Islamic Republic of Pakistan

(If Pakistan were a person)

Don’t start judging me by my name. Please, for a moment, forget everything you have previously heard about me and put everything you know about me aside. Give me a chance to talk a bit about myself and then feel free to form your opinions.

So I have been in the news lately and you might have noticed. It is possible one of your friends mentioned me in a conversation or you heard a politician say my name. Whatever the source of your information might be, it is likely that the content wasn’t positive. Unfortunately, I have become known for a lot of bad things. Popular belief is, I am a terrorist. I have been accused of violating human rights by many several times. Many have blamed me for not having done enough to fight extremism. Fingers have also been pointed at me for sheltering dictators.

I will understand if you look at me with disgust. I realize no one likes to associate themselves with someone with a reputation like mine. My own children have left me and I am not surprised if strangers want to distance themselves from me.  However, I would appreciate if you give me some of your time today to hear my story. To save your time, I promise to keep it simple and short.

Let’s start with where the problem started. I became independent in 1947. I had grown big enough to live by myself but the struggle to become free wasn’t easy at all. There were many bumps along the road and many unexpected turns that I was forced to take. My children toiled with me for independence as all of us realized its worth. In the process, a lot was lost but there was a lot more to be gained that kept us moving forward until one day we became free. However, not too long after we became independent, something very unfortunate happened. The vision of our independence was blurred.

People started to attribute different reasons for our independence. It wasn’t so shocking to see outsiders attribute false claims but my own children had started to give dangerous colors to the partition. Soon, I was given a name by my children that became my identity. Even though I loved my middle name, ‘Republic’ and my last name, ‘Pakistan’, I always felt uncomfortable with my first name, ‘Islamic’.

I never wanted a faith to be associated with me. To me all my children were equal irrespective of what their personal belief was. I was aware that my children spoke various languages, had different faiths and followed different traditions. I knew differences amongst my children existed but I had hoped, perhaps naively, that they would accept each other as there was a fundamental bond between them. All of them shared the same mother.

As time passed, I found out my children had started to betray me and my vision for independence. They had started bringing out differences and imposing their views on the others. My vision of a pluralistic society where everyone lived peacefully together was put in the background. I found out soon that my own life’s story had been distorted. It had been tailored for personal interests. I had spoken of the protection of all religions, but as I was revealed, some of my children had associated my views to a particular religion. These children also seemed to have taken the right to correct others in their own hands. It became more obvious as some of my children started to be mistreated. They were denied the right to talk about their faith in public and even stopped from calling their places of worship by the names they wanted to.

This mistreated group of children included a great scholar as well. His name was Abdus Salam. Abdus Salam was a genius. He took my name to countries and places, I was unfamiliar with. Because of him people happened to want to know about me. They started to praise me for producing such a great scholar. I was so proud of him for setting an example for other children to follow. Little did I know that his success wasn’t liked by all. Religion was brought in to undermine his contributions and so his achievements were submerged by his own siblings.

Another thing I couldn’t come to terms with was that while some of my children were spending their money on luxurious items and vacations, many were begging for food. No one was helping each other out. Those who had the money had shut their curtains and were enjoying their meals in their air-conditioned rooms while others stood in the heat waiting to be fed. Those who had the education had it for themselves, no one cared to cater to the illiterate. Similarly, I noticed that some of my children had started using religion to control others. There were a few attempts by those with the guns to rule through fear too.

Mosques, which were supposed to unite, started creating divides. So much so that there were different mosques built for different groups. One had to prove their membership of a certain group to be allowed into the mosque. The house of God became the property of individuals and some children took the duties of God in their own hands. The sight of equality eventually vanished and tolerance started to disappear. The bonds began to fade away and differences started to fill in the vacuum. My beautiful daughters were forced into marriages and told they were somehow less important to the society than men. The society shaped their identity in such a way that people looked down upon them.

The dream of independence came true but only as a nightmare. My dreams had been shattered by my own family. I was betrayed by my very own children. This gave an opportunity to my neighbors to exploit my weak position. Some came forward to show concern only for personal interests. Some shunned me completely. Yet others kept telling me I had to do more to be accepted.

Only if I could tell the world, I didn’t want to be what I am today. This is not why I was born. This is not what I wanted to be known for. Only if I could tell the world, I wanted to be known for producing squash champions like Jehangir and Jansher, for producing great scientists like Abdus Salam, for respecting all religions, for fostering democracy, for creating equality, for removing gender bias. Only if I could tell the world, all these things are as dear to me as they are to you. Only if I could say it to the world, all my children are being blamed for the faults of a few. Only if I could show the world, my children are nice people. They just need to be guided through education and not punished with drones. If you still mock my condition, at least don’t doubt my intentions any more.

I hope I haven’t taken much of your time today. I hope I made sense. It was very hard to talk against my own children. I had to hold my emotions back while saying all of this. I am glad though that I took it out today. I realize it’s only the mother’s blind love which ruins its children. I have already been blamed for so many things. This one more accusation wouldn’t have made a difference but I care for my children and I did this with only their good in mind. May be somewhere, one of my children has heard me, and seen him/herself in my true image.

Just remember, it’s never too late. We only go down to come back up even stronger. Remember, it’s your responsibility to help your brothers and sisters who are in need. In need of education, of food, of justice. You don’t have to be scared of them being dependent on you. They just need a chance, a push, an oppurtunity. Remember, religion is your personal relationship with God. Don’t let it come in between your interactions with anyone. Remember, remember the sacrifices we made for independence. Let’s value them and work towards reaching our true potential. Remember, I will always have hope in you. You are the only thing I have.

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Victory in defeat!

Pakistan played India in a Semi-Final of a cricket World Cup a couple of days ago and lost for the 5th consecutive time. I expected some pissed off fans. I anticipated emotional crowds desperately waiting at the airport to hurl all sorts of things at their cricket team. I pictured Pakistanis (including myself) venting out their anger at people around them. I looked forward to the Pakistani media channels and news anchors bashing the cricket team. I also imagined Pakistani cricket pundits putting all sorts of accusation on the team.  Yet time has passed on rather merrily and I haven’t witnessed any of this happening. You ask, ‘how is it possible?’ Well, this time there was a victory in our defeat.

This victory in a defeat was a victory because Pakistan team surpassed many expectations and reached so far. It was a victory of unity. It was also a victory of passion. It was a victory of all the prayers for which so many hands had been raised in synchronization. It was a victory of Pakistan-India friendship. It was a victory of sportsmanship but most importantly it was a victory for Pakistan!

For the first time in my life, I saw Pakistanis from all walks of life put their backgrounds aside- be it religion, sect, ethnicity, social standing – united in support of their cricket team. For the first time, I could tell neither the difference between the smile of a roadside seller and a wealthy businessman nor could I distinguish the reasons for their tears shed.  For the first time, I couldn’t tell apart one Pakistani from another. All of them were united for one cause. All of them shared the same dream.  All of them wished for the same result.

For the first time, I saw a Pakistani captain apologize to his nation when he didn’t have to. For the first time I saw the Pakistani team warmly congratulate their counterparts. For the first time, I saw a Pakistani leader take the responsibility. For the first time I saw such Jazba in my people.  For the first time, I saw my team try so hard. When Michael Montaigne said “There are some defeats more triumphant than victories”, he couldn’t have thought of a better occasion to say it than this.

Keeping the Jazba alive!

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.

The Wish to Stop Time

Sometimes, some things are not in our control. However much we may try to achieve them, they remain out of our hands. They just seem to be physically impossible. When you are told about someone’s sudden death, it comes off as a shock and is hard to digest but you come to terms with it as the person has already passed away. However, there are times when a loved one is aged or suffering from an incurable disease. Times like these are when you feel helpless. The person is in front of you one day and gone forever another day. How do you brace yourself for this? My maternal grandfather is in his 80s and the doctors have implied that there are very few chances of him surviving by telling the family to be prepared for all sorts of news.  It’s easier to tell someone to be prepared but it’s another thing for one to be prepared for such news. For the doctor, my nana might just be another patient but for me there is no one like him. I can’t prepare myself to be told that he’s gone forever. All I can do is to point my hands up in the air and tell myself there is a God listening to me. Today, I have prayed God for a miracle, I have prayed for time to stop. I have prayed for my nana to live forever.

My predictions for the 2011 Cricket World Cup

I am not a cricket expert and so these predictions are only meant to be taken as predictions. Now, it will be more fun seeing these matches unfold!

1st Quarter Final – Pakistan v West Indies – Pakistan will win

– Misbah is very likely to play an important innings. He will be the anchor of Pakistan’s batting.

– Afridi is likely to take a couple of wickets.

Hafeez will break a crucial partnership.

From West Indies, Bishoo will trouble Pakistan.

2nd Quarter Final – India v Australia – India will win

– Sehwag will get out in the first 10 overs.

– Tendulkar will get a good start but get out before he gets to a half-century.

– Gambhir is likely to rescue India with Yuvraj on the other side.

– Ponting will continue his disappointing form while Michael Clark and Cameron White will impress with the bat.

– Mitchell Johnson will pick some important wickets.

3rd Quarter Final – New Zealand v South Africa – South Africa will win

– Amla will play a big innings.

– De Villiers and Kallis are going to set up a good partnership.

– Imran Tahir will be the key wicket taker for South Africa.

– New Zeland will fail to match up to SA’s potential.

– A good late knock from Oram will go to waste.

4th Quarter Final – Sri Lanka v England – England will win

– This will be a close match.

– Sri Lanka will start off really nicely but end up losing some important wickets in the middle.

– Tredwell will do well with the ball but it will mainly be England’s batting which will tilt the match in their favor.

– Trott and Bell will put on a match winning partnership.

– Kulasekara and Murli will both do well from the Sri Lankan side to contain the flow of runs and pick wickets.

1st Semi Final – England v South Africa – South Africa will win

– Smith the skipper will lead the batting and make sure they don’t choke AGAIN.

– Amla, Duminy, and De Villiers will play some decent knocks.

– Strauss will open the innings in style, but no one on the other side will be able to support him.

– Bopara will get a few runs but Trott’s consistency will no longer last in this match.

– Kallis, Peterson and Tahir from South Africa will down England with their amazing bowling spells.

2nd Semi Final – Pakistan v India – India will win

– Pakistan has never won a match against India in the World Cup. Things are unlikely to change.

– Pakistan will put up a decent total with Younus Khan, Umar Akmal and Razzak all chipping in.

– Sehwag will be aggressive and effective in the first two power plays.

– Dhoni and Pathan will chip in some quick runs.

– Akhter’s last match won’t be one to be remembered.

– Umar Gul will do well for Pakistan with the ball.

– Bhajji will pick some important Pakistani wickets.

Final – South Africa v India – South Africa will win the 2011 world cup!

– Both sides will bat well and the contest will hang on the bowling efforts by the two teams.

– India will not be able to set up a huge total due to some good bowling by Kallis and Tahir.

– All of South Africa’s batsman will chip in with runs in the double figures while De Villiers is expected to put up a big score.

– Sehwag will give India a good start but South Africa will make a comeback with the bowling.

– Dhoni will hit a few good shots but by then it will be too little too late.

Ik nuqte vich gal mukdi eh

Abstract by Zain Maken

(The poem is by Bulleh Shah and the translation by Suman Kayshap)

Phar nuqta, chad hisaabaan nu,
kar duur kufar diyaan baabaan nu.
Laah dozakh gor azaabaan nu,
kar saaf dile diyaan khavaabaan nu.
Gal aise ghar vich dhukkdi eh,

ik nuqte vich gal mukdi eh.

Hold tight to this point, forget your calculations,
Leave the miserable state of unbelief,
Do not torment yourself with the fear of death and hell,
For these are imaginary fears.
Only into such a house will the truth enter.

At this one point, all talk ends.

Aiven mattha zimeen ghasaida,
lamma pa mahiraab dikhaida.
Phar kalma lok hasaida,
Dil andar samajh na liaaida.
Kadi baat sacchi vi lukdi eh,

Ik nuqte vich gal mukdi eh.

For no reason you abrade your forehead on the ground,
You display reverence at the mehraab,
You recite the kalma to entertain a listener.
But knowledge does not enter your heart.
Can the truth ever remain hidden?

At this one point, all talk ends.

Kaee haaji ban ban aaye ji,
Gal neele jaame paaye ji,
Haj baich takey le khaaye ji,
Bhala eh gal kinnu bhaaye ji.
Kadey baat sacchi vi lukdi eh,

Ik nuqte vich gal mukdi eh.

Many return from Mecca as hajjis,
Blue shawls across their shoulders.
They profit from the merit earned by haj.
Who can admire such behavior?
Can the truth ever remain hidden?

At this one point, all talk ends.

Ik jangal bahireen jaande ni,
Ik daana roz le khaande ni.
Besamajh vajood thakkaande ni
Ghar aavan ho ke maande ni.
Aiven chilliyaan vich jind sukhdi eh,

Ik nuqte vich gal mukdi eh.

Some withdraw to the forest,
Eat a single grain a day.
Bereft of understanding, they exhaust the body,
And return home in bad shape,
Their life sucked dry with useless fasting and prayer.

At this one point, all talk ends

Phar murshad aabad khudai ho,
Vich masti beparvaahi ho,
Be khaahash be navaai ho,
Vich dil de khoob safai ho.
Bulla baat sacchi kadon rukdi eh,

Ik nuqte vich gal mukdi eh.

Hold fast to your murshid
Become a devotee of all creation,
Intoxicated, carefree,
Without desire, indifferent to the world.
Let your heart be fully clean.
Bulla asks, can the truth then be stopped?

At this one point, all talk ends

What Can Shahid Afridi and His Men Do?

While watching our cricket team play against Sri Lanka today, there were many thoughts which fluttered through my mind. The vigor in the team, the unity and the passion was just unbelievable. I came to notice how each player had his own role to play. I started to see how the Pakistani team’s game-plan involved every single player to do what he did best and win the matches not based on individual performances but rather team effort. Each player complimented other’s efforts and they formed a deadly combination together.

The 19 year old lad Ahmed Shahzad is brought in at such a big stage and put against the opposition right from the start. Not scared of what will come his way, Shahzad comes in with the mindset of what he will send the opponents’ way. His aggressiveness along with the experienced Mohammad Hafeez’s calmness and elegance make for an excellent opening pair. Following them is Kamran Akmal. A man who has been in the spot light for all the wrong reasons lately. Accused of spot-fixing and shoddy work behind the wickets, Kamran has come back to the side with a new intent. He wants to turn things around for himself and for his team and establish his place as a good wicketkeeper-batsman. He has talent and he wants to show it!

Then come two of the most experienced batsmen present in the Pakistani camp right now. They act as the backbone of the Pakistani team’s batting line-up. Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. Both offer great stability. Younus Khan comes in with the maturity and the smart mind of working the ball away for singles and doubles and staying in the middle for a long time frustrating the opponents. Misbah-ul-Haq, on the other hand is here to prove something. He feels his talent and class hasn’t been given due credit. He’s also here to show he knows how to finish things off. After going down to India in the last over of the first T20 world cup, Misbah-ul-Haq will make sure he takes Pakistan home this time around.

Once the middle-order has batted out most of the overs, in comes Umar Akmal. A fiery youngster, who had a great start to his career and looked promising until he fell to his own hype, Umar Akmal wants to start things afresh and bring his old form back. After him is the captain. Shahid Afridi. A man who can take on any side single-handedly on his day. He will make any bowler’s bowling figures look like a laughing stock.  Things don’t finish here. Pakistani batting is not done yet. After Afridi is a man who is the most dangerous player to be on the Pakistan team. Abdul Razzaq won’t show his emotions to you. He will stay quiet and let his bat do all the work. Doesn’t matter if he faces a couple of balls or a couple of overs, he will dispatch more than half of the deliveries he faces to the boundary. On most occasions in the form of sixes!

One would have thought after the suspension of Asif and Amir by the ICC tribunal, Pakistan’s bowling line up would fail to impress. Our bowlers have proved that to be incorrect. Shoaib Akhter is back in the team. This time without the injuries and out of field drama. It’s been impressive to see him bowl at around the same speed he used to bowl at the start of his career. He always had the raw pace, now he brings an excellent line and length with him. He will be a treat to watch in this World Cup since this is most likely the last big event he’s going to be playing at. He wants to leave a mark and shut all his critics up. Along with Shoaib is Umar Gul. With the ability to bowl consistent un-playable deliveries at the end of the innings, he will have an important role to play. More importantly, in Asif and Aamir’s absence, a lot of responsibility falls on his shoulders and he will gladly accept it.

Our third seamer, Abdul Razzak, might be without pace but he can tease the batsman with his amazing line. He has loads of experience on his back and with the new-ball, he’s very likely to get Pakistan early break through. Afridi is likely to have Razzak share part of the 10 over quota with Hafeez. Hafeez has shown he can break crucial partnerships and put Pakistan in the game. The only specialist spinner in the team is Abdul Rehman. Wickets or no wickets, Abdul Rehman will finish his overs quietly putting Pakistan back in the game by squeezing the flow of runs. The final spot in the bowling line-up is that of Shahif Afridi. Already the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, Afridi has started to make impact with his bowling than with his batting for which he was originally known for.

Granted, our team has been hit by many controversies in recent times. Granted, we have entered the World Cup with two of our leading bowlers not in the team. Granted, our team has been embarrassed by playing as a guest in a tournament they were supposed to be co-hosting. Granted, our team hasn’t had the best of fielding record in the recent past. However, the Pakistan team has come out strongly from all the controversies and embarrassment. The team has found a combination which can beat any side. The team has found a captain who’s ever involved in the game. A captain whose eyes show a fire burning inside him. A captain whose voice shows the intensity he is playing with. A captain who’s leading from the front. The captain has found a team which shares his hopes, his fervor, and his belief of giving something to the nation in these dark times. We have found a team which can once again bring back the memories of 1992 and get us another World Cup!