Is Pakistan the most exciting place to live in the 21st century?
On the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the Pakistan resolution, the evidence appears to be stacked overwhelmingly in Pakistan’s favor.
Consider this: the Pakistani people are frontline warriors in the greatest ideological battles of the 21st century. Whether it’s the war against religious extremism or the definitive showdown between democracy & entrenched dictatorship, the Pakistani people are playing an outsize role in shaping not just their own future, but also a new, post 9/11 world order.
If you want front row seats to witness 21st century history in the making, Pakistan is the place to be.
To the average global citizen, Pakistan is popularly known as the destination of choice for the world’s most notorious terrorists. But if you have the patience to look beyond the odd terrorist hideout, you’ll notice a nation on the cusp of a modern day renaissance.
After the evocative images of revolution broadcast live from Tahrir Square, overthrowing dictators has suddenly become a fashionable benchmark for measuring the maturity of a country’s civil society. By that measure, the Pakistani people have a remarkable knack for overthrowing dictators with far more finesse than the widely acclaimed Arab Spring.
In less than ten years, the Pakistani people have successfully fought for a free press, established an independent judiciary and secured free elections.
Today, Pakistan’s mainstream discourse is centered on how these freedoms should be managed responsibly, which can often be frustrating & confused as a sign of weakness.
In reality, this is the hallmark of a country making giant leaps forward, in the right direction.
Now that we have some perspective on what Pakistan has achieved in recent years, let’s talk about our dirty laundry: any country, found to be inadvertently hosting the world’s most wanted terrorist, would have secured an immediate pariah status in the international community, especially if it happened to be the only nuclear armed Muslim state in the world.
It is a testimony to the resilience of Pakistan’s international linkages and our ability to rebound after disastrous setbacks, that Pakistan bagged its first Oscar win, less than a year after the audacious raid on OBL’s compound.
You can throw everything and the kitchen sink at this country, but there appears to be no straw that can break Pakistan’s back.
Take the much talked about alarm over the rise of religious extremism in the region, which is a natural hang over from the ideological re-engineering in the 80’s in favor of the Jihad against the Soviet Union.
It’s interesting to note what happened next.
The religiously puritan Taliban went on to rule Afghanistan and crushed any significant opposition to their movement. Meanwhile, the Pakistani people elected and re-elected the Muslim World’s first female Prime Minister, even before America, the leader of the free world, elected a female head of state. The difference is symbolic but very revealing, especially for those who worry about a Taliban takeover of Pakistan.
This is one of the many under told stories about the Pakistani people, who despite having everything & the kitchen sink thrown at them, are determined to transform their country and the world, into a better place, through their resilience & courage.
No one exemplifies this sprit better than the one man all Pakistanis look up to: Mr. Abdul Sattar Edhi. This is a man whose unassuming social work serves as a window into the lives of millions of Pakistanis; who go about their everyday lives and in their own understated way, serve as warriors on the frontlines of the greatest ideological battles of the 21st century.
Over the last 5 years, a shadow of gloom has enveloped this otherwise proud nation of 180 million people, forcing them to believe that they can’t do anything right. Amidst all the screaming matches about doomsday scenarios, it’s difficult to see the gleaming new engines of optimism emerging at the end of the tunnel.
The truth is that none of Pakistan’s problems are new. Our doomsday scenarios today don’t differ in substance from the ones we imagined 20 or 40 years ago. And yet, there is something markedly different about the reaction of the Pakistani people to these problems.
On one end of the spectrum, there is resignation and migration, something we have experienced throughout our history. But for the first time in our history, the other end of the spectrum is visibly emerging. There are Pakistani people, in all walks of life, vocally calling for and initiating reform in their sphere of influence.
Look around you. Have you ever seen so many young Pakistanis excited about channeling their ideas for change by voting instead of taking up guns? Have you ever seen a Pakistani filmmaker being celebrated by the nation, for shedding light on the darkest corners of Pakistani society? Have you ever seen a political party, formerly associated with physical intimidation, attempting to re-brand their image & that of the country, by hosting the largest women’s rally in the world?
This is the undeniable swagger of a country on the move. After all, the Pakistani people have a remarkable flair for proving naysayers wrong, through the sheer force of their resilience, against all the odds.
So this year, on March 23rd, let’s take a moment to celebrate the many ways in which we’ve made our forefathers proud. We thoroughly deserve a pat on the back.
Happy Pakistan Day, to all of us. Pakistan Zindabad!