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April 22, 2015

The fault in our national identity


April 22, 2015

“All my life I was someone who was affected by terror, but after the Boston bombings, it was the first time in my life where I fell into the bracket of suspects. And why shouldn’t I? A 20-something Pakistani male, with a stubble only seen in cheap Hollywood flicks. The most important thing for me in that moment was to be as far away from the bomb site as possible.”
A resident in internal medicine at the Harvard Medical School and an alumnus of the Aga Khan University (AKU), Dr Haider Warraich, expressed these thoughts while speaking on “Pakistan Ka Matlab Kiya: A search for identity through war and words” on Tuesday. The event, held at its auditorium, was the latest among AKU’s special lecture series.
Discussing his quest for identity, Dr Warraich said his search began in the aftermath of the Boston bombing. “We as a nation are too confused to have an identity. We are all obsessed with micro-identities, especially in Punjab where the identity is closely linked with the family name,” he said. A sudden burst of laughter rippled through the auditorium when the speaker narrated that his father preferred him to stress his Warraich identity “Takkay Lokkan Tou Wee Patta Challay Warraich Parhay Likhay Wee Honday Hain” (So the people know that the Warraichs are also knowledgeable people).
Dr Warraich lamented that the Pakistani nation had reshuffled Quaid`s ideal “unity, faith and discipline” to “faith, unity and discipline”.
“If the Quaid was here today with us, he would be the most un-Pakistani amongst us all,” he said. “Our national identity is not something which we created and later adopted just by chance, it has a long journey which has been changed and recreated with the passage of time.”
According to him, the problem with our national identity today was that it stood solely on the basis of religion.
“It can play a key role in forming an identity but in the case of Pakistan, religion had also

become the country’s culture,” he said. “Islam is practiced by different cultures of the world and they adopt it according to their traditional understanding. But in Pakistan it is implemented in an opposite manner.”
The AKU alumnus believed that the imposition of religiosity had become more intense after the fall of Dhaka, when the state of Pakistan came to a conclusion that more religion was needed to bind the country’s diversity and bring it under a single fold.
However, this policy, according to Dr Warraich, backfired terribly.
He emphasised that Pakistan needed to reinvigorate a new identity based on the ideals of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan which focused on modernising the state and the society through the power of education. He said, “There was a time when people used to associate Pakistan as a land of doctors and engineers – that past needs to be revived again.”
He concluded his talk on the note, “The battle for education in Pakistan is indeed a battle for the Pakistani identity which the state cannot afford to lose.” The lecture was followed by a question-and-answer session.

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