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'Al Bakistan' dreamland



A number of people have pointed out the sudden proliferation of the 'Al Bakistan' number plates in Pakistan. Initially, I thought these were just on cars imported from the UAE or other Arab countries, but seeing them locally produced has made it clear that they are simply used as status symbols.

It is also rather amusing that while Pakistan lost its 'P' in Arabic transliteration, 'Punjab' retained its — maybe the charm of the Punjab transcends our Arabisation!

This small example, however, is an indication of how people in the subcontinent have — surprisingly — thought for centuries.

Reading Mughal history, I was rather surprised that even at the height of his power, when the Mughal world was miles ahead in terms of wealth and development than most of the world, Shah Jahan still dreamt of transforming Delhi into Isfahan.

Granted that the mesmerising power of the Persian culture and tradition had its lure, but Shah Jahan's lack of confidence in something purely 'Indian' was clear.

 Similarly, with the advent of the British, we began to worship everything British, so much so that even when India began to produce its own cloth, most people still preferred cloth made of Indian cotton in Manchester over their local product.

More recently, the way in which Pakistanis have taken on American styles and culture since the 1960s has been more than obvious. I always marvel at the fact that after only a few months in the US, Pakistanis begin to speak with an American accent, whereas they cannot even learn simple grammar at home.

The same is true for the recent enchanting effect of Turkish soap operas.

Despite the fact that Pakistan has the capacity to produce excellent soap operas, we still want to import Turkish soaps — with the extra effort of translating them and paying a hundred thousand rupees in tax for each episode, and not focusing on producing high quality Pakistani dramas.

Similarly, the recent fascination of Punjab with everything Turkish gives the impression that the Turks have got it right.

We in Pakistan simply need to copy them to succeed — only if life were that easy!

While emulating something good is not a bad idea, doing it at the cost of one's own self is detrimental.

Continuously trying to adopt the ways of an alien culture will not only make one think less of one's own, but also lead to a loss of identity and self-confidence.

How can we stand up and compete with the rest of the world if we are unsure about what and who we are?

We are first Anglophiles, then Americanised, later Arabised, and now Turko-fied — when will we become Pakistanised, I wonder? (and that, too, without pre-defining what Pakistanisation means!).

More importantly, this fascination with something foreign leads us into a kind of a 'dreamland', which often leads to delusions.

Since we do not know how these foreign cultures achieved what we envy, we simply think that they can be easily obtained.

Therefore, we want all the benefits of democracy enjoyed by the US and Europe, but do not want to endure the harsh times they went through to achieve this.

We want the standard of living of Britain but do not want to suffer the hardships of the industrial revolution.

We want everything sorted and that too in 90 days. Indeed, we have become a '90-day or bust' nation.

This dreamland situation is something that is, I argue, leading to our ambivalent attitude towards violent non-state actors and the real reason for the stagnation of the country.

We are sick and tired of the rampant corruption, ruinous economy and decrepit government and want it all fixed, but do not want to take the tough steps to fix it. Therefore, a number of us actually like the 'milk and honey' dreamland offered by extremists and hence, honestly sympathise with them; but after learning its processes do not want to walk the talk.

'Fixing' Pakistan is and never will be an easy task. The uniqueness of its inception means that its problems are also, in some ways, unique and not easy to solve.

'Fixing' Pakistan, therefore, will be a long and arduous task and can only be undertaken if we first address its abstract, yet critical, thought processes.

Being self-confident, working with our own strengths, and actually focusing on processes rather than the perfect end result, might just be the beginning.

The Express Tribune


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