This is a nationalistic statement. It is a jingoistic statement. Time and time again, I have had to walk on my tip toes when asked: “What’s happening with India and Pakistan these days?” Especially living abroad for the past few years, I avoid the topic even more than I probably would have if I were tirelessly living through my 20’s in Lahore as I am tirelessly not in Lahore. In fact, I avoid any negatively connoted political subjects to do with Pakistan that more often than not are: Do-you-like-Indians?, and Your-country-is-a-terrorist. I feel very close to embarrassed in these discussions, consciously aligning myself with an awkward etiquette that holds me by the throat before I utter something that may come off as defending my country. Ironically, my mind has evolved into assigning a negative connotation to defending a negative connotation about my country.

In all this havoc, Pakistan still remains my country.

And I think: stop tip toeing. Stop with a form of political correctness that makes me feel toxic.

I took a course called War in World Politics during university; a primary reason was my excitement for one of its assignments on Kashmir. I remember myself awfully nervous during the class looking around at my peers who suspected I possess confidential ISI intelligence on an imaginary document of stolen nuclear information. “The prime minister of Pakistan is held from the tooti by terrorists,” quotes my professor. “By his tooti? Wow, that is inappropriate!” was my first thought. It turned out, majority of the content’s narrative was how the major obstacle stopping India and Pakistan from reconciling is Pakistan’s inability to de-friend itself from militants. I thought, yes definitely, this is a problem in my country. Though, there might be more to it than just the tragic romance between the Pakistani army and terrorist men high on testosterone.

Part of this ‘it’ is the decades of blood and violence Pakistan has suffered, and its effect on the country’s collective consciousness. A people birthed via the notion of inferiority from White imperialists, bred in a perpetual Us vs. Them battle with India, and most unfortunately culturalised in relentlessly bloody War on Terrorism, now find themselves in a state of moral re-branding. The recent India-Pak incident, if we can call it that, illuminated this. Fatima Bhutto wrote an article in the New York Times after Pakistani Air Forces took captive the Indian fighter pilot. She said, “In Pakistan, for once, there was more sober reflection.” Reflection on war. Reflection by people. We have seen what war is, what it can do. Suicide attacks, bomb blasts, fiery riots, homeless elders, and murdered children. I agree with Fatima Bhutto, none of us have the stomach for a violently penetrated lifestyle. I do not want a war-centric lifestyle. Hashtags on Twitter and Instagram such as #saynotowar come as no surprise to me because I, like many of my Pakistani peers, am part of the peace-centric moral re-branding.

Maybe a different Pakistan is emerging, one that has no tolerance for words like blood, hatred, violence, and death. I never saw war in person during the years I grew up in Lahore. What I saw were blasts on the screens of each new Philips TV model that travelled through my lounge; felt a glimpse of helplessness of the widowed wife of my Shia cousin killed by a gunned man on a bike; stopped evening visits to my neighbourhood park because Ami said it was no longer safe. Maybe a Pakistan, emerging from years of uncertainty and disorder, is one more tolerant than before by being non-tolerant of war.

This is not a nationalistic statement. This is not a jingoistic statement. This is merely an alternative understanding to the traditional international narrative about Pakistan only as a state whose ‘tooti’ is held by terrorists. We have a long way to go, more so an endless route towards equity and tolerance; but the reflective state we have evolved into today is something worth mentioning.

We may not say it but know it well,

You lost your way. We too.

Partition has destroyed us friends.

You too, and us.

The wakeful have quite plundered us.

You slept the while, and we.

Into the jaws of death alive

You were flung. We too.

Life still may stir in us again:

You are stunned yet, and we.

The redness of the eyes betrays

You too have wept, and we.

[Ustad Daman, translated by Waqas Khwaja.]