August Special

Pakistan: My Identity, My Pride, My Homeland

Being in Pakistan, I, and millions like me, have more to be thankful for than we can ever thank anyone for as everyone is not as fortunate as we are. On this year’s anniversary of the founding of Pakistan, Hilal English Magazine spoke to a number of people who poured their hearts out on the creation, need, and the vistas Pakistan opened up. Presented here are some of the thoughts that the young professionals of Pakistan, ranging from a banker, a musician, to teachers, software engineers, and visual artists have shared.

A community, a dream, a promise, of equal opportunities and freedom to celebrate your religious beliefs — Pakistan saved the Muslims of the subcontinent from prejudice and persecution.”
                                                                                                                                                    —Ayesha Hassan


India had been envisaged as a secular state which would guarantee equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens free from all bias of religion, caste or creed. However, the 73 year journey tells a rather dark and infamous tale. The atrocities of the BJP's extremist front — RSS — against the Muslim minority reminds us of the Nazis. Gujarat killings, Hindu approved version of religion and the revoking of special status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in total contrast to the once promised right of plebiscite all conclude that those who opted for a separate homeland in the form of Pakistan secured the better end of the deal. The people who chose and strove to be a part of Pakistan ended up securing better rights and are far better off than being second-class citizens in another state.
                                                                                                                                                                                   —Syeda Beenish Zahra

'Mere des mein hein imkaan bohat,
Aas umeed armaan bohat.'

(My country has prospects, abundant,
Yearnings, hopes, and aspirations, abundant)
Every time I hear or read this, I get goosebumps. I truly believe that Pakistan is a land of opportunities. I am extremely thankful for being a free soul, in a free country. 
A country full of resources; the highest mountains in the world; the world's largest mountains ranges; one of the world's largest rivers; highest plateaus; highest polo ground; the largest salt mines; four seasons and the most beautiful people in the world. We are blessed with everything any country would die to have. All we need is more unity, peace and love. The change we are looking for is change at an individual level. A mindset shift from 'me' to 'us'. Together we achieve more!
                                                                                                                                                                                      —Tabbish Mehmood

The troubles of the Indian minorities are never ending: disproportionate access to resources, barred from holding key positions, denied the right to practice religion without prejudice and, most of all, the apprehensive hawk eye that scans you for carrying anti-state agenda based on immaterial data and only one's religious beliefs. Meanwhile, an average Pakistani has his own set of problems which are of far less magnitude that are not deep-rooted in the very core of the society.
                                                                                                                                           —Syed Ali Hassan Zaidi

As a kid I grew up being terrified listening to the stories narrated by my maternal grandmother of a very old man who had migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and ran a stationery shop somewhere in my hometown, who was dismissed from the British army for refusing to shave off his beard. Etched into my memory, is the story of his son getting publicly whipped by a British officer for not doing a good job as a dhobi (laundryman) because he was too concentrated on his obligatory prayer. I remember hearing about the painful shrieks being enjoyed by a Hindu landlord who threw the stationery owner’s wife out of her business of picking the hay bundles from his farm because apparently every time she picked up a bundle uttering ‘Bismillah’ badly jinxed the hay. But look at him today! He is running a shop and for leisure at this age, his son, working in a government organization, his daughter, enjoying a happy marriage and his wife, sleeping soundly and undisturbed in the caress of the soil of a free homeland.
Now in 2020, I, being a Muslim woman, and a proud citizen of Pakistan, thank Allah every passing day for giving me life in a free Muslim country where my father wasn’t discriminated against based on his religion and denied a job; where my mother didn’t have to worry about her Hijab being pulled off out of hatred for Muslims; where I, myself can pray and recite the Quran or for that matter, carry with me an aura of being a Muslim woman and still get a good respectable job and standing in a society. This is no less than a blessing. 
Being able to sleep soundly without the worry of your house getting burnt or your throat getting slit for your religious orientation is truly a luxury in today’s world which the citizens of Pakistan get to enjoy but seldom appreciate. All of us are able to live freely without compromising on our actual identity of being Muslims and being guarded by soldiers who are performing their duties in the name of Islam. Pakistan, like any other country exists with all of its shortcomings but at least the majority population doesn’t have to worry about being stripped off of their right to religious, cultural, social and political opportunities. The very creation of Pakistan opened doors for the generations of Muslims to come.
                                                                                                                                                                                               —Nayab Arshad

Soon after the unfair 1937 Congress rule began, Muslims of the subcontinent realized that they needed a separate homeland to protect and practice their religious and social beliefs in an independent manner. The current situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Indian Punjab is a testimony to how valid the Two-Nation Theory, first proposed by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, was. Minorities in India have always been in a struggle to fight for their identity.
Ever since 1947 it has been a struggle for the Muslims living in India to prove their loyalty. The unfair division of the assets that led to murder of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi made it very much clear that the Hindu extremists won't let anyone surpass them in government jobs of hierarchy at the state level.
                                                                                                                                                                                    —Syeda Benazir Zahra

Despite the first steps to the march for freedom being spurred by the exile of the Muslims in their own land, winning the right to a separate state is the success story of one minority, for all minorities. Our painful history is the proof that it is not enough to choose your country, as your country needs to choose you, too. This trauma of our past is the present day reality of a Kashmiri. 
Each one of us, who was awarded freedom as a birth right here in Pakistan, has a shared past with every person across the world who, even after living somewhere for decades, is asked to produce papers, and anyone can tell them to ‘go home’. Therefore, I do not need to have gone through the struggle for freedom myself to feel affinity with every person whose identity, and hence, existence is stifled under the boots of oppression.
I swell with pride at the ideals of equality presented by our founder, our Quaid, Muhammad Ali Jinnah: 

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan.”

Now, being part of the majority, as a Muslim, I need to mark these words in order to ensure that indeed ‘no power on earth can undo Pakistan’. As Pakistanis, we need to guarantee that we are different from the oppressors. We need to guarantee that we do not allow anyone to suppress or oppress others. For our Founding Fathers separated land not out of rancor, or spite but out of a dire need of respect for beliefs, lifestyle, difference, and life. And therefore, being part of the majority, as Muslims, as Pakistanis, we guarantee the rights of all other minorities. Our forefathers have accomplished a feat for us by making Pakistan. Now, it’s up to us, the heirs of their will, to realize their dreams and aspiration.

The writer is an art graduate, art curator and visual artist who focuses on understanding the impact of pop-culture on society.
E-mail: [email protected]

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