Today marks the 67th Independence Day anniversary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The country of Pakistan can boast the fact that it is the world’s first and only nation created as a designated homeland specifically for the people of the Islamic faith. Reported to be the sixth most populous country in the world, not to mention, coming in second after Indonesia as the most populous Muslim-majority nation, its population is not exclusively made up of Muslims. Rather, Pakistan is home to a rich assembly of religious, cultural, and linguistic diversity. But they don’t tell you that in the news, do they? I think You Should love Dil Dil Pakistan Jan Jan Pakistan.
Nor do they inform you of Pakistan’s beautiful natural landscape, from the snow-capped mountains towering over Kashmir to the lush countryside of the Punjab. Or about how we’ve historically contributed more personnel to UN peacekeeping missions around the world than any other country, or about how routinely young Pakistani students excel in internationally standardized exams, or about our delicious cuisine—a combination of cultures from as far apart as the Middle East, southern India and even China.
In its comparably short lifespan, and arguably even before its conception, Pakistan has carried a tremendously turbulent history throughout its existence complemented by an ever-teetering international image in the Western world. Especially with the aftermath of the horrific attacks on September 11th, 2001 and most recently, Operation Neptune Spear carried out in Pakistan ten years later, which resulted in the death of the infamous Osama Bin Laden, the Pakistani identity in the West has been smeared with shame.
As a first generation American Muslim born to Pakistani immigrant parents, I know very well the struggles many first generation Westerners of Pakistani origin face while growing up in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. I certainly cannot speak for all, but I have both witnessed and experienced a trend of almost shunning our Pakistani identity in favor of our western identity during our school years. In fact, we detest or recoil uneasily when any personal attention, spun in a negative or derogatory manner, is called upon our heritage. Not only that, but we also go through lengths to hide this side of ourselves, as though it is a bad thing to be a Pakistani. “Of course we don’t eat “curry” every day…” we claim while covertly sniffing ourselves, you know, just in case.
It happens to the best of us. First generations face an internal struggle to identify themselves, neither feeling that they are truly a part of their parents’ homeland nor that they are truly accepted in their own land of birth. Fortunately, most of us do eventually grow out of this period of internal conflict. In fact, we come to realize that we should not be embarrassed of our Pakistani heritage but that we should embrace it, and celebrate it. Why? Because we have a multitude of reasons to do so.
And then you watch the Pakistani news channels.
We are bombarded, for the lack of a better word, with chaotic images and video segments of occurrences in the ‘motherland’ via Pakistani television networks. We see that, among the remarkable diversity in Pakistan, mere political guest speakers cannot even let their comrade speak without interrupting them. We routinely probe relatives and friends who have recently visited Pakistan regarding the halat, or condition, of the country. Poverty, political corruption and greed, illiteracy, diseases—due to a host of complex reasons—are all bursting within the confines of our country. It hurts to watch. It does not help the case that Pakistanis cannot reach a political consensus, and sadly that some even persecute one another, but too many are also victims of American CIA drone strikes. We constantly ask ourselves, ‘Is there any hope for our homeland?’
Fear not. I try to remain as positive as possible, comforted by the fact that America—the “leader” in world power, too, faced similar political turmoil a mere 67 years into its nationhood. In fact, at that time, the United States of America was brewing its way into a nasty and unforgettable civil war.
The Pakistani situation is often dire and seemingly hopeless. But Pakistan has so much to offer to the world. As Pakistanis, the one thing we can do is to persist. Persist as a people, and persist as a nation. And how do we do that?
As a student of history, I inherently value the analysis of the past. You do not have to be a history major to see the necessity of understanding the past. We NEED to learn from the world’s history to make informed decisions as we strive to create a better future for ourselves and for generations to come after us. History, after all, is more than a mere story of the past. It is a palpable force propelling us into the present and future, providing us with the opportunity to change its course with every conscious decision that we make.
What better way, on this day of all days, than to explore your own personal Pakistani history? I encourage you to revisit your family history today. Ask your grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles, and anyone else. Discuss your heritage and especially inquire about the Partition. After all, it was that incredible journey that provided us with this identity, this spirit that we must try to revive.
As Muslims we should remember to never allow our love for our homeland to override our devotion to our religion, but I think it is safe to take a little pride today (and any other day) in being Pakistani. Dil Dil Pakistan Jan Jan Pakistan After All Pakistan Zindabad!