In the past week, my news feed on facebook has been full of people posting videos, pictures and songs about Pakistan. Some have put the Pakistani flag as their profile picture; others have put pictures of their favorite players up. As the India Pakistan game approaches, fans on both sides of the border are getting ready to watch what is going to be a great game of cricket and a strong contest. In fact Pakistanis all over the world are there in spirit to support their team. They are sending out strong messages to the Indian team, constantly talking about Pakistan and their team’s potential. There have been tweets talking about the excitement and the emotion surrounding the game. People are seen in green shirts, proud of their country.
Once this game is over, once the emotions fade away, once people have cooled down and the profile pictures and the statuses are back to what they were before. Once the cricket fever goes away, will we Pakistanis give up on Pakistan? Will we stop talking about our country? Will we stop supporting it? Are we going to stop putting pictures of our flags up? Are we going to disown Pakistan?
It seems like we only want good things. When our team is doing well, we start owning our country, proudly calling ourselves Pakistanis and wearing our colors in the public. However, when there are bomb blasts, when there is unemployment, when there is corruption, when there is illiteracy, when there is the violation of human rights, we seem to disown Pakistan. We stay quiet about our nationality sometimes even ashamed of our origin.
Only in good times we stand with our country. In all the bad times we forget who we are, where we come from and what we can do. With the given situation in Pakistan, I have come across many Pakistanis who have told me they have no hope from the country. Some have given up hope and said they know things will never change back home. I have always disagreed. In a nation of 170 million people, I see unlimited potential. I see hope, I see talented painters, architects, artists, engineers, doctors, cricketers, scientists and social activists. I see all of this in the common Pakistani. I see this in more than 99% of Pakistanis who want to live normal lives, who go to work every day, who want their children to attend good schools, who have nothing to do with terrorism.
To change things in our country we have to start taking ownership. As Pakistanis all of us have to own Pakistan and play our roles as responsible citizens. By owning Pakistan I mean we should think of the country as our own property and not as someone else’s land. Like we wouldn’t leave a close relative in a bad time, similarly our country can not be left like that in bad times. We have to be there for it. We have to change this country. We have to change all the bad things happening in it. We are the ones to give it hope not to give up hope on it.
What Shia, what Sunni, what Pathan, what Mohajir, what Sindhi, what Balochi, what Punjabi, what Siraiki, if all of us can unite to support our cricket team, why can’t we unite to save our country. These differences that exist amongst us, these ethnicities and sects which create a wall between us, which divide us, are nothing but artificial barriers. Our team has players from all parts of Pakistan from all the different sects and all the different ethnicities. Our team has shown us what we can achieve when we unite. Our team has shown us victory is possible. The team management might be inefficient, our players might have been banned for spot-fixing and other charges, but the team has been able to come out all of it stronger than before.
Pakistan has made into the semi-finals of 2011 World Cup, a place hardly a few expected them to reach before this world cup started. Against all odds, we beat the team which had won the previous three world cups. On Wednesday we will play India, our biggest enemy in the cricketing world. We might lose, we might win but irrespective of the result of the game, we will have learned some useful lessons. Irrespective of the result, we will have seen that there is hope, there is unity, and there is the passion and the spirit to succeed, to come out of darkness and shine. We will have seen that with good leadership, things can change, things will change. Even when the world cup is over, I want to see people putting up pictures of the flag, wearing their colors and united against all the forces which seem to divide us. I want them to be proud of their country as proud as they are on their team’s success.
In the end, I would like to quote John F Kennedy who said in his presidential address in 1960, ‘ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’. Perhaps, it’s time for us to start doing that.