As the curtains closed to a slightly modernised version of opera ‘Tosca Libretto’, everyone in the Royal Theatre Carre was on their feet. The curtains parted to reveal the cast, each humbled by the roar of applause echoing across the gold bordered and crimson velveteen lined hall. Then the conductor of the accompanying live orchestra was called on stage. He too was awarded with similar praise. Everyone was grateful and happy.

As I picked up my coat and made my way to the restaurant, I could sense the couple who sat next to me, following me. Eventually, once everyone had their choice of food, they struck a conversation with me.

‘You are from Pakistan, yes?, they asked, the caution in their voice blatant and obvious. Yes, yes. How did you know?

They sheepishly admitted that they’d gandered on my mobile screen while I was reading some news about Pakistan during the second act break. If you don’t mind, can we ask you something about Aasia Bibi?

I smiled and urged them to ask their questions. They weren’t the first ones to be curious. Others, friends and colleagues here in Amsterdam, have pulled me away and inquired about Aasia too. Ever since Saiful Mulook has landed in the Netherlands, the Dutch populace has grown both interested and horrified by Pakistan. And, how can you blame them? After all this is how the story goes: the Nation seems insistent to murder someone who has been proven innocent by the courts and the State is absolutely impotent in safeguarding the life of its citizen and has given into the demands of prehistoric lunatics.

Sadly, this is not just a story, it’s the truth.

A few days ago, I asked my mother a question I have asked several times before: how do you sell Pakistan to these Europeans when Pakistan continues to do such things?

As always, she insisted that things will change Inshallah.

As always, I both admired and pitied her for her faith and optimism.

But the question holds. How do you do it?

In the many years I have spent here trying to do the same, I am yet to find any answers to that query. So, I’ll stop this here and move on to our national insecurity. Ever since I picked up my history book, I was made to believe that Pakistan was the centre of the world. We had gigantic amounts of precious materials hidden somewhere in Baluchistan. We were at the perfect centre of political divides and everyone was trying endless to garner our support. We were the only nuclear Muslim State so we were automatically the leading voice and representative of the Muslim populace. And, we had lands that were so fertile; we could easily sustain our ballooning population on our own without dependence on anyone. And then, of course, Allah had blessed us with incomparable blessings and this made the whole world jealous from us.

Even as I write this, the words seem primitive. And, as I re-read the paragraph, I do wonder if I am mapping out a Pakistan that used to exist, once upon a time, but, has since some time, become mature. Sadly, the arguments that persist in Pakistan prove otherwise.

Everything is a conspiracy in Pakistan. Aasia’s ruling is a conspiracy. Imran Khan met a priest before the ruling was announced. All international organisations are bullying poor Pakistan to make a judgement that forsakes its own laws. The support offered for Aasia and the insistence of countries to put their foot down and volunteer for her safety and escape is a conspiracy to challenge our sovereignty. The West and the East (afterall, how can we forget India) are all involved in this grand plan to de-religionise Pakistan and send us to the empty hells of secularism.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned are statements made by some relatively well-educated Pakistanis I have recently conversed with. The mindset is not primitive after all.

Here is one solution: next time when you pick up a local newspaper, please also buy a copy of the Economist or Newsweek. Reading them prove to be a humbling experience. There and then you realise that the most noise Pakistan managed to make was a mere paragraph somewhere in the Asia section of the print. Besides that, a lot is happening elsewhere. Cruel and terrible things. Optimistic and positive things. We have some advances in technology that would revolutionise how we live. Philosophical debates that are putting our prejudices and biases to test. There is politics that is sound and not an ugly mesh of egos and misfortunes. Read them and have perspective. See how insignificant you are and then, in that capacity, work on yourself.

 

The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.

 @makahsan

kureshiwrites@gmail.com