The predicament of Pakistan

So I have a friend who has suddenly become infused with a lot of patriotic zeal and wants to “do something” for Pakistan.

Now I am not saying that’s a bad thing but I just can’t help being sceptical about it.  Scepticism (regarding Pakistan, the nature of its gov’t, the way its been carried out) is a common feeling for all Pakistanis.  We all feel cheated, in a way, out of having a real democracy, we laugh bitterly every time the ‘representative’ gov’t gets overthrown by the military and we brood in anger and contempt whenever a new President is ‘elected’.  Yet, if anyone says anything offensive about all of it, we become defensive and start quoting statistics and relaying the history of the country, out hot-blooded heads bursting with information and indignation.

Before coming to LUMS, I had never lived in Pakistan, nor had I ever studied the history of the country.  I was forced to take Pakistan Studies at LUMS since it’s a core course, and I am glad I did (and not just because I got an A on it).  I learned about the tumultuous history of the region, from the time of the Mughal rule and British imperialism to Partition and the succeeding 60 years after it.  I realised that whatever I had known before (thanks to Geo News and ARY) was a bunch of crap, because I also learned that the media isn’t always reliable or objective.

I know our country has got problems, massive ones.  But I also think they all take their root from the time of British colonialism and Partition itself.  Every issue emerges from there.  The excessive expenditure on military and defense at the cost of hardly any on education and health sectors became a trend after Partition because of the ever-present (and sometimes imaginary) threat of India looming over us; and the colonial practice of alotting land to the Punjabi-dominated military doesn’t exactly help either because it mostly just leads to the exploitation of poor peasants and landless tenants.  The Muslim League was comprised of elites, and wasn’t representative of the masses, which were a melting-pot of subcultures post-Partition, and it didnt have a support base of rural inhabitants and therefore only catered to the upper stratum of society.  The idea of constructing a political process that would take account the cultural and linguistic diversities in Pakistan was put on the backburner as the requirement for revenue extraction and the establishment of a centralised government structure were given more priority.  So the concept of having a governement that is truly representative of all the heterogenous ethnicities of Pakistan has never actually materialised, which led to resentment and nationalistic uprisings from areas like Baluchistan and NWFP.

That’s just a couple of the big issues.  I don’t want to get into the other ones because I’ll just end up re-writing my thesis for Pakistan Studies.  But the point I am trying to make is that a lot of the problems that Pakistan faces are rooted in its history.  So how then is it possible for one person or a group of people to eradicate or correct them or even THINK of reforming them?  Every Pakistani knows what the solution is:
the poor man knows he’s at a disadvantage and is being ripped off by the landlord, his kids know they wont grow up to be educated because there’s no school in the village, and his wife thinks its ridiculous to send any of them to the city because thats where they’ll be corrupted by ‘Western’ thoughts. Meanwhile, the elites in society all know the ‘system’ is wrong and skewed, yet they know they can make it work to their advantage, and it doesn’t matter what happens next because their kids aren’t going to stick around and will just run away to the States to be educated and then settle down in the Middle East to earn some real money. Life will go on as usual, generation after generation, regardless of Pakistan’s political meltdown.

So as great as I think it is that people want to ‘make a difference’ and ‘do something’, I just don’t think it’s that easy or simple.  I don’t even know if it’s possible.  None of us want Pakistan to simply be known as the breeding ground for terrorists or the little miserable excuse for a country that only exists because of foreign aid.  We all dream of betterment for our country but we all know that whether or not it’ll ever happen is a huge question mark.


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