by Agha Haider Raza
Looking at the past week, one can see how resilient Pakistanis have become. Suffering numerous suicide bomb attacks and wide-spread military action, we are here yet again, still standing. But how long can we sustain ourselves at this current rate of demolition? How many times will we resist smacking the hammer on our own foot? Nowadays we seem to have become the offspring of Glenn Beck and the Republican Party. With a constant denial of the harsh reality and a love for misconstruing and fabricating baseless facts that just aim to maim the United States, we seem to be struggling. And when we struggle, we play the role of a secluded, spoilt child. Prior to 9/11, we perfected this character, but now the circumstances have changed. We can no longer do as we please without being held accountable for our actions.Pakistan has suffered. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost at the hands of suicide bombs and ambush attacks. Women have lost husbands, sons and brothers and it is despicable at the number of families that have suffered. Much to the dismay of our right-wing journalists, I am not going to be making a presumed argument as to how India, Israel or even the United States are after Pakistan’s existence. It’s just not happening, guys! I feel it would also be fruitless to engage in a history lecture as to who gave rise to the mujahedeen since various institutions in our country groomed them. But by excluding so much, the foreign influence and historic aspect many would argue that I have no argument. But for a split second, would it be possible to sit and analyze how we can carry ourselves into the future rather than dissecting the past?
Many times a day, we read in the newspapers and on the internet, the extent by which America has extended its influence within Pakistan. From Blackwater to US diplomats wielding weapons and the constant chatter in regards to the Americans taking over our nuclear arsenal, we’ve heard it all. I would like to take this opportunity and remind my avid readers that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not hidden in any underground garage that can be easily picked up by “US diplomat”. I have more faith in my military that protects such weapons than those journalists and commentators who seem to believe otherwise.
The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, came and went. Although she was given a red-carpet upon landing, there were times where her reception was – well – jagged. Criticism and resentment towards the United States is understandable. Issues ranging from drone attacks (which is debatable!), alleged presence of US personnel and expansion of the US embassy are some of the concerns Pakistanis share. But how much credit have we given Hillary Clinton for taking the initiative of reaching out across the political spectrum? Firstly, she stayed for three days. Both President Bush and President Clinton had to arrive in secrecy in Pakistan, and the statements they made seem more like a photo-op than anything substantive. Upon meeting specific people, both Presidents took off and that was the end of their journey into Pakistan.
Secretary Clinton on the other hand, not only met those in office, but those outside of office as well. She took a step further and held a town-hall debate with students and met various journalists while giving time to Pashtun elders as well. But was this enough to please our right-wing journalists? Of course not! They had problems with the type of journalists she met, the transparency of the business leaders she conversed with and the lack of money she brought with her. Did they even dare comment on the extent to which she tried to rectify the failure of previous administrations? We only felt too proud, when a journalist claimed that we are fighting America’s war. Proud because we assumed someone was able to stand up to the mighty Clinton. Unfortunately, the moderator failed to realize that when a Pakistani is killed on a daily basis, it becomes the responsibility of our government and our military, thus our war.
I fail to understand how we keep asking for more aid money and assistance from around the globe, but at the same time are completely unwilling to be held accountable for the pennies we spend. We lambasted the IMF for bailing us out of near bankruptcy. No doubt the IMF places stringent conditions when offering loans, but is it safe to assume that if we had the money, we would not need to be borrowing? Pakistan’s tax-GDP ratio is a number that is so micro, I don’t think it would be visible here. On the other hand we enjoy receiving other countries money, as long as we do not tell them, where and how it is being spent. Frankly speaking, it is not fair to use aid money in this manner of secrecy, nor should we allow other countries to micromanage us, just because we have been given their aid money. This mantra of dil maange aur (the heart desires more) needs to stop. And can only stop if we are faithful to ourselves. Although we tend to be very egotistical when it comes all other issues, but taking a kashkol (begging bowl) to other countries seems to make us forget all about our ego.
Pakistan is at its wits end. We must take the reins of our future and grasp them tightly. Rooting out militants from South Waziristan is only a step towards cleansing our country of this disgusting and twisted ideology that causes inhumane persons to blow themselves up and kill others. Condemning the United States will not stop a child in Lahore from gathering a bogus understanding of Islam that will cause him to take the lives of others, nor will it rid us of the poverty in Karachi and unemployment issues in Peshawar. To counter this we need a united front in order to stop the ethnic tensions rising between us. This is where your role as a Pakistani citizen comes into play. All our lives we learnt not to point fingers at others, and now when the going gets tough, we find it only to easy blaming others for our predicaments. At the end of the day, we all know our destiny lies only in our hands; no other country has control over it. Believe it!