many of us seriously reflect on the predictive words of our former colonizers and critically assess the journey made by Pakistan since August 1947?
In the midst of “Naya Pakistan” and a renewed sense of hope, let us not forget that Imran Khan is no magician who can single-handedly change the narrative of a whole nation overnight. Things will potentially improve only after people would have reformed themselves first. On the occasion of 14th August, here is a list of 9 of the many things which are not right in the country at present and need to change asap. Only when they do will we be able to call ourselves truly independent.
1) Corrupt politicians
Haven’t we had enough of those individuals entering politics simply to enrich themselves, favouring their own kind and paying no heed whatsoever to the plight of the common man? Many are announcing the end of corrupt politicians with the recent victory of Imran Khan. While it is something too premature and idealistic to affirm, one has good reasons to feel a little apprehensive by the kind of individuals IK is surrounding himself with at present (Amir Liaqat for instance, to cite one of the most infamous).
2) Colonised mindsets
Let’s reiterate this sad state of affairs: Pakistani minds are still very much colonised by their former British masters, and have assimilated the idea that “all which is white/foreign, is definitely better”. This is notably true as much in regards to our obsession for fair skin, as it is for our adoption of festivals having no historical links with the subcontinent – such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween or New Year’s. Plus, how many of us would seriously consider Iran or Uzbekistan as holiday destinations instead of France or Italy? Let’s be honest.
3) Endangered local languages
The quick disappearance of local languages and dialects (and associated literature) is a disturbing reality, directly linked to our state of mental enslavement to the West. In the Pakistani society, an English speaker is still somehow perceived as more “cool”, “modern”, “educated”, and given more opportunities than someone speaking fluent Saraiki or Balti – who would quickly be categorised as cheap or “paindoo“. Since when would the ability to speak a certain language be proportional to someone’s IQ level or merit? In certain families today, children are forbidden to speak Urdu by their own parents, and end up not only disliking but also being unable to communicate in the official language of the country they reside in! Oh, the irony. Also, Shakespeare is great, but how about we also study the works of Mohsin Hamid or Mohammad Hanif?
Just like it is senseless to think a fair-looking Pakistani girl celebrating Halloween is #goals, we need to seriously review our benchmarks of what’s cool, and what’s not. Yes, #letsmakeSaraikigreatagain, and Balti, and Pashto. Over 70 languages are spoken in Pakistan, it is high time we choose to embrace this amazing diversity instead of aligning on the monotony of uniformity.
4) Class distinction starting at school
Relating to the above, Lord Macaulay’s educational reforms in the subcontinent certainly succeeded in creating a colonial elite. In Pakistan today, most people keep on running after excessively expensive private English medium schools for their kids and shunning cheaper Urdu medium ones. Education, just like health, religion and other sectors, has become a great business. Children from privileged backgrounds are thus introduced to Western pop culture from a young age in these “elite schools”, where B = burger and H = Hollywood instead of more locally grounded terms such as “baloo” (bear) or “halwa“. The lack of trust in public Urdu medium schools is something that desperately needs to be addressed, notably with better control of the authorities over the contents of curriculums, and a greater involvement of families in their kids’ education.
5) More education yet more narrow-mindedness
Here is another sad general observation about Pakistani population – which especially concerns the youth. While they is arguably getting more and more qualified, travelling to various universities across the globe to seek knowledge and having a better access to online resources, new generations are also scarily becoming more and more sectarian in their mentalities. While the personal faith of a cricketer, soldier or politician would hardly matter for our more tolerant forefathers (and rightly so), it is strangely becoming a primary source of concern nowadays. We live in the era of “parhay likhay jahils” (“educated fools”), with individuals being quick to pass judgments or having trust issues based on others’ beliefs, readily accepting and propagating lies about certain religious groups without research or questioning, and promptly joining the haram or shirk police bandwagons with little to no knowledge of religious scriptures. Isn’t it sad that we today need intrafaith events (Sunni-Shia iftaris for example) to be united? Doesn’t it baffle you to hear a PhD from Harvard or Oxford say it is haram for him to enter a church? Don’t you wish you had experienced our fathers’ generation, when Muharram processions were peacefully escorted by fellow Pakistani citizens and not by police forces fearing potential attacks? All this just shows that knowledge is indeed not measured by educational degrees, but by how much we keep our hearts open.
6) Treatment of minorities
Ahmadis. Need I say more? People in Pakistan are often quick to point fingers at other countries for violating Muslims rights, and yet remain shockingly blind to the horrific bigotry imposed on their own people at home. The continuous persecution of the Ahmadi community since the 70s is an example amongst many others. It is high time Pakistan gets rid of its nonsensical blasphemy laws, which are still used on a too regular basis to harm/torture/kill/imprison innocent civilians. It is vital we understand that a society’s greatness is notably measured by the way in which it protects its weakest and most vulnerable members.
7 – What environment? What animal rights?
Then there is our reckless disregard for the environment, and general cleanliness. We pride ourselves to love our country and/or to be believers, yet it hurts our fragile egos to walk a bit farther to place our trash in a bin. While our western neighbour’s (Iran) roads easily qualify amongst the cleanest on earth, hoping for the same for Pakistan seems like a far-fetched dream.
In a similar vein, the haram police would be quick today to point fingers at someone drinking a glass of wine, yet it would remain silent in the view of presumably “less haram” actions, such as an animal being tortured. Just like keeping clean is a mark of faith, respecting animal lives is not a lesser important obligation.
8) The curse of mullahs and extremism
Well, this is nothing that you haven’t heard or read before. Saudi Arabia has been sponsoring charlatans mascarading as scholars, and brainwashing institutions mascarading as madressas all across the globe to spread its extremist ideology and sphere of influence. Pakistan has been at the receiving end ever since the regime of Zia, and consequences can be felt until today. What’s worse – self-confessed murderers and talibans sympathisers such as Aurangzeb Farooqi, Ahmed Ludhianvi or Abdul Aziz (to cite a few) still roam around freely in the country!
9) The rise of materialism & downfall of humanity
With the advent of the consumer society, the mall culture and the explosion of brands in the past few years, it is getting increasingly hard to note major differences in the buying pattern of Pakistani and, for example, French customers. Using all the tricks in the book (celebrity endorsements, catchy adverts, enticing sales, etc.), companies are successfully creating “want” without “need”, and slowly pushing people away from the ideas of “moderation” and “contentment”. Whether it is restaurants using “eat all you can for a fixed price” mantras during Ramzan, or “Azaadi sales” nowadays, more is never enough. Catfights between customers in clothing outlets have become a common occurrence, and yet another manifestation of our moral downfall. While the neoliberal system is slowly turning human beings into beasts, illegal workers’ exploitation seems to have bright days ahead. Breaking free from this vicious cycle and – why not – coming up with alternative development schemes would undoubtedly make us more independent than we currently are.
We could speak in a lot more details about countless other evils. Honour killings. Rapes. Abductions. Poverty. Homelessness. Water scarcity. Electricity shortage. Pollution. Food quality. VIP culture. Dowry. Caste system. Social disparity. Literacy. Political dependence. National security. Global debt. The list goes on.
The rise of all the evils listed above all stems from the fact that a lot of Pakistani believers are today more akin to individuals worshipping money, material goods and their desires – instead of worshipping God and believing in His noble apostles. People do not ponder enough on their relationship with their Creator, nor do they make it a point to learn or understand their own beliefs better. While Quaid e Azam had a pluralistic vision for Pakistan, he’d certainly not have wanted it to turn into the society it has unfortunately become, that too which is unable to let go of the destructive influence of its former masters.
Pakistan became an independent country 71 years ago. It is high time it becomes an independent nation too. Happy (in)dependence!