Quite a few years back, in my previous incarnation as a journalist, my dear friend Rafay Alam chided me for beginning all my stories with the phrase, "When I was younger..."
'It seems ironic now that some of my best, happiest and most joy and fun-filled times in Pakistan occurred under military dictatorships.'As I sit here typing out these words, gripped by feelings of grief and anger, I can't help but hearken back to my years growing up in Lahore... It seems ironic now that some of my best, happiest and most joy and fun-filled times in Pakistan occurred under military dictatorships. Indeed, perhaps even more ironic that I find myself missing a youth spent largely under General Zia's rather repressive regime.
I remember long night drives... parking our cars across the Ravi and watching the sun rise slowly over the minarets of the Badshahi Mosque... early morning breakfasts or sneaking out past midnight - on foot - to get juice from Liberty... Yes, things were not perfect - God knows, far from it... But there was hope for the future... and we all seemed to believe in a better tomorrow.
Yet now, as I watch the news coming out of Pakistan, hearing of the repeated bombings and the destitution faced by almost 2 million Pakistanis, I can't help but wish those days returned... And I keep asking myself, "What the Hell happened?"
Over 2 million people displaced... And who do you think they consider responsible?
Oh I know, there are a hundred and one socio-political explanations... the constant finger-pointing and blame game - the military is responsible... or America... or a myriad corrupt politicians/bureaucrats/judges etc etc (and you can replace those words with pretty much anything really - businessmen, lawyers, civil society...)...
The point is, I just can't get over the feeling that it is WE who are responsible.
One of US
I am no less to blame for the failure of our state or our society... As are most of my fellow countrymen... ESPECIALLY our 'elite'... We have sat in our air-conditioned ivory towers and frittered away our future in fashion shows and GTs and Porche showrooms... Fiddling away
merrily as the country burns around us... Hell, Nero was a sociopath... what was OUR excuse...???
I feel like asking our parents, our 'elders' - how could let this happen? How could you let things get so incredibly bad? I'd happily assign all the blame to their generation... After all, our lot
inherited this mess, right?
Like I said, we're ALL to blame...
So now is the time, folks, to stand up and be COUNTED... This is it... this is our last chance at redeeming ourselves and our country and reclaiming our future. We bitch and we moan, "What can we do?"
'Now is the time, folks, to stand up and be COUNTED... This is it... this is our last chance at redeeming ourselves and our country and reclaiming our future. We bitch and we moan, "What can we do?"
The answer, ladies and gents, is WHATEVER WE CAN...'
The answer, ladies and gents, is WHATEVER WE CAN...
I've been sitting here in London, feeling completely helpless... Shattered as I saw pictures of the most recent bomb blast... and then physically sick when I saw the state of the IDPs... these are Pakistanis.... they're not refugees from another country. These are OUR countrymen... without home or hearth... Looks more like Beirut in the Eighties than the Lahore I remember...
Will we let our beloved country go the way of Afghanistan? How did we let things get so bad? By being complacent, that's how...
By letting others bear the burden so that we can continue living our sheltered lives...
How can we fix it? God alone knows if that's even possible - but if it is, then it's only by each and EVERY one of doing something - great or small - whatever... our small bit to let our country shine.
Even as I salute our brave army jawaans and bow my head in prayer for those that have fallen, I tip my hat to people like my friend Rafay... I myself am guilty of laughing at him for cycling around town and trying desperately to get more people involved to help preserve our
environment... I applaud those young twenty-somethings who got their hands TRULY dirty cleaning up our streets... i raise my clenched fist in defiant support for all those journalists willing to write about the REAL issues and boldly denounce these 'munafiks'... I thank God for all those who are doing their bit for those of our countrymen left bereft (people like Attiq and Jarrar and Ayeda and Nuscie)... I sing joyously (even as my eyes brim with tears) along with all those
musicians who recently sang for our freedom - that's YOURS and MINE, folks...
The cynic in me sneers slightly at these words... Whispers softly that nothing will ever change. That this is how things are and this is how things will always be - until there is no longer anything left to burn or destroy.
And yet... I believe so strongly, so (excuse my French) fucking fervently that we are made of stronger stuff. That our country can and WILL survive this... Not only survive, but rise from the ashes of this destruction like a fiery fucking phoenix waiting to take the world by storm.
As I write these words, I am reminded of Faiz's words:
Aur yeh safaak masiha meray kabzey mein nahin
Iss jahan ke kisee zee rooh ke kabzey mein nahin
Haan, magar teray siva, teray siva, teray siva...
So, let us all stand up, my friends, let us hold hands and UNITE... THIS IS OUR TIME...!!!! Pakistan Zindabad!!!
PS: Apologies to those who felt this a tad OTT - but as I said, we all need to do our bit, and all I have is these words and a truckload of otherwise useless passion...