Have you ever thought, albeit secretly, that Pakistan may be a mess, but it s your mess? And what makes it so great? Some of the most creative minds in the country tell Inst ep what makes them proud to be Pakistani, and why they believe the only way to go is up.
As all of us witness the country go through all sorts of turmoil, it is difficult to get into a celebratory spirit. And yet, as the day when Pakistan was created - August 14 – starts approaching, flags adorn cars, buildings and a kind of merriment begins to build up as the day gets closer.
And while we celebrate the birth of the nation for a day, and trample all over it, quite literally, the next day, the overall sentiment is jubilant on the day itself, made special by a countrywide public holiday.
Crowds come out in droves to celebrate. There are also people who remember what partition was like, how bloody, brutal, and gut-wrenching stories also exist. A part of this narrative is never spoken about openly, and we tend to gloss over the things that may not agree with our patriotic sensibilities on the actual day.
Each year, we encounter tone-deaf national songs, even though we do not need more than our current reserve. Is it falsehood or is there a light at the end of the tunnel? We asked a diverse group of artists the question below and present their answers to this simple yet complex reality.
“Things in Pakistan and globally may be a little bleak at the moment, but what’s something that makes you proud to be a Pakistani, or hopeful as one?”
“I think Allah Mian’s biggest blessing to all of us is our sovereign homeland. There is no bigger blessing than being able to live in an independent country. When I hear stories of migration from my parents and how they came here [from India], amidst great struggles with a passion, the realities we see in the here and now are saddening, disappointing. What are we doing to this independent country? However, there’s always a silver lining. There is always hope. That very hope keeps us alive. Should the day come when this hope disappears, a human being ends. God only gives you what you can survive, and the struggles at the moment align with it. We need to believe that the current bleak climate will pass, and things will get better. This very hope is perhaps the most important thing for all of us as Pakistanis. My belief is that if you want to do something for Pakistan, it doesn’t need to be big necessarily. Whatever you do, if you do it with honesty, and just keep this thought alive, then these problems will begin to fade away, whether it’s a mechanic, musician, accountant. Do what you do with honesty. You don’t need to do great, big things but apply honesty to what we do in whatever field we belong to. Pakistan is its people. There is a line in the national anthem, which is perhaps the most important one: ‘Pak sarzamin ka nizam, quwate akhuwati awam’. It speaks of our trait of the brotherhood between Pakistanis, and how our strength or power doesn’t come from a political party or the armed forces but from its people. If we start believing that, things will improve, as long as we conduct ourselves and what we do with true honesty.”
“One thing that makes me hopeful is the future generation of Pakistanis. Because of social media, people are becoming more aware, and I think the younger generation, with the tools and technology available, is using them positively to create things, to mediate things. It’s easier for a person to learn music or become a music producer. In the same way, you have social activists work on something like Aurat March using social media platforms to bring people together. I am hopeful for them; I think they will stand for what’s right and navigate Pakistan to a different direction. My generation, I think, didn’t do much. I know I’m generalizing because there were some people who did a lot but overall, the next generation is more outspoken, intelligent, aware and they’re more ambitious and that makes me hopeful about Pakistan. It might take a while, though, before they are in charge or able to steer the country in the right direction in a harder sense than the older generation currently in-charge.”
“These are tough times, surely, globally and especially in Pakistan. But I think this is a phase and I hope that as a nation we will learn from all the mistakes that we made in the past. We have some amazing industries like agriculture, textile and our IT sector. Our entertainment industry is also making waves now globally with Pakistani stars featuring in international shows like Ms. Marvel. Pakistani music has gone global as well with songs like
‘Pasoori’. I think I’m very optimistic about all our industries, particularly IT and entertainment. It’s a tough phase but we’ll get out of it, InshaAllah. With every fall, there is a rise so we will see heights soon.”
“I was just thinking about how far we are from what I was told as a kid. Resilience is a trait that I find unmatched. Pakistan’s folk depth (whatever is left of it) is what I feel amounts to something.
– Photo by Kohi Marri
“What gives me hope is our hospitality and charity, because I have seen and met people around the world and it’s tough to beat us in that.”
"The resilience of its people. The booming-with-potential music and entertainment industries. But most of all, the Arooj Aftabs, Shae Gills, Sharmeen Obaids and Zain Ahmeds of the country amplifying Pakistani stories actually worth highlighting."
“What makes me hopeful as a Pakistani right now is the victory of Olympian javelin thrower
Arshad Nadeem, who just won a Gold Medal at Commonwealth Games. I connect this with a lot of good music. Xulfi’s been collaborating with so many amazing people recently and that’s another hopeful occurrence for me. I’ve been working at Arts Council in Karachi for the last two years and Mr. Ahmed Shah, President of Arts Council, what he’s been doing and watching it firsthand is really, really the biggest spark of hope for me right now.”
"We might not be rich, but we are so rich at heart. You will not go to sleep without food and if you're homeless, someone will keep you, listen to you for hours, meet you anytime you’re down. You can go to anyone’s house at any time. That’s what brought me back. Let’s also not forget our staples including Pakola, Chilli Chips, GOGO, Sindhi Biryani, music and the local fashion, crafted especially in villages, and French Beach, the only place in the world where I’m at my happiest. What makes me hopeful is that women are now educating themselves about their toxic behavior due to their childhood traumas, working on not mirroring certain attributes that serve no one and growing as people. Women are raising their voice against abuse, gossiping, always being in a drama triangle. Women are now focusing on self-love. If men in our country cannot celebrate a woman, we will do it ourselves. Pakistan Zindabad; we are not going to die without a fight, ajao!”
“As a musician/performer I get to travel the world. Sometimes these tours are months long, but I always look forward to going home. The culture, food, music and most importantly the people - that’s what makes Pakistan home. Happy Independence Day!”
“The one thing that makes me super proud of my country and definitely makes me a patriotic soul is the resilience of this nation and its people. It’s that same resilience that we [show] in the good and the bad times, and that is what makes it all so hopeful.
“Pakistan is indeed a very special country
because we were able to get this piece of land with so much struggle and more importantly
because after Madina this is the only state whose base is La Ilaha Ilalah and this keeps me not only proud but hopeful as well.
Insha Allah we shall rise soon.”
"I'm a proud Pakistani because I was born here and the love for my country will always run in my veins no matter what. I hope that we as a nation have the power to collectively bring change and choose the right leaders that can help in positive growth of the country."
“1. The hospitality and warmth of the people, 2. Hunza/Gilgit and the people of Gilgit/Hunza,
3. Our mountain ranges. ”
"Despite the rise in extremism among certain sections of our society, I think the hospitality of our common people across Pakistan, particularly in smaller towns and villages, is still unparalleled. Something else that makes me proud to be a Pakistani is our immense wealth of poetic literature in all regional languages. I believe that this wealth of deep philosophical and humanist culture will ultimately shine through and reflect in the policies of the state, not just among common people."
“[It makes me proud] that we are a resilient, strong nation that fights through everything that comes our way! I just want to say: stay
optimistic. I mean hardships…yeh sub cheezain aati hain. I know that our morale is very down due to the
current political situation and it needs to end and we need to be more stable as a nation. On this 14th August, we all need to be together, cheering each other on, putting up our flags. We should always pray that we are able to get through this time and the new generation will go towards a better
Pakistan, and we can show the next generation a better Pakistan. Aameen.”
“I am proud of the immense talent Pakistan is able to produce despite often having little resources. More and more Pakistanis are being recognised globally for their talent whether it be in music, science, or sports.”
“It's a little hard not to feel the effect of the bleakness engulfing the world be it climate change or the global economic downturn, though I feel Pakistanis are now more aware than ever and being aware is the first step in a journey that is long and hard but has great promise. There's no point in exceptionalism, we are still a developing nation and I hope we develop well.”
“I have always believed that like in any country in the world, a lot is wrong here, but a lot is also right. I believe the people of Pakistan love their country unconditionally, love their celebrities and their sportsmen/women and want to make a difference themselves with almost no support from the government in most fields. But this qaum is unstoppable and that is something I am truly proud of!”
“I guess what gives me hope is that I’m a firm believer in the fact that whatever goes down must come up and as much of a beating this country takes, it manages to remain intact. Like, no matter how much neglect, how much corruption, how sad and chaotic things get, we always manage to ride the worst of waves, so that gives me hope – knowing and believing that this too shall pass. However, my heart breaks every day at this moment in time for Pakistan.
I feel pride when I travel and represent my nation and when they see us and they know that we are
educated, that we too are well-spoken and worldly and can fit in anywhere. It makes me really proud when I get an opportunity to represent my country in the face of people who don’t know much about how amazing Pakistan is and how welcoming and open-minded, to a certain extent, yes, we are in our ways.”
Nadir Shehzad Khan
“The bubbling food industry in Karachi.”