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August 14, 2018

The dream lives


August 14, 2018

Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day today with a mix of apprehension and hope as it coincides with the swearing in of a new assembly and Pakistan’s third successive democratic transition to a new government. These in themselves are important milestones for a country which has been ruled by the military for most of its years as an independent nation. With a new government set to take charge, there are many who are full of hope that the PTI will conjure some kind of magic fix for our ills. One can wish them the best. But there are others for whom there remain irreparable scars over our democracy. The election itself was a reminder of another ill we have not been able to completely deal with. Terrorism remains ripe within Pakistan despite numerous victory declarations and the sacrifice of over 50,000 Pakistani lives. The economy too continues to go through cycles of ups and downs. When we feel down about the economy, it feels like there is no chance for recovery. When we wish to dress it up, for example via the narrative about CPEC, it feels like the stars are the limit.

We must dream – but we must also be able to chart a path that takes us to those dreams. Peace, stability, prosperity, political and religious freedom are all realistic dreams. But we must demand more and do more. If the next government does not deliver, that must not mean we stop fighting for a better tomorrow. The rise of religious bigotry has not been confined to terrorist groups. Religiously inspired mob violence continues to serve as a reminder that we have not learnt to deal with the aftereffects of Partition. Dominant religious groups continue to peddle the narrative that they are under threat. In so many ways, recent years have reminded us that Pakistan and India remain alike when it comes to showing their worst side. We can resolve to change but this is where few are hopeful. The dream of Pakistan was to bring a peaceful and prosperous life for the Muslims of South Asia. It is a dream that remains far from being fulfilled.

One of the many glaring challenges we have faced is our inability to accord the same rights and respect to our minority communities. To change this, Pakistan needs to change much within its legal, political and social frameworks. This year, there have been achievements on the political front at least. A Dalit Hindu woman has been elected to the Senate of Pakistan, a minority member Dr Mahesh Kumar has won from a general seat for the first time in the history of the country, the Sindh Assembly has seen a Sheedi woman take oath as MPA and more women than ever before lined up to cast their votes on July 25, although black holes remained where the turnout was below 10 percent. Despite the gloom, there is a ray of light in the form of the majority of our citizens who happen to be young. If the state of Pakistan – with all its challenges – is able to harness the energy of its youth towards something positive, we may yet live to see the Pakistan that was envisioned by its Muhammad Ali Jinnah and all those who sacrificed life and limb for this country. Yes, Pakistanis have become used to too many false dawns. But Independence Day is about remembering the dream of a few land – and dreaming a bit more.

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