If you are a Pakistani reading this, chances are you would repudiate what I have written. But my goal in writing this is to change the paradigm for most ambitious young people like me.
When I was previously working at Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Limited (FFBL:KA), we initially underwent a month orientation regarding the plant-related procedures. One of the managers there however took a different approach by asking us who we collectively were and we gave a unanimous answer that we were Muslims. It is fantastic when I come to think about it – to a simple question, our answer was based on our religion and not our citizenship. None of us said we were Pakistanis. To add insult to injury, the manager put forward another question and asked what sort of Muslims were we. Here, we diverged in our answers and some said Sunni, Wahabi, Shia etc. And he looked hard at us and said, “You are wrong”.
“How dare someone tell us we are wrong about our personal beliefs?” was the common thought embraced by us thirty two trainee engineers sitting in the conference room at that time. On silent reflection, I have come to the conclusion how right my former manager was.
With the emergence of big-data in the form of social networking websites, I have come to the conclusion that nothing sells like religion in this world. However, when it comes to our country Pakistan, the process of ideation, marketing, selling and buying of religious beliefs is extremely convex. The fundamental problem starts with the human beings existing in our country itself. We Pakistanis by and large are reactive people – we do not know how to direct our emotions. Our emotions make us blind to the point we are not able to differentiate the truth from the lie. Take a look at the recent example of the Burma “Massacre”. While nobody is denying the ethnic violence taking place in the country, there are certain groups that through shameless social media campaign have made the general masses in this country believe that more than twenty thousand (20,000) Muslims have been butchered by the Buddhists there. A blogger Faraz Ahmed (see the link here: Muslims Killing in Burma and our Social Media/Islamic Parties) took up the courage of finding the truth and found out the harsh truth that all the pictures circulating over Facebook were falsely edited/tagged. It is bemusing since in one corner we are aggrieved at the deaths of the Muslims occurring in another country but turning a deaf ear to the ethnic violence existing in our very own country. But alas, I forgot the Hazaras of Balochistan are not “Muslims” in literal terms and therefore do not require our thoughts, prayers at all. Dr. Abdus Salam is an epitome of such ethnic biases existing in our country whose contributions led to discovery of the Higgins-Boss particle. But he was an Ahmedi and does not require the level of respect he did as a human.
Our second problem is that it is not the low level of education that causes these biases to exist. No, my conclusion is that we as a nation resist to learn. Learned people are proactive people who understand that their actions have a direct consequence on their environment – both the micro and the macro. We as a nation refuse to learn from our experiences – whether there are good or bad. This has sadly made us believe that our lives are inconsequential.
So coming back to the perennial question – who are we? It is my understanding that although this is the most difficult question to answer but still there is a certain mechanism that needs to be employed if we want to remain gelled as a nation. We collectively, are a group of humans who were born on the soil of a country named “Pakistan” and not “Muslimistan”. Here is where I believe I need to tell my fellow country-men that you were not the only country that was formed on the basis of kalma. Israel, East Timur and countless other countries were formed on the basis of religion but the primary difference between us and those other nations that they got over the religious part and came back to the basic front. They realized that for any country to progress, they need to overcome the bias of religion.
Out of the 180 million population most of us are going to live, breathe and die on this land. So the question is – can we give up religion as a periphery of the slating men and women existing on this land and care for the greater good of this country? Yes, our forefathers got this piece of land on the homage “Pakistan ka matlab kia, la illaha illal la, Muhammad ur rasul ullah”, but being Pakistani is beyond that – it is acknowledging the teachings of a man who went to tender a sick woman who used to throw dirt and rubbish over him as he passed by, a man who was a trader as a profession and not a hermit, a man who did not hole up his followers in a room and made them rot the Qur’an but rather allowed the prisoners-of-war from the Badr War to pay jizya in the form of educating the children of the faithful. Yes, this one man was above the current religious brand that has been bestowed upon us by our forefathers and our media. He was an innovator. How many “Islamic” scholars in these current times would use such “heretic” words in preaching the “Muslims” existing in this nation?
Finally, Jalluluddin Rumi once mused (because Rumi never wrote his thoughts and those were written by his followers):
“Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?”
We sadly have become a mockery as a nation. This sentence might be hard to swallow against our “pride”. But the only way forward for us is to appreciate the true glue that can be used to bind the people in this country, and that glue is depositioning the current meaning of being and embrace one of our reasons for existence – we were born as Pakistanis and we owe it to this land in making progressive in every possible way.