Tag Archives: Swat

Hope: Lost or Not?

22 Aug

Being back has turned out to be everything I had hope for it to be in not the best way possible. Since my return there has been a plane crash, a wedding, interesting job offers and the most devastating floods the country has seen since 1970.  I always wanted to come back to Pakistan so that I could be a part of everything that happens here. Well, Pakistan has not disappointed! Its given me a lot to do and a lot to think about. As the country is ravaged by floods, there is no dearth of ways to get involved in helping fellow Pakistani citizens. But as the outpouring of help by citizens is inspiring, the floods are a reminder of the enormity of the task of national reconstruction. In times of national crisis, when the spirit of national generosity is unable to trump the corruption, fatigue and inefficiency in society its easy to lose heart and hope.

And I can see people loosing hope every day. This is why two boys were brutally beaten to death in Sialkot today. They became victims to the frustrations of citizens who have been abandoned by the state for far too long and have now resorted to taking matters, including the law, into their own hands. Surely, these are signs of a failing state. They are reason to lose hope and be ashamed.

The Show Must Go On: Farmers in Swat unfettered by the Floods

But then as I was wallowing in national misery, our favorite national sport, I saw a news story on BBC urdu that made my flagging, flailing, gasping for breath national spirits soar again. Groups of farmers in Swat, also abandoned by the state, have also taken matters into their own hands. They are not beating or torturing anyone. They are busy building boats and rafts and carrying on their backs, the agricultural produce to market that they have worked year round to produce and which would have rotted away had they not taken matters into their own hands.

The absence of the state doesn’t cause all Pakistanis to resort to violence. It inspires some to use their strength and skills to find productive ways to overcome the absence of the state. And as long as we have people innovative enough to turn tyre tubes into river rafts and strong enough to wade through water with sacks of onions on their backs, there is hope for us.

A Ray of Hope in the Jaded Landscape of Pakistaniat

27 May

Times in Pakistan are tough. They’ve been tough for so long that we’ve forgotten what it was like before things got so bad. Things were never great but they were never this bad either. There weren’t as many incidents of violence, so many hours of load shedding or such high prices of food and electricity. And in our fast paced downward spiral, we have lost our sense of being one nation. Its each man and woman for himself or herself. Its the only way to survive. And in the pursuit of survival we will lie, cheat, steal, trample on others, cut corners and take the low road as often as possible to get to destination mere survival. Its not pleasant but we’ve become conditioned to be this way through years of hardship and inept political leadership that cant be relied on.

And in this Darwinian quest for survival we have become jaded and sarcastic and conditioned to believe the worst about those around us. Idealism, morality, humanity – seem like hollow buzzwords – such noble sentiments having been beaten out of us by circumstance.  On those rare occasions, when we are confronted with selfless displays of courage and nationalism; we tend to scoff at them and dismiss them as either political rhetoric or utterly naive insanity.

But this story made me stop in my jaded mental tracks and led me to believe that maybe there is hope for the future.

In May 2009, Captain Najam Riaz, was captured and martyred by the Taliban. He was part of the elite SSG commandos – the best of the best who are trained by the Pakistani army to be even better (yes, i know this is a quote from Top Gun). He was only 24 years old when he died fighting against the Taliban in Swat.

Captain Najam was captured along with three other colleagues by the Taliban. For many days he and the others were kept captive while the Taliban tried to use them to buy freedom for their captured commrades. When it seemed like such a deal could not be struck, the Taliban murdered Captain Najam Shaheed and the three other soldiers. All four brave men, died fighting valiantly. Surrounded by the brutal enemy, they were unfazed at the prospect of death and killed 8 Talibans with their bare hands before they were gunned down and later beheaded.

While the courage and valour of these young men in the face of such grave adversity is truly inspirational, what was even more heartbreakingly inspirational was the courage and selflessness of his family in the face of this grave loss. He came from a small village near Kahuta. His father had retired as a hawaldar from the army and Najam was his youngest son. His family is one of modest means. They dont have any of the fancy upper class trappings that one associates with the rich, liberal, elite, who are anti Taliban. But their understanding of the true nature of the Taliban is far more astute than some of our leading media commentators. But this is not why they are inspirational.

They are inspirational because they raised a son, who was brilliant and brave enough to be admitted to the most elite faction within the Pakistan army. And they are inspirational because they taught him to put his country before even himself a lesson that most of us merely laugh at. And they are inspirational because even when they lost their son to the cause that they had raised him to believe in, they did not put themselves before the need of their community.

After the martyrdom of their son, the government followed up with the usual official visits for condolences. And asked what they could do to help them. When the government asked what could be done for the family,  they could havked for anything for themselves. Money, job or promotion to name a few. They asked for none of these things.

Instead, they asked for a school, a dispensary and a road to be built for theircommunity. Even in the face of this great loss, they remained true selfless Pakistanis. And here I was thinking that none existed!

I am honored to be from the same country as them. And I hope that someone in the government has shown their appreciation for your devotion to the country, by honoring your community with a school named after your brave son. I pray that through this school, your community will raise many other brilliant sons and daughters who will not only serve the country but will be an inspiration for us all.

I hope the government is listening or reading if they arent already busy in building that school and road and dispensary.

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