There's a place in my head that is much nicer than the place we are all in now. I like to believe it's the remotest place on earth, although the actual remotest place on earth is an island somewhere off the coast off South Africa, and this place is not that island. It is simply antithetical to the place Pakistan is today, and it's a lovely place to create, to add details to, to colour in. It makes me wonder what kind of a place the country has become for it to be antithetical to an imaginative ideal. Watching Pakistan spiral out of control is like watching a close family member slowly wasting away. The waiting. The waiting for something to happen. The waiting for death. The guilt. Is this a genuine concern for the world, or is it a failure of my imagination? Is it a failure on our part to not be able to see a way out of this dark hole in our lifetimes?
People say that a new era will come. People talk about revolution, about glorious change, about an awakening of the masses. People talk about great progress around the corner. It makes me wonder whether it is only possible to imagine such brilliant outcomes from a position of privilege. From a position of being Sunni Muslim, wealthy, secure. When our great awakening happens, will it happen to all of us, or will the poor and the disenfranchised lag behind a century or two, as always?
Pakistan is a place where the social contract between citizens and the state no longer exists. This country has failed its Shias, its Ahmaddis, its farmers, its Hindus, its Christians, its women. An allegiance to the state from these groups can be either sentimental (I was born in this country and I love it) or defensive (just because I am not a Muslim doesn't mean I am disloyal). It is heartbreaking that this should be the case. It is heartbreaking to think that anyone should search for reasons to feel like their own country still belongs to them. When people speak of a day that will come when our country is on a better path, I want to know who this day will include. The top-down system of governance/wealth distribution/general privilege has grown tired and is creaking under the weight of injustice. Politics will continue, governments will come and governments will go, but the Proud to be Pakistani stickers that pop up around 14th August will remain a commodity of the wealthy, educated, clothed and housed population. People talk of how much this country has given us, how far behind we would be if we had not had it. This is true. Perhaps we would be far behind. Perhaps we would be persecuted. But it is difficult to rejoice in "our status today" as a DHA signpost proclaims, when our privilege is at the expense of everyone who is not exactly like us.
Forcing myself to imagine an idyllic remote island in place of this nation of tragedies is a failure of the imagination. Believing that great progress will occur and it will not be either bloody or unfair is even more so. Blessed are those who can afford to ruminate about change at a time like this, or escape to better places, even if they are only psychological. Unless our discourse about change and overcoming hurdles includes those citizens who have been traditionally disadvantaged as the foremost recipients of this positive change, our hopes will always be hollow.