Long Live Pakistan! That is what the title of this post says. And that is what you will hear many Pakistanis say when they are in their deepest patriotic moods. It is not just a slogan. It represents a nation’s quest for survival as an independent state to this day. Some may say it represents a misplaced fear, but that is not so true, not any more…Pakistan is still struggling for its survival, not just against a formidable neighbor that is sometimes seen as too aggressive, but also against its internal enemies who have yet to come to terms with concept of Pakistan becoming a modern political nation state.
14th of August (1947) is when Pakistan was founded.It was founded as a country where Muslims of the South Asian Subcontinent would be fre to practice their religion. It was not an Islamic state, but a state where the principles of Islam, equality, fraternity, brotherhood, freedom, and yes…democracy would reign supreme. Unlike India which retained a British Viceroy even after its Independence, Pakistan’s leaders decided to completely discard the shackles of colonization, and created a nascent government that had much to worry about in its early years, and continues to be weak, wobbly and subservient to its military. In an early speech, one of its founding leaders, Jinnah, boldly and clearly declared the secular principles on which Pakistan was to be built, for history to preserve in its books for the rest of time:
“You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
But I won’t go into history much, because the present is more important to me. Unlike my father who was an Indian citizen until his 30’s, I was born a Pakistani. I have not known any other citizenship and my loyalties lie with Pakistan. But, as I have written earlier, I am still struggling to find what is the Pakistan that I have my loyalties to. I have thought about it much, and I continue to think about it. I have not found an answer, but I have found sometthings that I can honestly say I understand better now.
I have learnt that when I say I am loyal to Pakistan, what I am really saying is that I am loyal to the people of Pakistan. I feel I know my people and I love them, and it is to them that I owe any and all loyalty that I may have to offer at this point in time. Pakistan is a large country with a diverse terrain and an even more complex cultural heritage. With a population exceeding 140 million (I didn’t realize Pakistan was the sixth largest country in the world), I could never say I know all there is to know about Pakistan….and may be I never will. But I feel that I know what Pakistaniat (being a Pakistani) is!
(On that note, if you haven’t discovered yet, try following Pakistaniat: All Things Pakistan blog)
Pakistaniat is the art and science of being a Pakistani.But what the heck does that mean. Given that I am about to marry a Palestinian lady, and that I am now living in the USA, would my kids know what Pakistaniat is?
Well, I believe I will have to work doubly hard to enable them to understand and adopt their father’s Pakistaniat. In many ways, Pakistaniat is the way you look at the world when you have experienced what it is like to live in Pakistan – the every day issues you face, and the every day occurrences. The shopping experiences in crowded bazaars, and the chandraat (night before Eid) shopping on main streets. The weddings that last for days, and the picnics where nobody takes off his/her long pants….Just to give an example, one can never fully appreciate the meaning of 14th of August until one has experienced the nationalistic fervor that comes out fully in the form of flags amast every home, and little kids decorating with flag-lines (Jhandian) all over their homes and mohallas. It is the day when people seem to act extra nice towards each other – and a day when too much green color actually starts to look good.
Pakistanis are a people who still remember a time in their history when muslims ruled a population where muslims themselves were a minority (Somehow they do need to be reminded though of the fairness accorded to minorities in those times versus in Muslim countries of today). They remember the struggle against a colonial empire for a sovereign state, and they remember the tragic bloodshed that ensued in 1947 when militias along the border region got a free hand to wreck havoc on participants in one of the largest refugee crisis in the history of mankind.
But Pakistanis are also people who participate in the ordinary. They stand in line and vote every few years without realy having a belief that any thing will change in real terms. They support political parties despite knowing that the leaders are corrupt, and hope and pray for a messiah to come and deliver the goods to them. They worship cricket heroes and then find out that many of them were easily manipulated by bookies from the Gulf states (A picture of the famus Chacha (uncle) cricket is included. He is a fixture at almost all home games in Pakistan). They play cricket on the streets throughout the year, but switch to hockey and football when international tournaments roll around. Pakistanis admire and are proud of their squash heroes like Jehangir Khan but reality is that less than 5% of the population has even seen the inside of a squash court in person. They are a people who complain about pollution on the streets in urban centers, but also burn their trash on street corners without giving a damn about the smoke and ash generated. Pakistanis complain about corruption galore, but would be happy to slip 100 rupees folded within their driving licenses if caught breaking a rule in traffic.
Pakistanis love mangoes, watermelons and apples, but dutifully break their fast in Ramadan with dates because Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) of Arabia had done so. Speaking of food, have you had freshly squeezed sugarcane juice which is very common in Pakistan? I can’t vouch for its heavy caloric/sugar content, and for the number of flies that get crushed along with the cane, but that juice is out of this world!
Mosques overflow in Pakistan on fridays, but try asking people to join you on a weekday for a religious event. They complain about the costs of organizing lavish weddings, but it is hard to get even your extended family to attend a celebration if food is not served. Pakistanis are proud of being Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and Pushto (ethnicities along provincial lines), but our national language remains Urdu which was the language of the educated Muslims in India. There is plenty of ethnic tension in Pakistan, but all that aside, Pakistaniat includes loving the Punjabi bhangra, the Sindhi mehmaan nawaazi (hospitality), the Baloch independence and the Pakhtoon valor.
Pakistanis love Pakistan, despite the fact that many kids today imagine what life would be if they could move to a more developed ‘western’ country (I recently advertised a job opening for a mechanical engineer in my Boston based firm. Would you believe that more than half the resumes I got were students from Pakistan?). Pakistanis are entrepreneurs (have you seen the Qinqxi? – see attached photo of the local rickshaw equivalent), but they also have a hard time preventing child labor in domestic industry (Did you notice the age of the little girl selling flags on the street in Pakistan?). Jobs are hard to come by but somehow the philanthropy of people prevent homelessness on a grand scale. Last year, a study
Pakistaniat necessitates having an opinion on the military and Pakistan’s national security. Pakistan has the seventh largest armed forces in the world and is a declared nuclear weapons state. Why we spend so much more money on our military than our entire social and human development budget is beyond most people!!! Kashmir is still a thorn in Pakistan’s side and India remains enemy number one until that problem is resolved. Here’s one stupid reason reason why….The etymology of Pakistan in Eikipedia says the following:
The name “Pakistan” (IPA: /paːk:is:taan/) means “Land of the Pure” in Urdu and Persian. It was coined in 1933 by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, who published it in the pamphlet Now or Never as an acronym of the names of the “Muslim homelands” of western India — P for Punjab, A for Afghania (the Afghan areas in the Northwest Frontier Province), K for Kashmir, S for Sindh and tan for Balochistan. An i was later added to the English rendition of the name to ease pronunciation.
So there you go. Our name includes K, which stands for Kashmir. How can we ever let any part of it go? We let Bangladesh go because at least it wasn’t a part of our name…
Anyways – 14th of August 2006 has already arrived in Pakistan, and will be in Boston soon. I am still mad and am unable to celebrate the occasion fully. But that aside, I wish Pakistanis around the world a Happy Independence Day. We have much to think about, much to discuss in our circles, and much to do for the betterment of our country and our people. Pakistan really is a struggling state, but one that has tremendous potential to become a model state for all other muslim countries around the world. Whatever you do, don’t give up on it.
For a lot more info on Pakistan, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakistan