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August 14, 2019

Green and white


August 14, 2019

Independence Day today comes immediately after the festive occasion of Eidul Azha. This adds to the spirit which traditionally brings the holiday alive. But Pakistan’s 72nd Independence Day does not find it in the best of spirits. One of the key unfinished businesses of Partition, Kashmir, has risen up once again. It is a reminder of how much was left undone when the British hastily pulled out from the Subcontinent to spare using any further resources and to prevent themselves becoming embroiled in controversy. This exercise in typically unethical colonialism left behind many problems. At present, Kashmir looms as the biggest of these, but there are also others. The region itself is unstable and the idea of so much uncertainty between two nuclear armed neighbours cannot bring much spirit of joy to anyone. It is a tragedy we have not been able to do more for our citizens and August 14 is a reminder of their loyalty to a nation that has served them so poorly as they celebrate even obvious hardship.

This year has brought additional hardships. Inflation is at an all-time high and food prices have risen sharply. People struggle to find bread to place on the family table. The prime minister himself had to intervene, talking to naan-bais to force down the prices of roti and naan which had risen by around 25 percent. For a family of six or seven people, this placed an unsustainable burden on daily meals which all revolve around this vital staple. Under IMF dictates, subsidies on utilities have vanished off bills and people have received pieces of paper marked with figures which they know they will be unable to pay. Even households that run barely more than a fan or two and a few lights have faced huge rises in the cost of power. At the same time, power shortages, perhaps most notably in Karachi, are worse than ever.

But even among all the negativity, something positive can always be found. Young Pakistanis have won contests in science, in debates, in entrepreneurship and in other spheres around the world. Young women have shown tremendous potential, with those at a Karachi university putting together an app that can help deaf people learn sign language. These are important accomplishments which show the extent of the talent and dedication that lies within Pakistan. Somehow we need to tap it to bring an improved future for each and every citizen of our country.

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