Each year one writes a column hoping Things Will Change, and that’s one rather endearing trait we embody: hope. But sometimes one just throws down the gauntlet, and here’s what I propose, by way of challenge: let’s spend this splendid seventieth year of Pakistan being less. Less of everything: pompous, judgmental, sexist, corrupt, idiotic, ill-read, ill-mannered, ill-intentioned. I’d like to just see us, for once, being mindful. Being considerate. Taking the time to think, and to see the world around us critically so that we are better able to understand how to create real change. We’re surrounded by chants and slogans about a New Pakistan, but none of the people marching up and down the country have, for a half-second, just stopped and listened to something other than their own monstrous hubris in assuming their fatuous agenda is what this country needs.

Most liberal people believe that everyone has the right to speak their mind, that whether one personally agree with it or not, everyone is entitled to their opinion. This is the foundation of democratic dialogue—the ability to exchange views without taking it personally, in the pursuit of truth and justice. This is great and wonderful, except when it actually allows racists, Nazis and misogynists space to air their abhorrent, disgusting views on the world and one sits and listens gravely to them, in the interest of “trying to understand the other side”. They don’t want to understand our side, so why on earth should we be listening to theirs? Ordinarily this would be a pretty intellectually childish argument to provide—petulant, really—but when the “other side” thinks genocide is a perfectly acceptable way to control a specific population, then there is a problem. Or if the “other side” can hold up the shocking death of a minor, crushed to death by the speeding cavalcade of the politico he had come out to support, as a martyrdom. No. Those views are best crushed, speedily and forcefully. Civilised people do not brush the needless and horrific death of a little boy under the carpet of democratic martyrdom. A child is dead, and the great man of the people’s representative still has his job, even after being the most callous, disgusting goon on television the day he called Ahmed Chughtai a martyr to “Naya Pakistan”. Pakistan has already seen far too much blood, and she doesn’t need more, be it a jiyala’s, a Shia’s or a Christian’s.

We’ve also got a member of the legal community who can’t, bafflingly, bring himself to say “Hindu”. Our historical memories are so short, so easily whitewashed, it seems that even educated men can parrot O level history and think it sufficient. It might be easy for some, because they think we won’t notice, but we do, and we know how important Hindus have been in building Pakistan and its institutions. The Christians, the Ahmedis, the Parsis, all the “minorities” we dismiss today have been amongst the bravest, most loyal Pakistanis this country has seen and a judge of the realm can’t say “Hindu”? I can’t think of any context that would require this level of gormless coyness from anyone.

There is a fundamental insult to our collective intelligence when the men and women of our government, our judiciary and even our entertainment industry—basically public figures—spew venom and ignorance. There is a cocksure confidence that everything they say will be meekly and quietly swallowed by us, the ignorant masses, the easily-swayed sheep of the nation. Are we sheep? Are we so foolish and weak that we are led in a merry dance by all and sundry whilst they destroy our cities, underpay our doctors, turn our religion into a weapon of control, poison our students with their controls on curricula and keep turning us against each other? It’s been seventy years, and it’s up to us now to realise that we aren’t the same. There is precious little we all have in common with each other. Our provinces are all distinct, with their own cultural baggage. Our languages are myriad, our religious affiliations varied, our geography incredibly diverse. We haven’t got much reason to like each other, but as many great friendships and loves happen, opposites can—and do—attract. We don’t have to be like class five children who insist on having one best friend. We can be friends with everyone without making them our best friend. We don’t need to all speak the same dialect or live in the same city to feel a sense of unity. When we’re playing cricket internationally or criticising Coke Studio or going to watch that horrible new Syed Noor film we aren’t prefacing it with “but is your village the same as mine”. When we’re singing the national anthem it we aren’t putting conditions of caste and class on ourselves before joining in with everyone else. We know what kind of Pakistan we want, deep down. We want a Pakistan where poor children don’t die of diahorrea. We want a Pakistan where everyone can read and write. A Pakistan that honours and preserves its historical legacy, one that is green with trees. Where you can catch the bus without being afraid, where your first human impulse is not distrust of others. A Pakistan that protects its weak and holds its powerful accountable. You and me, we’re Naya Pakistan. Not our mullahs, not our politicians and not our political parties. It’s not in their interest that we speak up and talk back, that we disrupt the status quo. Only that’s exactly what we did, three generations ago—disrupt everything for the promise of something better and amazing. This seventieth year let’s brush off those disruptor shoes. Let’s refuse to accept this not-good-enough, this state of idiocy run by disappointments.

Jeevay Pakistan, but from now on humaray dum se.


The writer is a feminist based in Lahore.