Yesterday there was a live performance by Pakistan’s Military Band in Qatar (for those of you who don’t know, I am a Pakistani and have been living in Qatar for the last 13 years now). We took the kids to see the band perform and what a delight it was!
I did a live coverage on my fb page for my followers… here is the video of you want to see.
After an amazing nostalgic evening, I posted a picture on my Facebook of me broadcasting the live telecast for my followers..
The caption read that I felt proud as Pakistani, to which I got comment from someone really close to me that
“What kind of Patriotism is this? You talk negative about Pakistan all the time and now proud of Pakistan at times like these..” and that “YOU need to sort out your relationship with Pakistan!”
That comment pierced through me like a dagger.. Not only because it came from someone really dear to me (and who btw has mostly lived outside of Pakistan) but also, it felt like a judgment on the integrity of my character and values. I broke into tears.. uncontrolled tears. I normally don’t write about the negative feelings… but I decided to do a dissection of my feelings for Pakistan and why I feel the way I feel.. So let’s go back to where it all began..
I was born in Karachi, in a middle class family that belonged to a Muslim minority sect. My father was an Eye specialist, who believed in giving back to the society more than anything and treated more than half of his patients for FREE. He went to UK for work but couldn’t settle there emotionally and came back to Pakistan- to his roots and family.
Growing up in Karachi, like all the other Pakistani kids, we were brought up with the love for Pakistan. I have some great memories of my childhood in Pakistan… the Pakistan Day celebrations at school, my mom cooking the ‘laee’ (the home made glue made with flour) to put up ‘Jhandian’ (flags) on Independence day on our balcony, our school play on Allama Iqbal’s Shikwa – Jawab-e-Shikwa, practicing and singing the milli naghmey (national songs).. and lots more. I grew up loving the version of Pakistan that was in our text books, the ideology it was based on and the national heroes we read about.
But the Pakistan I grew up in was different.. Karachi from time to time went through different phases of lawlessness.. political, sectarian and general safety. The events that happened in Karachi with me or around me was always conflicting to what we read in our books in school..
One of Quaid-E-Azam’s famous 14 points was about religious liberty and yet whilst in school, a friend’s father was shot dead in a Muslim minority mosque during Fajr prayers. My friend was hardly 13 at that time. My father’s nephew who was a doctor, was shot dead in front of his clinic at the time when they were targeting the doctors from the minority sect. Countless number of times, people entered my father’s clinic with threats- we feared for his life and at multiple occasions forced him to shut down his clinic. Another distant family member lost a couple of members of their family in a blast that rocked a religious procession in Karachi.
The mid 90’s was the absolute worst time for Karachi in terms of political stability. Unfortunately in our neighborhood there was an apartment building which was one of the headquarters for a political party. There used to be firing every other day.. we would wake up in the middle of the night with party workers running on our roof trying to escape the police. I can’t remember the number of times, we were made to sit on the floor in the middle of the our meal, because of the shooting and the fear of stray bullets.
Once I was returning from school (I was about 14- 15 years old) and because of the shooting happening in the vicinity, my school bus dropped me at the end of the street and left. There was no one on the street other than two party workers with guns guarding the back entrance of their headquarter building. I walked to my home with deafening gunshots piercing through my ear drums as there was a police encounter happening on the front gate of the building. Every single gun shot felt as if its going to pierce into my body.. that was the longest walk I took in my life!
Another incident was during a normal school day when the Police station infront of the school was under attack with rocket launchers by a political party. We were all made to lie down on the floor of our class rooms, with windows shattering and kids crying and trembling. On an other occasion, our family was in a store and all of a sudden there was shooting on the street and the shop keeper put his shutter down. We were locked inside the store with other panic struck customers. There was someone shot right across the street – another target killing. During the whole time inside the store, I felt sick to my stomach! When we left the store, I saw the blood of the guy on the street and I felt I would throw up!
Other than this political and sectarian violence that I witnessed, there was general lawlessness. Once my father came home, with his forehead bleeding as his car was stolen at gun point and that guy hit my father with the gun’s butt. Another time, his car was stolen from the car park of the hospital he worked at.
Once we had dacoits in our home, right after my brothers wedding! Seeing your father and brother kept at gun point, at the mercy of armed strangers in your home is the worst feeling ever! I was 20 years old, an adult at the time but I was so traumatized after that day, that I never slept in my room ever again. And then worse part was that, I used to see one of the dacoits in our area occasionally and used to tremble again at that thought.
My father who couldn’t afford very easily yet hired a security agency to provide an armed guard for our safety. But a few day later overheard him talking to someone saying that “Its just that they provide me work and food otherwise they belong to a sect that’s Wajab-Ul-Qatal (liable to death)”.
3 years later when it was my own wedding, there was again an attempted robbery and we had to move to my uncles place (with lots of guards and security).. so my own wedding was not from my own home.. thats the Pakistan I grew up in!
This all happened to me in my 23 years of life in Karachi.. this is my personal account of events. Now you know why I feel paranoid when I take my kids to Pakistan.. I don’t want them to witness even one of the things that I witnessed growing up. And I do feel very thankful that things are not as bad anymore in Karachi.
Aren’t these enough for me to develop that ‘Hate’ relationship with Pakistan? I think they were quite a bit! Recalling these memories even today, fills my eyes with tears and my heart with fear!
Hence I sometimes feel that the purpose of Pakistan failed.. We wanted freedom to practice our religion as we Muslims were a religious minority in India. But that has not changed.. only the people playing the roles of majority and minorities have changed. Pre-partition, the majority was Hindu and the minority was Muslims.. and post partition, the minorities is being played by different sects along with other religious minorities like Christians, Parsis etc.
My uncle’s dad said something that has struck a chord with me and I strongly believe that this is what happened with Pakistan.
“Division on the basis of differences will never end..”
Having said all that, I can’t explain what I feel when we land in Karachi.. it still feels home.. Everything from the sights and sounds to the people! The morning sounds of the kawway (crows) or the blaring sounds of rickshaws and mini buses.. it all brings me back home. I can’t explain if its patriotism or nostalgia.. but whatever it is.. Pakistan is still my identity.
The band playing “Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan” yesterday, was striking an emotional chord in my heart. The feeling of being home away from home here in Qatar was overwhelming. Showcasing of such positive elements of the Pakistan’s heritage and culture was a proud moment for all of the Pakistani’s there – not only me.
And why do I have to say that I am proud Pakistani.. why can’t I be proud of a few things and dislike a few things. I am proud of the heritage, the arts and culture, the writers and the poets, the artists and the philanthropists like Edhi Sahab or Dr Adeeb Rizvi and the people who are brave enough to live there and make a difference in the life of their fellow under privileged Pakistanis.
How does having this love-hate relationship makes me a hypocrite? Why does my feelings for Pakistan need to be judged by someone else? And that from someone who has only seen the Pakistan that is in the text books. It’s my homeland as much as it is of anybody’s elses.
My love and hate relationship with Pakistan or Karachi is based on my own journey there.. and its solely mine! Yours may be different based on your experiences and I am not judging.
Wishing for a safer, more developed and less corrupt Pakistan – Always with love!