August Special

I Love Pakistan

Let me confess at the very outset that I am unapologetically subjective about Pakistan. Sometimes I feel that my love for my country is unconditional. At other times, when I see Pakistan deeply immersed in a myriad of problems, I cannot help but to be despondent. I am also critical at times but my criticism does not take away my biases in favour of Pakistan. 



I am saying all this as I want to be truthful. From a more philosophical perspective, we all have our prejudices. They are intrinsic to our thought formation processes swayed by multiple variables. However, some people may be more adept than others at not allowing their biases to affect their views; this being said, to claim absolute objectivity is nothing but an absolute fallacy. 
Pakistan is, without a doubt, the most misunderstood country in the world. Adverse narratives abound. For some we are a failing state as nothing seems to be working; for others, we are extremists and religiously intolerant. To them, Pakistan is a country fighting with itself. Some even ridicule us for being an Islamic republic. They also question our democratic and human rights credentials.


I love Pakistan and will continue loving it no matter what. Pakistan is integral to our faith and our soul. We must celebrate the countless blessings we have and do our bit to make Pakistan stronger and prosperous. 


Economically, Pakistan is projected as a lost cause in view of rampant corruption and systemic inefficiencies gnawing at its potential. Whether it’s the water issue or the unsustainable population growth, we draw criticism from all and sundry. The country is generally viewed as regressing in all areas with little hope for redemption. 
Also, Pakistan’s foreign policy is seen to be driven by its ideological and ‘hidebound myopic’ considerations. It has a very few real friends in the comity of nations. The world in general remains sceptical of its intentions. As per this narrative, Pakistan is the biggest impediment in regional peace and development. Its Establishment would never allow relations with India to normalise, nor will it allow Afghanistan to settle down. Perennial crises keep Pakistan’s Establishment powerful and relevant. It will, therefore, continue creating one if there is none. 
In short, prospects for Pakistan are bleak because its foundations are weak. It is already in a cul-de-sac with hardly a decent way out. 
This downbeat narrative about Pakistan may not be totally biased and incongruent. However, neither can it be claimed as free from all motivated political and economic agenda and prejudices. There is a saying to the effect that we do not see things as they are but as we are. 
We all know Pakistan is facing humongous challenges and going through a very difficult time. But the prophets of doom have utterly failed to comprehend the spirit of Pakistan. Pakistan may be in the throes of seemingly intractable problems but it is not a country that can be written off.  It is destined to rise like a phoenix with ever more verve and vitality. 
My optimism does not flow from quixotic illusions. It stems from our national aspirations, potential and resilience. Our short national history gives us sufficient reasons to be upbeat about Pakistan’s future. 
After Pakistan was created, Nehru and other Congress leaders had predicted that Pakistan would not last for very long and remerge with India. We literally started from scratch. But the nation was united under the great leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 
Despite the hostile regional environment and internal political distractions and setbacks, Pakistan started making tremendous progress to the envy of all its neighbours and beyond. Pakistan became one of the fastest growing economies achieving significantly in all areas of life. The nation as a whole was on the upward trajectory. 
It was no coincidence that we created outstanding individuals and institutions. Pakistan has one of the finest bureaucratic machineries, produced illustrious academics and professionals, and a Nobel Laureate in Physics. PIA and PTV were our pride and the ‘Lollywood’ produced some of the finest movies that are still refreshing to watch.
I was posted to the Pakistan Embassy in Moscow from 1985-88. I still remember how people would stand in long queues for hours to buy Pakistani shirts. And during my over three years stint in New Delhi, one would delightfully hear how Indians still remember our TV plays with genuine fondness. 
Pakistan also ruled the world of sports. From field hockey to squash no country could beat us. Our victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup still reminds us how gifted this nation is. When we are resolved, we realise our dreams even under the most difficult of circumstances.
Though we lost East Pakistan for a slew of reasons, including India’s blatant interference and machinations, we managed to recover quickly. In 1974, Pakistan hosted the extraordinary Islamic summit, re-establishing its credentials as a leading Muslim country. 
Pakistan also became a nuclear and missile state despite stringent discriminatory sanctions by the U.S. and other major powers. Our armed forces are second to none. Their professional competence is recognised world-wide. Pakistani cadets do remarkably well at Sandhurst, winning the Sword of Honour almost every year now, among other foreign nations’ cadets. 
Our youthful population springs surprises upon us every now and then. If they are provided opportunities they excel. Take the example of software industry. Despite tough competition our young software start-up companies have created a niche for themselves in the world market. Today, Pakistan’s exports software is worth millions of dollars. 
Then we are the most hospitable people in the world. A French Ambassador in Islamabad used to tell me that he had not seen more hospitable people than Pakistanis anywhere in the world yet it was a pity that Pakistan had not been able to build its tourism industry. 
Pakistan is also a cradle of ancient civilisations, including the Indus Valley and Gandhara, and home to five of the 12 highest peaks in the world, including K-2. 
Our country is also rich in agriculture and has all the potential to feed the world. It is unfortunate that while Pakistan is world’s fourth-largest milk-producing country yet it barely exports milk or dairy products. Similarly, we also possess abundant marine resources yet Pakistan’s exports of fisheries are hardly commensurate with its potential. 
There is no dearth of mineral resources either. From copper to gold, Pakistan has everything you name. However, we seem to be stuck in a groove and finding it difficult to move on. Reasons are both internal and external.
It was the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in December 1979 that, in my considered view, put a huge block in our path to progress. We became, perhaps inevitably, embroiled in the last battle of the protracted Cold War leading to the demise of the then Soviet Union. However, in the process, we had lost our focus and destination. As the U.S. and others had left us high and dry after winning the Cold War, it was Pakistan who had to do the heavy lifting. Our challenges compounded with 9/11. Pakistan was yet again in the eye of the storm, drifting in the choppy waters of ruthless violence.
Hostile countries took full advantage of the vacuum in Afghanistan. They tried to destabilise Pakistan through militancy and terrorism. The country was literally fighting with invisible enemies for its survival.  
And internally, inefficient and corrupt governments added to our national woes. Heavy external indebtedness and growing fiscal and current account deficits weakened our national sovereignty. But we are an amazing nation. 


Pakistan also became a nuclear and missile state despite stringent discriminatory sanctions by the U.S. and other major powers. Our armed forces are second to none. Their professional competence is recognised world-wide. Pakistani cadets do remarkably well at Sandhurst, winning the Sword of Honour almost every year now, among other foreign nations’ cadets. 


Rarely in the world history has a nation demonstrated so much resilience. Finally, the people of Pakistan had decided to deal with violence mercilessly. The counter-terrorism operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad helped Pakistan rediscover itself. The country is now fast-moving towards normalcy but there is a long journey ahead.
The national air is now filled with optimism. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is seen as a major breakthrough for Pakistan. This is like our long-held aspiration of making Pakistan the regional economic hub coming true. We are a natural bridge between South Asia and Central Asia. Pakistan is contributing its best towards creating a stable Afghanistan. It goes without saying that peace in the latter is a sine qua non for regional economic integration and development. 
Pakistan is also very keen to normalise its relations with India. Peace is in our mutual interest. However, durable peace cannot be achieved without resolving the long-pending issues, especially Jammu and Kashmir.  New Delhi must dispense with its intransigence. It is high time to move from conflict management to conflict resolution. Pakistan is willing to move forward but it takes two to tango.


As Pakistan is presently trying to walk past the difficult phases in its national life, both in its internal and external dimensions, we need to remember that Pakistan is a young country. Nation-building is a long and arduous process, spanning several generations. National life in any case does not progress linearly. There will always be ups and downs. What we need to do is to keep our faith in Pakistan alive. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’


As Pakistan is presently trying to walk past the difficult phases in its national life, both in its internal and external dimensions, we need to remember that Pakistan is a young country. Nation-building is a long and arduous process, spanning several generations. National life in any case does not progress linearly. There will always be ups and downs. What we need to do is to keep our faith in Pakistan alive. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’
Let me conclude by saying that Pakistan came into being against the heaviest of odds. And despite a myriad of challenges, Pakistan made impressive progress in many spheres of life. We should take pride in them. What we must avoid is to be complacent and whining and whingeing about our predicaments. The national discourse must be refined to infuse in our people, especially the youth, a sense of national purpose underpinned by undiluted aspirations and indefatigable endeavours. 
I love Pakistan and will continue loving it no matter what. Pakistan is integral to our faith and our soul. We must celebrate the countless blessings we have and do our bit to make Pakistan stronger and prosperous. 
Pakistan Zindabad!


The writer is President, Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies and has served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany, and High Commissioner for India. He has also served as FO Spokesperson from 2009-2012.
E-mail: [email protected]
 

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