What Independence Means After 70 Years

Source: BBC

Well, here is the 70th anniversary of the independence and we are supposed to be ecstatic.

Just imagine how it would be like on the 75th anniversary, or on the centennial, for that matter.

Well, I wish.

Because in my entire life, I have never felt more suffocated by Pakistan than on the 70th anniversary. I have never known Pakistan like I have on the 70th anniversary.

Never more disillusioned, nor more disappointed. It is like living in a prison with walls closing in that you would want to escape. But forget me. I feel for the 200 million others, most of who don’t even feel the suffocation that they are being subjected to.

It has been 70 years and still, there is no respect for a citizen of Pakistan.

It has been 70 years and still, there are people who are being harmed and abused by the state.

It has been 70 years and still, an elected leader has not completed their term, and one just got dismissed in a judicial coup.

It has been 70 years and still, Pakistan remains to be a theocracy.

The fact of the matter is that the minority religious groups are constantly jeopardized and marginalized by a hypocritical and morally

There are people in this country who will deny the rights to other communities for which they have claimed to win a separate country.

And in the same breath, they would complain about corruption and justice and transparency.

It is disappointing, to say the least.

The very root of this country is infected with a moral corruption that seems incurable at worst.

It is unfortunate that we still have people in this country who are not willing to give marginalized communities a chance in this country.

It is unfortunate that we still have people who would not agree to a fair social contract in this country.

Then there are people who say that freedom would remain to be an abstract, relative concept for every individual and group anyway?

So why celebrate the independence of a political regime after all?

But so much for being a contrarian.

So they tell us to celebrate 70 years.

70 years of independence from the British colonists? Yes.

70 years of independence from ignorance, tribalism, obscurantism, tyranny, and theocracy?

70 years of freedom of speech or freedom of political association?

NO.

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We Are All Guilty of Tribalism

Source: Dawn/AFP

You can’t help suppressing your anger when seeing hypocrisies such as the concern for the Rohingyas abroad but no love for the Hazaras and Shias locally, and outrage at Israel bombing Gaza, but silence on Saudi air strikes on Yemen, but is any of this surprising in the least bit?

As a matter of fact, you can easily see where they are coming from. The fact of the matter is that we are all guilty of tribalism one way or another.

You hardly notice any outcry when Muslims are massacring other Muslims, but our nation becomes totally protective and defensive when a third party is involved, such as India, Israel or the United States. When that happens, the problem immediately becomes an Ummah problem, and Muslims are lamented to be the perpetual victims.

It’s the same kind of tribalism that united the world against aliens in the hypothetical scenario in the movie The Independence Day, and it is more common than you think it is. After all, non-Muslims are sort of aliens to the Ummah.

Whether it is our reaction to the positions of the leaders and political parties we support, or an issue that we conveniently want to ignore, we choose what to speak out about. And also what to be upset about.

And how could we not?

What sort of a person remains perpetually outraged at every damn single thing on this planet?

I know the walls of many of your facebook and twitter friends look like that. I guess to a great extent my wall looks like that. But still that is not actually the case.

The simple fact of the matter is that we just don’t get upset at everything, at least not as much as we do on others. Because most of the time we would conveniently overlook any problems or wrongdoings from a party that shares our political cause.

We may acknowledge it, but it would hardly make us abandon supporting our party or the side of the cause.

For those of us who lean toward Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif completely ignore if there were a serious power outage crisis throughout Pakistan in the recent days that the government was supposed to fix, considering that the party won a landslide for its promise to solve this very problem.  For those who support the PPP may conveniently overlook the responsibility of the government in providing emergency relief during Sindh famine and heat wave. And so on.

There certainly is no surprise if you see Democrats conveniently overlooking the drone warfare of Obama administration, or if you find Republicans ignore how torture could have been used under the Bush administration. Liberals and conservatives would both gladly overlook the problems in the administrations they support as long as their supported policies are being propelled.

You would find politically devout Sunnis failing to acknowledge the brutal Saudi authoritarianism and the politically devout Shias looking the other way when you mention the Iranian regime trampling on their citizen’s rights.

There is no limit or end to this list. It happens every day, and practically everyone is experiencing it in one way or another. Almost human nature. But it is important to take it in a healthy manner, instead of further freaking out in moralist rage and calling for everyone’s heads.

Nobody is perfect, and we cannot possibly agree with each other on everything. So instead of looking for that perfect Messiah, hell even Imran Khan is not that perfect, we have to learn to live with the people we are stuck with in this world.

To be honest, I cannot say that I am equally outraged by every piece of news of oppression and carnage, and I am not ashamed of that. I am not even sure that is something that you should feel guilty about, because it’s hard to say if even Gandhi experienced such universal human pain. Most of the time, you are going to be more upset about people emotionally closest to you. But as long as your political stance is correct, and you are not supporting any such nonsense as ISIS, I guess you can live with it.

So I do think twice before I criticize people’s support for the Rohingyas, because when we do so, we are kind of doing the same thing we accuse them of.

Though this doesn’t mean that you should stop trying changing people’s minds.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.