The ritual happens every year. No sooner does August 1 arrive
that my neighbor’s kids, clad in their dirty shorts bought from Lunda
Bazaar, hoist a large SABZ HILALI PARCHAM (Pakistani Flag
with Crescent and star with White & Emerald Green colors in the background) atop their roof. I wonder if they really mean to uphold the green flag and live under its shadow. I wonder if they really comprehend what the green flag symbolizes. I wonder if they will continue to do so when they grow up and find that the piece of cloth they held so sacred represents a country that has nothing to offer. No job, no opportunity, no clean drinking water, no respite from the cruelties of powers that matter: police, bureaucracy, military, politicians, IMF, World Bank. Yet, I see their father step out every morning in search of his daily wages with the same optimism
that I have seen, in black and white photographs, on the faces of
those who had come to this Land of Pure half a century ago.
14th August is approaching and so is my yearly self-analysis. I ask
myself if I am really doing the right thing when I stand Air Defense
Alert to protect the airspace of a country that is divided as Sindhi,
Balochi, Pakhtun, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Bhatti, Qureshi, Choudary, Khan,Mian, Deobandi, Brelvi, Sunni, Shia and what not. And the wallsbetween these divisions are higher than the walls between North and South, Occident and Orient.
Twelve years ago, on the same day, I gave a speech to a group of cadets at the US Air Force Academy who were amazed that Pakistan means Land of Pure.
What I see today is far from purity and what I am about to say will surely get me in trouble but fight we must until we root out this evil that maims and haunts this Land of Pure.
I see pictures of children (children of a lesser god perhaps) with
their twisted legs and limbs. Thanks to the toxic efflux of nearby
industries. No body will ever figure out what has gone wrong and
nobody will ever be punished because the people who are supposed to check these things have their own sufficient supply of mineral water and in some cases mineral water brought from Alps.
I see public transport being blown up by bombs and human limbs and
flesh scattered around. And Chief Minister / Governor making vehementorders to catch the culprits in 24 hours. Those 24 hours nevermaterialize. And the poor nation also forgets and moves on with its life.
I see a lady teacher at SPS who has taught and groomed children of
affluent people to become successful professionals only to see her ownchild of 12 years to be taken away by the mullahs to fight a war. Heprobably does not even know who are his adversaries.
I see trucks and trolleys full of flag totting and slogan raising
youth standing by the roadside, in this summer heat, to welcome a leader of a political party. Their poverty, illiteracy and joblessness clearly evident from the quantity and smell of their sweat, only to see their beloved leader arrive in a luxury vehicle worth 5-million rupees. Sitting comfortably as a pharaoh. Makes me feel like throwing up.
I see an ex-chief Minister, clad in a starched white shalwar-kameez standing next to a Governor, posing for a photograph to be published next morning, only to be taken away for embezzlement in Bait-ul-Maal Funds, for renovating his personal house out of public funds, for allotting public land at throw away prices. Makes me sick even to write about.
I see the proceedings of Punjab Assembly. Members sitting comfortablyin their powerful seats. Aura of power, arrogance and apathy hanging in the air, only to see that the session last for two hours during which the only point of discussion was, “how come a district food controller was not transferred out despite repeated orders of a local Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA)”. Two hours gone down the drain, of an elected body that represents a province where 70% of the population does not have clean drinking water, where the number of people living below the poverty line is rapidly increasing, where 4 armed vandals takeover a bus and, one after the other, rape each and every girl sitting in the bus.
I see the Deputy Commissioner of a district. Again clad in a sickening
starched shalwar-kameez, two mobile phones set on his mahogany desk, his obese body fixed in a reclining chair as if he has been implanted there with the help of a crane. Reminded me of a character from “Gingrich who stole the X-mas”. And swarms of people lurking outside his office with applications in one hand and money in the other.
I see a Superintendent of Police, with his sleeves rolled up to his
shoulders to show sickening biceps as if he is the toughest guy aroundand a den of drug pushers conveniently doing business about 50 yardsfrom his office.
I see a long row of posh houses being constructed, on a prime land,
for the military brass of a third world country. I see a whole C-130
aircraft of a third world country’s air force being used to haul
musicians and other entertainers. I see the military of a this country
spending public money to maintain golf courses while 90% of the
population lacks proper sewage and drainage facility.
I see, every morning, a swarm of people strongly paddling their
bicycles to work only to be stopped by the traffic sergeant so that
the cavalcade of a government officer, consisting of a land cruiser and
mobile police escort, may conveniently cross.
I see a Customs Superintendent (a BPS-11 or 12 official) agreeing to
give up Rupees 20 million to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) authorities.
I see Customs Inspectors with total salary of Rupees 4400 coming to work in brand new Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas. I see a peon, working at the cargo section of Lahore Airport, daily take away about 1000 rupees by the end of his hard working day.
I see arrays of loudspeakers, mounted on the minarets of mosques builtin every street, calling the faithful to prayers and yet I see a horde
of semi-nude youngsters sexually assault and molest foreign lady
visitors, right in the middle of a public place and cheered by the
I regularly see this Land of Pure from a bird’s eye view and whatever
I see from air is nothing less than what I have seen in the world’s only
I see snow capped mountains rich of minerals that we have
not exploited, I see deserts full of natural gas and oil and deserts
which turn green in spring (Thal Desert), I see geometrically
arranged, fertile lands in the plains of Punjab that used to feed the entireBritish empire, I see the world’s most contiguous irrigation network and above all I see a people who have excelled in every nook and corner of this planet as white collar and blue collar professionals. Yet I see a country that is sliding down the drain.
Somebody please tell me, are we cursed?