Freedom from colonialism is something worth celebrating but as Pakistan fights for its survival, it was hard to be in a celebratory mood this August 14. Being an optimist (some may call me an ‘idealist’), I have always been hopeful that my country will one day defeat all its inner demons and be at peace with itself. I am still an optimist but the mindless violence around me has all but sapped my spirit and energy. I am sure there are other Pakistanis who feel the same way.
To many it may seem as if Pakistan is in a self-destructive mode but that is not entirely true. There is still hope. Despite terror threats, we saw an increase in voter turnout in the recent general elections. It showed us that the people of Pakistan want to have a better future and won’t give up. Living in Pakistan is like a rollercoaster ride: it is rough, has its ups and downs but in the end, the experience is exhilarating. As my friend Zebunnisa Burki noted in her piece ‘Musings from an unchanged Pakistan’ (The News, August 14 Special Supplement): “…we fail to notice the one beauty of living here: seeing our everyday Pakistan come to life every morning, face a setback every step on its journey to the end of the day, and go home tired -- worn out, but not yet ready to give in.
The everyday Pakistan is the reason the dreamers among us continue to believe in changing the system.”
The follies of our military establishment and its policies may have taken a toll on the democratic process and our institutions but the way our politicians continue to fight for civilian supremacy and reversing these flawed policies is something that must be lauded. For the first time, all political parties were on the same page when it came to peaceful relations with India. In fact, the party that got a resounding victory -- the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) -- in the elections has been the most vocal about friendship and trade with India. The recent ceasefire violations on the line of control (LoC) have soured our relations once again but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not resorted to any jingoistic rhetoric. Instead, Mian sahib said: “We have to defuse tension and de-escalate the situation. Our objective is peace.”
Those Pakistanis who blame everything on a ‘foreign hand’ are in essence refusing to acknowledge the bitter truth that the enemy resides within us. They need to realise that it is neither in India’s interest nor any other country’s to destabilise Pakistan. Destabilising this country means destabilising the entire region. Those who are out to destroy us live and flourish on our own soil. Pakistan needs to be at peace with itself, with its neighbours and with the world at large.
To achieve this objective, we need to wage a battle against bigotry, intolerance, extremist forces, terrorists who roam around freely. We cannot afford to live in denial any longer. The freedom for which our ancestors fought valiantly should not be lost because of the mistakes of a few. We need to undo those mistakes and move forward.
The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org