Tuesday, March 27, 2012


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/?p=173263 Printed Pakistan Today 26 March 2012

by Rabia Ahmed
Is Pakistan’s patience a blessing?                     

There was this on a friend’s Facebook profile: “I am not just bombs, poverty and corruption. I am Edhi's philanthropy, Arfa Karim's brilliance and Pervez Masih's sacrifice. I am Afridi's exuberance and Miandad's six. I am the fastest growing of IT industries, an ever-expanding middle class. I have fought dictatorships. I am 40,000 deaths for global peace. I am hospitality. I am the epitome of resilience and one of the bravest nations of the world. I am Pakistan!”

Each one of us can contribute stories about the resilience and bravery of the people of this country; here are mine:

At sixty, M, our cook, is a frail, scrupulously honest man. He must have married late because his family is young – a couple of unmarried daughters aged twenty one and twenty two and a feeble minded loafer of a son aged seventeen.

M himself not a towering intellect either has worked in the Middle East, so he was able to build a house for his family in Kashmir. On one of his visits to his native town from Lahore, he wanted to take back four kilos of minced beef. The beef in Lahore, he said, was much better than back home. I worried the meat would spoil, but ‘I have a fridge in the house,’ he assured me proudly. ‘I have a television and furniture and everything I need. It’s just that I have no money.’

Chitral, Pakistan
This bravely bittersweet confession is Pakistan. Damn right, we are not just about bombs and violence. Our people have everything: a beautiful country, minerals and other natural resources, brains and a sophisticated cultural heritage. It’s just that they have no money, and no peace.

Exposed to bombs and violence from above, beyond and within our midst, Pakistan’s resilience is providential but its patience in the face of such trials may be a mixed blessing.

Last week, according to officials, Taliban militants armed with guns and rockets killed at least three soldiers at a check post in the tribal region Khadizai near the Afghan border. The residents of Khadizai are familiar with these incidents since these areas, acrawl with insurgents, and bastions of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

According to Pakistan Today, ‘Islamist’ militants have killed more than 4,900 people across the country since July 2007 alone.

Life is cheap in Pakistan. When seven people died at the hands of a militant gunman in Toulouse, it shook the people of France and this incident is likely to have political ramifications for France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy.

In Pakistan, we leave it to tawdry scandals to achieve what loss of life, of whatever magnitude, cannot.

An eighteen-year-old boy perched atop the carpenter’s table at our under construction house the other day was writing in a book on his knee, tongue out and oblivious. When I asked him to show me what he was writing, he proudly displayed a page of writing in Urdu and told me about himself: by day he helps lay floors, at night he studies in grade one at his local madrassah.

They aren’t all cradles of militancy, these madrassahs, which like the words ‘Islamic’ and ‘Jihad’ have acquired negative overtones. Tell me where else is a man to go working as a tiler’s aide for less than three hundred rupees a day? The cheerfulness and courage of this hardworking boy studying in his spare time match the intelligence of Arfa, Afridi’s exuberance Pervez Masih’s courage and Miandad’s six, while many of these madrassahs are run on charity as large hearted as Edhi’s.

In the face of the merciless power shortage faced by this country, it is incredible that we are only now seeing some riots protesting against the problem. Given the past though, it is possible that after a month of these days more frequently without than with power, people will accept the fact that their businesses are unable to survive, their homes unable to function.

Is this defeatism or resilience, or a mixture of both? Is it providential, or would the country be better of if its people were less patient with their hardships?

Tailors are taking longer to complete their jobs because they say their workers refuse to use hand cranked sewing machines. Farm workers will not use manual water pumps. These old methods are the new ‘new’ technology, and like with all new technology our countrymen are loath to use them. They’d rather sink slowly but surely into darkness. And yet, there is the fast growing IT industry and middle class. So you tell me.

Pakistan has ever been a conundrum, a fact never better witnessed than on the cricketing field when its unnerving unpredictability so completely oversets the other team.

Who knows when this patience will turn into uncontrollable violence off the pitch?

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