Bogged down

Apologies for the shameless self-promotion:

But, in our attempt to actually change how Pakistan is viewed, just what exactly are we achieving – if anything? Musharraf’s ‘enlightened moderation’ brought about a multitude of criticism, primarily because it was viewed as unislamic. But it had a more relevant criticism that was rarely proffered; ‘enlightened moderation’ was superficial. It did not attempt to face, let alone solve, the many crises Pakistanis on a regular basis face. Now with Musharraf no longer in charge, none of those criticisms are voiced, but the superficial good ‘enlightened moderation’ managed to achieve is still existent.

And these availed opportunities are what we now present to the rest of the world as proof and evidence that Pakistan is growing – that it’s a place of hope and ambition, of love and peace, of independence and equality. Facebook is pummeled with pictures of Northern Pakistan, showing our beautiful mountain ranges and the calm, stoic beauty of Lake Saif-ul-Muluk. These pictures beckon everyone to realize that Pakistan exists beyond bomb blasts and honour killings, beyond corruption and institutional thievery. But what relevance does the beauty of Pakistan have? Every country on earth is beautiful. Mountains, lakes and plains cannot speak for people, and it sure as hell cannot compensate for their acts.

We try and show the world that we drink and party, that we have bands who regularly play live (or at least used to). We show them our burgeoning fashion scene, and the increasing importance assigned to literature. We show them that Pakistan is moving beyond feudalism and moving towards an assertion of our independence (sexual and social). We show them young upstart politicians and business people. But how much of this is happening for the common man, and not for our elites?

Less than 5% of Pakistanis earn more than 25,000 rupees a month, according to a survey by the International Republican Institute. This is, for two reasons, an astonishing statistic. First, because of the sheer percentage of people who are able to earn more than 25k, and second the fact that it’s 25k – a truly paltry sum. It brings into context the poverty that exists in Pakistan, when 5% of Pakistanis can lay claim to earning this amount. How many, then, earn more? The gap here, between the middle class and our elites is almost as substantial. But nothing we do at this moment in time affects this statistic, or indeed poverty. Lavish, colorful get-togethers and an active music scene don’t really affect our economy enough to pull more people from under the poverty line. Neither do more boutiques opening up on M.M Alam Road.

Pakistan is not a state at ease. Christians and other minorities often find themselves at the wrong end of the stick. Women are, as I’ve stressed many times already, repressed violently. Equality is a word that doesn’t seem to exist in this country, but corruption seems to one that’s everywhere. Every time we try and tell someone this isn’t the case, and that our snow-laden mountains and country clubs are evidence of a better Pakistan not heard about in mainstream Western media circles, we do ourselves an immense disservice. We do the people of Pakistan a great disservice, because we slide their grievances aside. It’s about time we stop doing that, so that we’re able to fashion a Pakistan where if someone opines that we’re a society built on inequality and oppression, we can show them actual evidence of how that is not the case. So that when we try and explain that Pakistan isn’t a hellhole, we can do so with a straight face.


From here.

I bring this up because I keep seeing attempts on the part of nearly everyone to continously avoid the bigger problems we face. Rauf Klasra’s ‘investigative’ pieces on Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz taking home millions of gifts presented while they were in office is another of these little issues we mire ourselves in. Yes, they were undervalued. Yes, neither of them had a right to any of them. But if Shaukat Aziz/Musharraf take home an antique vase, a rolex or an expensive briefcase, how exactly does that affect your common Pakistani working in a paddy? How exactly does it affect the incoming President and Prime Minister either?

It doesn’t. All it does is offer the public a chance to spew some extra vitriol at those two figures, because God knows they’re somehow still relevant. So we feign surprise at the fact that our these two were corrupt. Except, aren’t the people in charge of us right now equally corrupt? But there’ll be no investigative journalism dicking on Zardari. Or any of the countless MNAs and MPAs. And even if there was, the outcome would be zilch. Nada. Nothing.

My point being, Pakistan has institutional problems. Just because we’re able to oust Farah Dogar’s designs on getting into a medical college on the basis of her father being the CJ doesn’t mean everyone else in Pakistan is going to stop doing the exact same fucking thing. Just because we’re able to show that Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz ‘stole’, doesn’t mean every other Pakistan won’t fucking steal either!

Why we get stuck arguing over and getting angry over these pathetic little fucking things when the issues and problems that plague us are far more substantial, I have no idea. Maybe it’s our way of looking past the bigger issues – our way of ignoring things. If that is the case, then we’ve been doing it since forever and have gotten particularly good at it too!

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7 thoughts on “Bogged down

  1. Perhaps people feel that these things are worth more media-attention? After all is said and done, Pakistanis crave schaudenfreude like everyone else and we like to see corruption cases being aired out in the public like that. Makes us feel vindicated.

    As for real issues … well, it’s easy enough to say that the average Pakistani doesn’t have time for that. Can enjoy the Farah Dogar case but won’t like discussing institutional problems and measures to implement solutions.

    Ironic. Sad.

    And all true.

  2. You’re a student or politics? At which university?

    That aside, how do you and I contribute to changing these institutional problems? Our nations needs a leader, and even we, the urban,educated youth, is corrupt in one way or another. Yes, we may have more sense than all our political leaders, but I still see a lack of integrity and honesty among us (youth). I think that were we to enter politics, we would lose ourselves and become just like the politicians we already have. Perhaps these very politicians were like us too, once?

    We need someone whom nobody has any complaints against, who has no record of compromise. Does such a person exist? There’s edhi. Does such a person exist who is young? Don’t know.

  3. Yeh tum woh retarded Made in Pakistan wali cheez kee taraf point kar rahay ho nah?
    People from abroad are doing this to us as well. This alternative portrayal. The Pakistan episode of Don’t tell my mother I was in and that BBC documentary on Karachi and life there that came out during the sixtieth anniversary wala saal.

  4. Essam:

    Nah. I’ve just seen a trailer for Made In Pakistan and it didn’t ‘seem’ that bad. There was another film earlier focusing around four people in particular; a young girl with her own designer store, a young politician, a young banker (broker?) and someone else.

    Yes a lot of foreign media is trying to do it too – but they’re foreigners. Their understand of Pakistan is different – plus it’s no use for them to show up how pathetic our educational system is. Everyone else in the world will for the near future continue to view us through the prism of terrorism; either as terrorists and neanderthals, or as people who smoke up/consume alcohol/watch grey’s anatomy.

  5. ofcourse.

    though I’d like to clarify that I don’t have a problem with people smoking up/drinking – if that’s how it came across when I said it. Substitute grey’s anatomy with desperate housewives or house/the wire (both shows I love). Just meant generally…

  6. I dont see what you fail to understand about the whole affair. Perhaps its because of the use of words like ‘we’ which reifies and taints collective experience. The private media plays by the rules of capitalism – plain and simple – going wherever it needs to go. Agenda setting by the mass media is hardly ever questioned in popular discourse, even around the world, so it is no surprise that it is happening here. In a way, the mass media is a problematic vehicle through which to carry inconvenient truths; hence the lack of focus on institutional issues. The focus on these will only come about once conflict is tangible but discussion over these issues will remain off the radar (not to mention that if something sane is said on the television for a change, it will be ignored by the people) when the conflict is latent. Dont expect any changes in the ‘international perception and image’ of Pakistan to take place anytime soon.

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