August 14, 2016.
It’s been 69 years since the creation of Pakistan. And all we hear is how safe it ‘used’ to be, how free we ‘used’ to feel. All we see and read about is corrupt politicians, deteriorating institutions and a crumbling infrastructure that now looks too weak to ever find the strength to get back on its feet.
The press is free, sure, but are the women, the minorities or anyone who raises a voice against the system free? We’re a country that reassures every individual of being free but then kills every voice that is naïve enough to actually think it is free enough to speak. And in this climate our flag, that splendid white and green symbol of what our forefathers fought for, appears dark, grisly, blood stained and the chand taara looks like a moon eclipsed by adversity.
Under this eclipsed moon, should we even be celebrating Independence Day and if yes, then what exactly are we celebrating? That is a thought I was mulling over earlier with when I found Hamza Ali Abbas online.
Are we free? I wrote to him, feeling rather morose And this is how our conversation unraveled..
Hamza: Unfortunately NO, we are not yet free,” he wrote back. “Physically we might be free but mentally we are slaves. However we do have a lot to celebrate.
Me: Like what?
HAA: The great ideals that our forefathers had for Pakistan and an opportunity to make them a reality. The previous generation failed, so it’s the duty of this generation. God forbid if this generation fails, then the next one must try. At least we always have a chance, and that’s what we need to celebrate.
Me: Tell me three things today that make you proud to be a Pakistani? I’m a patriot from the core but I can’t think of anything these days.
HAA: All is not doom and gloom for Pakistan; we are a politically diverse nation, we refused to become a kingdom or a theocracy, we have a thriving political culture, you can call it political division, I call it political diversity.
Secondly, religious diversity. Yes we have our fare share of siyasi mullah and liberal hawks, but we have modern liberalism going side by side with religion in Pakistan. You have award shows, concerts and a thriving media and film industry on one hand and simultaneously you have the religious clergy and the conservative lot doing their bit. Slowly but surely, both liberalism and conservatism are co existing…side by side.
Me: Our politics is rotten to the core; politicians are vile, termites eating away at the country. How can you say ‘side by side’ when artistes are getting shot in broad daylight. There is no freedom for them. There is no security.
HAA: But it will get better…..with time. What matters is today I can go out in the open and cuss out the PM, President and anyone in power….a luxury many country’s citizens don’t have. As far as being shot is concerned, everyone is a target…not just artists.
Me: Okay, so trying to make this inspirational…what are we celebrating this year?
HAA: What we must celebrate the most is that on 14th August 1947, we got the opportunity to realize a dream…all we have to do now is not let this opportunity go.
Me: 69 years of ‘trying’…
HAA: 69 yrs is nothing. It took Europe, USA, China and Japan hundreds of years, including many civil wars and two world wars to get where they are….so let’s not lose hope.
I don’t know whether I was entirely convinced by the end of this discussion but I do agree that we cannot give up hope. There may not be much to celebrate today but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Because if we stop trying then we stop hoping and then we stop living.