I get a great deal of inspiration from the world around me. Not just Pakistani culture, but the world’s culture. I said inspiration, not meaning, for those who aren’t clear about the difference. Inspiration means that I get ideas and thoughts from culture, media, music and movies. Meaning means that I let culture, media, music and movies define me. Some would say that it is a minor distinction; I would argue that it is a distinction is neither minor nor acceptable.                    

If you watch, or read, daily news, domestic or international, Pakistan is a haven for terrorism, a supporter of terrorism or worse yet, a facilitator/exporter of terrorism to the rest of the world. Sure, we would like to deny it, but they are able to point to the terrorist groups that find safe haven in our country. They listen to India pointing the finger at us and saying that we orchestrate attacks on Indian soil from Pakistan, and worse yet GHQ.

If you watch movies, Muslims are following their true Islam when they behead people, throw acid on women and strip people of their rights because they spoke against the government. They tell a story that is so detached from the true Islam that we follow that we scoff, rant and rave, but we aren’t really able to counter what they are saying because the spokespeople don’t know the answers to the questions they are being asked. And let’s be honest; they aren’t asking new questions, we just didn’t bother to prepare for the interview.  Bollywood has minted money from Pakistanis making movies that portray Pakistan as evil, our military as antagonistic and our politicians as inept. Ok, they got the last one right. And we toss our money at the ticket counter to lap it all in, all in the name of entertainment, while our media writes glowing reviews of these movies, and we stand around our offices, drawing rooms and wedding halls happily discussing the last Indian movie that we watched.

If you listen to world leaders talk about Pakistan, they all stand in support of the country’s democracy, but they always use the same mantra – “Do more.” Yes, your army is engaged on the borders against the terrorists, but do more. Yes, you have paid a huge toll in lives and economic loss, but do more. Yes, we understand that you have a massive problem with extremism and terrorists in Pakistan, but do more. They would hear the former Mayor of Kabul, Hamid Karzai, chanting that every terrorist attack in Afghanistan has its roots in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

This is who they say we are.

Do you ever start to wonder if we are exactly what they are saying we are?

There’s a great song from an artist known as Eminem. You might have heard of him. Anyway, the song goes like this.

“I am whatever you say I am,

If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?

In the paper, the news, everyday I am.”

Is this not what Pakistan’s problem is – not having a narrative to counter what the world says we are?

It’s difficult for a country, like Pakistan, that struggles with so many internal issues to even consider how to counter an argument against us or our religion, when they can point to any number of incidents in the past week that prove their point. But nations like ours have to learn how to rise above the current situation and speak not only of what we are doing, but what we have done and where we are going. This is where we stop being what they say we are.

This all starts with understanding and accepting that we, as a nation, have problems that are wholly our own. We, and I mean the politicians, typically like to blame a third hand, whether it is our own army, an outside aggressor or an unfriendly neighbor country. The only third hand that is causing problems in Pakistan is the one that we allow to cause problems in Pakistan. Read that again – we allow to cause problems in Pakistan.

Our army is not an aggressor or a party to causing problems within our borders. I know that many people have tried to convince Pakistanis that the army is power hungry and just chomping at the bit to take the country over again. If that were true, has the civilian government not provided ample opportunities over the past 6 years of democratic rule to justify a takeover, coup or whatever term is in vogue today? And yet, we still have a democratic government with all the opportunities and challenges presented to overthrow it. People point to missing persons screaming that the army has scooped them up, but is that not the army’s job to arrest and question anyone who might be involved in anti-state behavior? Wasn’t the Pakistan Protection Ordinance passed for this specific reason?

And may I ask, how demoralizing it must be to our soldiers who are fighting against animals for Pakistan’s existence to hear that the army is part of the problem that Pakistan has today? The pseudo-liberals like to coat it in statements like “Generals,” but soldiers dream of attaining those stars and being COAS one day. Yet, they are all brandished with the same branding iron as part of the problem. I would like to see you operate or function in a job that requires you to put your life on the line every minute of the day for a country that spits on your sacrifices. I say spits because we have “mullahs” that dare to say that our soldiers aren’t shaheeds, while the terrorists they fight are. But that’s a story for a different day.

There are many outside aggressors and unfriendly neighbors that are playing war games inside our borders, but those parties are able to do so because we give them the space to do so. There is no doubt that all the world’s leading intelligence organizations, and a few black ones, are operating within our borders, recruiting, turning and using Pakistanis, Afghans, Uzbeks, Chechnyas, and Tajiks to wage war against the state and the military. While India is firing on our soldiers across the Line of Control and near Sialkot, “our government” wants to extend Most Favored Nation status to them. While we are fighting the terrorists that are controlled from Kabul in FATA, our government wants to continue normal political relations with Afghanistan, as they sit on their hands refusing to eliminate the safe havens they created on their side of the border. Our COAS flew to Kabul, one day after the attack on Army Public School, to issue an ultimatum, but when the Ghani government saw that Pakistan’s government didn’t know what to do, they stepped back and said figure out your policy and strategy first, then ask us to help you.

The second problem we have is the “deer in the headlights” moment that our government and its spokespeople seem to have all too often. For those who don’t understand, a deer in the headlights moment is what happens when you catch a deer, or any other animal, at night staring into your headlights right before you run them over. You know, it’s like when former Prime Minister Gilani was asked by Becky Anderson on CNN, “a third of the Pakistanis want to leave the country. That’s what the latest Gallup poll says.” Gilani, the arrogant weak-willed politician, said without missing a step, “Then why don’t they leave?” He smirked and continued, “Who is stopping them?” That’s the Prime Minister of the country talking about the people who he is supposed to represent. Who is stopping them, Mr. Prime Minister? Really?

Then, more recently, again on CNN, Christiane Amanpour, asked Lt. General Asim Bajwa whether Pakistan’s military was capable of going after every last terrorist indiscriminately. Bajwa, a purely professional military man, replied, “I would say this is an insult to the Pakistani people and Pakistani forces, if you ask this kind of question.” Amanpour wasn’t deterred and takes every answer from Bajwa apart in her CNN blog.

“Our government” raised the issues with the portrayal of Pakistan in the fictional Homeland HBO drama from our embassies and consulates, but didn’t comment or do the same on the interview with Lt. General Bajwa. Fiction vs. Real Life and “our government” chose fiction to defend us against.

Deer in the headlights. Freeze. Thud. Dead.

Maybe we are what they say we are. Maybe we are what they portray us to be. Maybe we should just give in and admit that we are whatever they say we are.

Are you ready to be called a terrorist simply because you are Pakistani?

Personally, I am not and I don’t think the majority of my fellow Pakistanis are either. With a government so inept that it is unable to handle the supply of petrol within the country, how can we expect them to be intelligent enough to answer real questions from journalists that actually do research and come prepared? Becky Anderson and Christiane Amanpour are not the lightweights that we see nightly on our television screens. They prepare for each interview. They come ready to take politicians down. No, they are not the people that we want the politicians of Pakistan answering questions from. No, we have suffered enough embarrassment at their hands.

So here’s what I am doing. I am ringing the bells from the steeple. I am blowing the trumpet. I am raising the war cry and a call to arms to all Pakistanis that want to become the wall between the world’s interrogators and the image of this nation. If you are tired of listening to politicians lie and mislead domestic media, only to be taken out by the international media, I want you to join me and become a voice for a positive Pakistan, a strong Pakistan, and a defiant Pakistan. We are not what they say we are and we are going to tell them on every forum, every news website and every information battlefield.

Take a lesson from the children of Army Public School and remember their words – I am a great fighter because I am of your blood – and adopt their spirit, resolve and determination.

As we raise our voices for a better Pakistan, those countrymen of ours, who are too shy to join the battle, will join us and stand proud of the country that we are, the history that we share, the culture that defines us and the spirit that makes us great.

Are you ready to stand for Pakistan? Or will she continue to stand alone, beaten and tormented because we can’t protect her?

Pakistan Paindabad. Pakistan Zindabad.