Pakistan the land of the pure has practically been the opposite for most of my adult life. A harsh statement to begin with but nevertheless true. With this newly elected government though, we are hoping for a sincere attempt to bring the real meaning back to our name. It is a mammoth task with two steps forward and one back on every initiative; minefields, pitfalls and roadblocks at every stride. Yet the change in our international perception and response in initial 100 days are promising; with the Kartarpur initiative, our concern about the atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir, peace initiatives for Afghanistan, reviewing CPEC and the attempts to bring looted money back to our coffers, there is hope of a new beginning.

A lot needs to be done to undo the systematic destruction of the concept of Pakistan given by Quaid e Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He envisioned an egalitarian, tolerant society which would not discriminate on the basis of religion, caste, gender or creed. It is interesting to note how through corruption of our ruling elite in the last 70 years, we have been stripped layer by layer of our heritage and aspirations.

Some aspects like education, the economy and environment will take a few years or a decade to show tangible results but there are certain actions which if taken, can have quick results. Simple steps can change the optics as well as self-image and result in a huge elevation of our confidence and self-esteem. This, as we know is one of the prerequisites of human development and progress.

The conversion of a nation with a glorious past, a beautiful expressive language like Urdu and a history of harmonious living with various religions and cultures was reduced to a crippled, corrupt society devoid of humanity and direction. This did not happen in a day, 7 decades of systematic erosion of our heritage from our classrooms, our books and our lives was nauseous to see. Urdu is a ‘lashkar’, combination and collection of Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Hindi, Turkish, English and other languages. It reflects the ability of this Muslim culture to absorb and hence reinvent itself in a vibrant living society. The Persian part of our heritage came with the Moghuls and attempts to change ‘Khuda hafiz’ our age old term for goodbye to ‘Allah hafiz’ is one example of how we confused ourselves. I remember how Allama Iqbal’s birth and demise were both celebrated with fanfare when I was a student. His ‘Dua’ was sung in junior schools with fervour and love. This was taken away gradually by introducing private schools that teach us from foreign books, an alien history and value system. I remember all our books even in Presentation Convent where I attended school, had the national anthem on the back cover. This is no longer the case. Civics was a subject taught in middle school with geography; it taught how to live in a civilised society; this for the most part is no longer taught hence no wonders we are a community devoid of civic values.

Harappa our 5000 year old Indus Valley Civilization near Sahiwal proves our ancestors were one of the earliest peaceful societies with water purification and town planning. We on the other hand have become a nation of litterers literally. It would be a simple step to involve school children in a mandatory outdoor activity (much like compulsory NCC national cadet core) for 3 to 5 days a year to clean up their local environment outside the school premises with gloves and big bags. It is now the need of the hour due to the toxic plastic bags, chips packets, juice boxes and supari wrappers we see everywhere. This garbage is ubiquitous in the highest mountains in Skardu and deepest parts of our Indian Ocean. The rape of our environment is scandalous and we must take these additional steps to support the billion tree tsunami, an outstanding initiative.

The onslaught on our cultural heritage has been horrifying. Our disorientation and destruction of identity with subsequent terrorism and drug addiction is something we have suffered painfully for decades. Our mushaira, milad, classical and pop music, theatre and film have all suffered colossal targeting and lost invaluable talent. The complete end of film industry led to the seduction of our masses by Indian Media. The murder of music in this country contributed to drug usage. The death of drama led to low calibre shoddy vulgar theatre and monkey morning shows on television. It is amazing to note the removal of television and radio programs for children and youth from local channels. With more than 50 television channels hardly any currently runs a show for children. This with 60 percent of population below 30 years; it goes to show our common sense has truly departed. Superb shows like “Uncle Sargam” Rafi peer puppet shows, “Such Gup” etc were produced by indigenous talent. This incredible creativity still exists but serves only to promote dead and ‘deader’ copies of cheap humour on evening shows, perhaps because that is the class we chose as leaders.

 Another tasteless presentation is the game show which in its original form by legendary Tariq Aziz was  palatable but now is the ultimate in profanity with game shows in the morning, evening and even religious Ramadan. However the ultimate monstrosity remains the morning show, off-colour, impolite, false and disgusting. If I didn’t know better I would say it is a conspiracy to degrade and smear the mothers of this nation. Instead of teaching a mother about preventive health, raising children, community service and a society with ethics we have the monkey dance. Tasteless Clothes, ugly jewelry, mindless drama, senseless health tips, useless “totkas”, and hapless experts – my disgust is endless because I have experienced both extremes of morning shows. Media in Pakistan has become repetitive unfortunately and confused by so called ratings; and inspite of immense talent fails to showcase originality. Time to stretch itself and grow. The good news for our dejected media is we humans need entertainment as without it we become full of sickness and depression. It is up to the providers to provide sensible or hapless material.

 Another such irrational act was stopping Basant in Pakistan on the pretext of bad ‘dor’ and incidental deaths to actually promote Basant in Indian Punjab. As a result we lost not just livelihood and international tourism but also goodwill and happiness.

As this long night of deep and dismal darkness comes to an end and we finally see some light; as our perspective is clearing; as the murky clouds of deciet, lies, terrorism and fraud are lifting. We are better able to see what ailed our country. The ugly shadows of design by our enemies within are easier to see. We were strangulated by a spider’s web, seemingly frail and weak but 70 years of repetition made it strong and we could not see anything except the cocoon we were stifled in.

 This land of the pure is a predominantly Muslim country but will progress only if we realize our  beauty lies in our ability to celebrate our Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Kalash and others. Our ability to emulate the principles laid down in Medina of tolerance, justice, hard work, perseverance and forgiveness are the hallmarks of our identity. The sooner we stop preaching and start practicing some of them the better.

 

The writer is a political and social activist based in Lahore.