Medicine has its limitations. If the cancer spreads beyond a certain limit, doctors unfurl a white flag. Science is an ardent disbeliever in miracles, yet it cannot challenge the dexterity inherent to will power. Against all odds, if still there is a fierce avidity to live you can rate one thing for sure: the game isn’t over yet.

No points for guessing who holds synonymy with this case on state level. Failed state on free fall, no hope, white flags are things attributed to us for quite some time now-rather decades to be precise. Yet here we are today, on the 64th anniversary of our birth. Every year we are declared on the brink of collapse and every time we bail out more time.  So while we don’t have much happy news to cheer about on 14th of August, we deserve a pat for surviving one more year and standing on the 64th stair. And this by no means is sarcasm. No nation has seen or suffered as much as we did; the circumstances in which life comes to stand still or nations collapse all together. Yet, despite all infelicities we didn’t embrace a dead end. The brink yet waits to be crossed, for no matter how bad things are-we are obstinate survivors.

Paradoxically, we also have the same adamant fervor when it comes to staying in mess, or dipping in our feet a few more inches down. It hints a dilemma of being cut in an ardor to live-yet not knowing how to live.

My earliest memories regarding this day is seeing too much green and hearing patriotic songs on television; the same ones every year and those very same ones even the next year and so on. Same I can say about the president’s speech; different face, same words. The significance of this day is not to look back, learn from our malfeasances, and see through our errors and to think out solid routes for steering the ship back to track. It’s just a formality-a green one.

This year is no exception to these traditional national rituals. We gather for celebrating the country we attained with the objective of protecting our interests, for cherishing the fruits of independence. Yet, here after sixty four years we have a part handcuffed in the same chains of deprivation and fighting for identity. Yes, there is a province called Balochistan. A classic example of the fact that we don’t learn from past mistakes and that fate punishes you for doing that-quite severely. History is just re-telecasting the 1971 episode.

Now before I speak about the unequal administrative and economic incidents that have led to this bitter tug I do acknowledge one vital baseline. The tribal system in Balochistan was not any easy barrier to surpass while carrying out the welfare ventures. As much as the biasness on the successive governments’ part is true, some albatross also falls on the tribal infatuation to monopoly power. Despite all this, we should have foreseen what’s coming, especially after the acerbic dose of East Pakistan separation. We took the issue casually, underestimated the consequences, failed to do more and here we are now.

Now coming to the more lugubrious note of this tale, what can’t be denied is the insouciance that Balochis have suffered under our shade since ages.  It’s not a conflict that was born overnight, rather the roots of this transgression stain decades.  What more can elucidate this than the fact that Balochistan was not even given the status of province as long as 1970? One would have thought things got better after this but the tides took an even uglier turn. The discovery of the biggest gas reservoirs in 1953 should have changed the fate of Balochis in terms of prosperity and economic activity. What happened was more than just contrary. Household and commercial gas was supplied to Punjab from Sui as far back as 1964 but Quetta was connected to gas in 1986. Today, even the remotest areas in Punjab and Sindh enjoy fuel supply, but out of Balochistan’s 26 districts only 4 are supplied gas. The poverty and illiteracy rate is also highest in this region. After this state of affairs, what is happening isn’t something that should raise eye brows in surprise. While many may try to wipe the ugly scars by attributing it to separatists or foreign hand, the thing is they are also not born from empty spaces. If loopholes are provided, someone is bound to pound upon them. Things may be slipping out of hand, but if we resolve to incentives and reforms instead of force and coercion then worse can be saved.

Balochi kids in their traditional dress. A culturally vibrant province now shadowed by violence and political unrest.

Today is a new beginning, what is direly needed is to address this issue in forefront of the outline of our new chapter. If not done, painting everything green won’t solve our problems even by a long shot.

Seemingly, the crucial issues at national level are usually not enough for us. We take even a step forward and meddle in international affairs only to land from the frying pan into the fire. Every year there are those promises of progress and welfare. But issues like our foreign policy, that have yielded nothing but consistent trouble for us are not revisited-even after 64 years. We suffered from our foreign policy of alliance in past, all we did was to repeat the same blunder in 2001 in Afghan war. Instead of trying to hold our fragile pieces intact, we ventured out to play proxy wars with big buddies. Now with nothing but terrorists and extremist plunderers in our hand in return, we have more in mouth than we can chew.  And again, today marks a new chapter. Serious in-depth re-examination of such affairs will do better justice to the partition sacrifices than a few television programs dedicated to 14th August.

The last year devastating floods during monsoon spell of July are also an example in this case. According to Pakistani government data, the floods directly affected 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, with a death toll close to 2,000. So after a year, again we are at the mercy of monsoon rain, hoping that this time the sky will be a bit kinder. Careful planning of combating future catastrophes by dams and water channeling networks is something we forgot to decide on last 14th August.

The house of cards hasn’t crumbled to ground yet. Despite all this mess that has landed us in a quagmire right now, we are a nation born to live. Our lives are eclipsed with violence, daily blasts, political and social turbulence. Still, owing to our abnormal immunity life goes on. Streets are not deserted, markets are still in constant hustle-bustle, and we as students still eat in the same cafes blown to bits previously. We have learned to live in hard times and it is this very resilience that proves our unmatchable fortitude. It serves as a token to hope and faith. All that waits is to direct this energy in the right direction and remove the obstacles that cloud our path. Today is no ordinary day. We are embarking a new journey. A better future is only possible if the priorities at the start of the day are sorted out right. Let’s hope today is not just about waving flags.

64 thoughts on “It’s not about just being green

  1. Yet again you shame me for my ignorance.

    We live in the 21st century, yet I find I know almost nothing of a world I thought I understood.

    That so much poverty and suffering should be part of your lives, yet we here in the UK know so little about it.

    Pakistan WILL survive, but only if it serves ALL its people and not just those favoured few.

    What I fear is that Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons – but how many people are living in poverty that the money used to build the weapons could have been used to save?

    All it will take is one moment of madness and carnage will be the result.

    I pray that your country finds its way and grows once more…

    Love and hugs!


    • I agree with your point, esp about nukes. they have brought more trouble for both Pak and India rather than something positive. its just a race now, one country becomes nuclear power, the other runs to do the same, one fires a missile, the others shoots to test one with superior technology. and while doing so, all the budget is diverted to this lunacy instead of feeding millions struck with hunger. I hope one day this turns to a race of economic and social welfare.
      have a nice day :]

      • Am a little skeptical about he nukes part.. They are very much needed in every country for you never know when the need arrives n better to have it than to be left helpless in the end.. N speaking of freedom, looks more like we were freed from one back in 1947 n ended up being prisoned by another till this day (corrupt government).. That would apply to most of the countries in the world.. I hope this year brings more hope n prosperity to both the countries..

        • nukes for defense are one thing but when it melts down to rivalry then things get complex. Pak-India tension over this issue is living example for this case. I dont know but i feel the world was better off without any nukes at all. with nukes comes power/influence that can be exploited easily.
          and yea about the enslavement thing I agree…

  2. Pingback: It’s not about just being green | Tea Break

  3. Your post brought the Newsweek flood special cover image to mind that said “World’s bravest nation, Pakistan”. I think to start with, we need to “Respect” our fellow citizens for whatever religious or ethnic background they come from! This is what “WE” can do as the people of Pakistan. Help make peace people! And Habiba, “Happy Independence day” buddy 🙂

  4. happy independence day pakistan! loved it when you said ‘new face, same words’ about the leaders. anyway how did you celebrate?, besides this post hehe

  5. The Philippines is also surrounded with poverty and corruption. When I read your post, I could see myself also being affected by the continuing misery of my people. I wish and pray that your country will prosper , that there would be peace, a better life for all and not just a few. That the young children will experience a better future ahead. I hope too that the celebration will be more than just waving the flag. That people would really live the meaning of independence. Great post.Wishing you and your family peace , love and happiness.

  6. Your voice is one of many that sounds so right and so true… But whose listening… Does your voice reach the right people?
    Everybody has ideas and solutions for Pakistan. How to get rid of poverty, how to bring peace and prosperity.
    But when the politicians are only feeding their own self interests, who listens to the common man?

    While the rich get richer the poorer become poorer. Sadly today while I watched a nation celebrate it’s independence day I had only onequestion to ask… What is there to celebrate?

    I see struggles and struggles. Pakistan’s govt is useless and corrupt. While it’s easy to say we should learn some respect for each other and other religions and cultures. How about the govt learns some self respect and some pride for the country that the are only interested in looting.

    You made some good points… It is a surviving country but still one of the poorest 3rd world countries.

  7. Hi hun! 🙂

    Just caught your comment – thanks for the visit! 🙂

    Yep: Still alive – our local trouble teens are all missing, but I still only go out when I have to – and Manchester is quiet after last week’s rioting.

    Looks like we got off lucky this time – only five dead – but four were just trying to protect their communities from the scum trying to wreck it while the fifth was shot dead for reasons we don’t yet know.

    Hard to believe people can do this in a supposedly civilised country…

    Thanks for the best wishes sweetheart – I will! 🙂

    Huge hugs my friend!


  8. Happy 64th Habiba, and I, as Sir Prenin, find myself floating in a sea of ignorance. It seems we in Britain, as presumably many other countries, are unaware of the turmoil raging within your borders. We only hear news bulletins on High Profile incidents , as with Asama Bin Laden, and none of the interior happenings. Much like our latest troubles here, the riots were shown time and time again and other Countries supposed that we all were under threat , whereas it was local troubles in small areas of five the largest of towns, and seems to have quickly died down in a matter of days… I do hope you’re right, and that your sheer resilience will win through and make the future a better place for you and your people, May enlightenment come to those with the power and the will to change things for the better, my friend. xPenx

    • i think a great leader for pakistan is yet to be born.. he will come one day.. and when he comes he will do what for pakistan what no one has done before… might even be a female.. you never know.. 🙂 could be habiba herself!!

      by then a lot of peoples thinking will have changed too.. there will be a better generation of educated people who will have the guts and power to move this country along…

      • me and leader lols 🙂
        btw on a serious note, i dont think its about a getting the right leader. if some change has to come its only possible by collective efforts. but yes guidance is very important here, at the time being we can only hope about it.
        thanks for the input :]

      • Aneesa, the next generation will be educated and ethical thieves and thugs, they surely will have the power and guts to let flow this country to the gutter on the streams of corruptions, barbarisms, and depravity :-p
        This very badly wounded and injured country is dying– believe me.

  9. but it is abt waving flags Habi, no?? it is a wonderful article really really nice. but does it ever make a difference?? the thought provoking words that is? i dont know.. watever u suggest should be done who on earth is gona do that? the people’s strength is reduced to earning one time’s bread hardly enough, they cant even think abt coming on streets, though unbelievable but it is true. we have no electricity, we stay quiet n manage, no gas we manage, even no food no shelter no security we manage even then. yes u r right, we are resilient but are we alive enough to bring a change? to make the difference? i cant say now.

    we are now the same nation who is spanked every morning with shoes when they cross the bridge n when the king doubles the spanking bash all that the people are concerned abt is that the king must recruit more personnel to jootafy them cz they get late for their works.

    • well, i cant deny the fact that what you are saying is truth-bitter one. When people dont even have enough to fill their tummies then they are pretty much justified in their dont-give-a-damn attitude about such things.
      but its just that when things are crumbing right in front of your eyes, its hard not to comment on the state of affairs.

  10. Do you think you could make a start, by saying once for all that you have more in common with your large bulky clumsy neighbour to the East ? Or is that asking too much ?

    • of course not, plus its not like i never thought of this or dont hold the same view as yours here. Already many times i have made by stance clear about the stereotypical attitude regarding “paroosi mulk”. And its not just me, in the blooming social media now many people are trying to make this point. You should read the Op eds in Dawn and express tribune, people are speaking up. but a revolutionary change in public attitude and perceptions will take time.

      • No need of any revolutionary change, with so many young and confident people like you in Pakistan, the country is actually in safe hands. There will be problems of course, but which country does not ?
        My office is located next to the Singapore Consulate, and a few days back, they hoisted the ASEAN flag side by side with their own national one, fluttering equally, and no doubt they would be positing themselves globally in this manner. I marvelled at their sense of organisation. We have a long way to go.

  11. Hello Habiba
    I know some lovely people from Pakistan,
    of which you are one.
    I for one hope that your country not only survives,
    but prospers.

    Thinking of you Habiba x

  12. It is indeed a shame that money is not better spent,
    millions of whatever currency is lavished upon nuclear
    warheads instead of supplying the hungry with basic
    and most needed food and clean water to drink…

    A very good posting my friend and one can only hope
    that good sense prevails over the senselessness of nuclear
    rockets and missiles…

    Be very well my friend and enjoy the rest of your weekend…


  13. I cannot help but feel that you are exaggerating when you say that no other nation has suffered as much as Pakistan/Pakistanis. I think that is a bit insulting, to lets say Jews who were gassed with Zyklon B, or to Japanese on whose slender children was dropped Fat Boy, and countless other examples.

    The problems of Pakistan will not be solved when the Pakistani people are divided about the meaning of their country, was it meant to be a theocratic Islamic state which implements Sharia, or a secular progressive state where Allah is an imaginary God as far as politics are concerned. And I do not think solution to that conflict will be ever found. Were not Pakistanis then, as people, better off with India? Or perhaps, the state of Pakistan could be dissolved and a new state can be formed anew but this time with much more clarity about what its ideology is going to be.

    • For you it might be exaggeration but for us its not. where yes every nation saw its share of dark times, but how many suffer from blasts like on daily basis? Might not be a big deal for you, but it sure is for us, also the fact that we still live through it without coming to a stand still. So on 14 Aug, i guess i had the right to acknowledge this unwavering stamina of people.
      As for your next point, i agree its a mess. Ideology is a toy played up by many in the course of history. so badly mutilated and hammered that now its just a ploy used for power exploitation. For this particular reason i believe we should stop fussing over the “whys” and purposes of ideology and say goodbye to it for once and all. a nation should direct its course according to the circumstances and challenges at hand, not some conflicted issues of history.

  14. Baluchistan is on fire and in literal meaning of the word. Did we learn anything from the annexation of Dacca ? Doesn’t look like it.

    The woes of Baluchis stand as they were while our hyper media ready to tear everything apart under the sun placidly sleeps over it for the reasons best known to them. The mystery of missing persons continue to shroud the facts. There are those innocent people being killed by the security forces and then there are those as well who are kidnapped and murdered by nationalists.

    Unless we are prepared to take some revolutionary & confidence building measures that are inevitable, we better be prepared for the worst.

    A heart touching and timely post on the subject.

  15. Noting the comments in this blog, and the blog in general itself, is depressing !
    So let me have a word again.
    The talk about the “annexation of Dacca” and reproach about Bangladesh ’71, will get Pakistanis nowhere. It will be like Indians ( me included ) feeling ’47 should not have happened, and we should all have been together. But then I wasn’t around back then, and neither were you, dear reader.
    However, I was around in ’71, and as a junior schoolkid, in Calcutta, I trudged from my school on a December evening to my home, and as it happened, walked into the Maidan, the large expanse of green in Calcutta, where there were millions of people, and Sheikh Mujib, who was on his way to reach his new country Bangladesh the next day, began to speak, by the side of the Ochterlony Monument ( later named Shaheed Minar ). He started by thundering ” Amar Shonar Bangla “, meaning My Golden Bengal, and the roar that came out of several million throats, shook the ground that one stood on, like an earthquake. That combined roar resonates in my ears to this day.

    And there was no ” annexation “. The Indian army had a time-limit to withdraw fully in three months, and they did. There were 90,000 plus prisoners-of-war from Pakistan, and they were all generally treated well in camps in India, ( mind you, the Indian economy was doing very badly then, with garibi-hatao, the slogan of the day ) though few probably live to tell the tale now, having died of old age. I feel a terrific opportunity was lost in not letting any of these 90,000 plus, give a voice to their experiences. They were just prematurely withdrawn from service after they got back home, no kudos, no medals, nothing. They would have made great goodwill ambassadors.
    Well, no use lamenting the past, let’s hope that we can all make it together sooner rather than later. And concentrate on true issues like sharing of resources, energy, water, food, education, culture and so on.

    • On a personal level, i believe history should not decide the direction a state has to take. If we closely look, all the prejudice and hatred among states is nourished by deriving inspiration from past-such a useless trend. Discussions like why partition took place and rants of ideology hardly make any sense to me. Whats gone is gone, our eyes should be focused on future. the need of time is to focus on economic and development reforms such as you mentioned. Thanks for the input.

      • Agree one-hundred percent. Yet as someone said, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

        In today’s Dawn, Mr. IA Rehman has written:

        “” Mr Nawaz Sharif would only sink into the marsh of bigotry if he did not find the courage to tell the born-again advocates of the two-nation theory that whatever the theory was it was dropped by the wayside by the author of it himself 64 years ago.””

        Much appreciate your writing, Habiba ji, keep it up ! I guess age would also have something to do with a person’s perspective. Younger lot can take the challenge and say how things ought to be, the elderly can only contemplate on how things ought to have been.

        • Would like to have the final word on this. Unfortunately, most Indians can’t have a large enough heart to accommodate the circumstances. This is the article written by Aatish Taseer in Wall Street Journal, and now of course, his half brother is abducted in Lahore, whereabouts unknown, even if alive or not, for that matter: I only write this, because you said ” What’s gone is gone ”

          WSJ Review

          Jul. 16, 2011
          Ten days before he was assassinated in January, my father, Salman Taseer, sent out a tweet about an Indian rocket that had come down over the Bay of Bengal: “Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology? Stick 2 bollywood my advice.”

          My father was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, and his tweet, with its taunt at India’s misfortune, would have delighted his many thousands of followers. It fed straight into Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with India, the country from which it was carved in 1947.

          Though my father’s attitude went down well in Pakistan, it had caused considerable tension between us. I am half-Indian, raised in Delhi by my Indian mother: India is a country that I consider my own. When my father was killed by one of his own bodyguards for defending a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, we had not spoken for three years.

          To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.

          The idea of Pakistan was first seriously formulated by neither a cleric nor a politician but by a poet. In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal, addressing the All-India Muslim league, made the case for a state in which India’s Muslims would realize their “political and ethical essence.” Though he was always vague about what the new state would be, he was quite clear about what it would not be: the old pluralistic society of India, with its composite culture.

          Iqbal’s vision took concrete shape in August 1947. Despite the partition of British India, it had seemed at first that there would be no transfer of populations. But violence erupted, and it quickly became clear that in the new homeland for India’s Muslims, there would be no place for its non-Muslim communities. Pakistan and India came into being at the cost of a million lives and the largest migration in history.

          This shared experience of carnage and loss is the foundation of the modern relationship between the two countries. In human terms, it meant that each of my parents, my father in Pakistan and my mother in India, grew up around symmetrically violent stories of uprooting and homelessness.

          But in Pakistan, the partition had another, deeper meaning. It raised big questions, in cultural and civilizational terms, about what its separation from India would mean.

          In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination.

          Had this assertion of national identity meant the casting out of something alien or foreign in favor of an organic or homegrown identity, it might have had an empowering effect. What made it self-wounding, even nihilistic, was that Pakistan, by asserting a new Arabized Islamic identity, rejected its own local and regional culture. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself.

          But there was one problem: India was just across the border, and it was still its composite, pluralistic self, a place where nearly as many Muslims lived as in Pakistan. It was a daily reminder of the past that Pakistan had tried to erase.

          Pakistan’s existential confusion made itself apparent in the political turmoil of the decades after partition. The state failed to perform a single legal transfer of power; coups were commonplace. And yet, in 1980, my father would still have felt that the partition had not been a mistake, for one critical reason: India, for all its democracy and pluralism, was an economic disaster.

          Pakistan had better roads, better cars; Pakistani businesses were thriving; its citizens could take foreign currency abroad. Compared with starving, socialist India, they were on much surer ground. So what if India had democracy? It had brought nothing but drought and famine.
          But in the early 1990s, a reversal began to occur in the fortunes of the two countries. The advantage that Pakistan had seemed to enjoy in the years after independence evaporated, as it became clear that the quest to rid itself of its Indian identity had come at a price: the emergence of a new and dangerous brand of Islam.

          As India rose, thanks to economic liberalization, Pakistan withered. The country that had begun as a poet’s utopia was reduced to ruin and insolvency.
          The primary agent of this decline has been the Pakistani army. The beneficiary of vast amounts of American assistance and money—$11 billion since 9/11—the military has diverted a significant amount of these resources to arming itself against India. In Afghanistan, it has sought neither security nor stability but rather a backyard, which—once the Americans leave—might provide Pakistan with “strategic depth” against India.

          In order to realize these objectives, the Pakistani army has led the U.S. in a dance, in which it had to be seen to be fighting the war on terror, but never so much as to actually win it, for its extension meant the continuing flow of American money. All this time the army kept alive a double game, in which some terror was fought and some—such as Laskhar-e-Tayyba’s 2008 attack on Mumbai—actively supported.

          The army’s duplicity was exposed decisively this May, with the killing of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. It was only the last and most incriminating charge against an institution whose activities over the years have included the creation of the Taliban, the financing of international terrorism and the running of a lucrative trade in nuclear secrets.

          This army, whose might has always been justified by the imaginary threat from India, has been more harmful to Pakistan than to anybody else. It has consumed annually a quarter of the country’s wealth, undermined one civilian government after another and enriched itself through a range of economic interests, from bakeries and shopping malls to huge property holdings.

          The reversal in the fortunes of the two countries—India’s sudden prosperity and cultural power, seen next to the calamity of Muhammad Iqbal’s unrealized utopia—is what explains the bitterness of my father’s tweet just days before he died. It captures the rage of being forced to reject a culture of which you feel effortlessly a part—a culture that Pakistanis, via Bollywood, experience daily in their homes.

          This rage is what makes it impossible to reduce Pakistan’s obsession with India to matters of security or a land dispute in Kashmir. It can heal only when the wounds of 1947 are healed. And it should provoke no triumphalism in India, for behind the bluster and the bravado, there is arid pain and sadness

  16. Anyone who can use the words lugubrious, insouciance and elucidate in one paragraph is alright by me. I find your insights informative. Thank you.

  17. I’m not a skeptic about the thought provoking word. I believe that it is the only thing that has a chance of making things better. Like some of your other readings, I am buried in ignorance.

  18. Tribalism is an issue the world over – a cycle of retribution and reconciliation – and is further complicated by all that you have mentioned here – imbalance of economic power, greed, complacency, no matter where you go in the world. But what you have said about the nation’s resilience and refusal to embrace “a dead end” is the key to hope for a better future – your voice of reason is also one of potential leadership for your generation – perhaps you should go into politics 🙂

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