Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Give me my country or I'll starve...

About 2 weeks ago, I got a very peculiar message on my Blackberry from a friend who owns a well-known photo center in Islamabad. The gist of the message was interpreted as "hunger strike against corruption". For a second, I thought I was expected to join his cause by going on a hunger strike. My first thought was hell no, I ain't bothered about corruption. It's the disease we have grown to ignore for the last 20 years, so what's the big fuss now? We have had questionable people in power throughout my lifetime, many with blood, credibility and corruption stains on their careers.

I believed in a Pakistan once upon a time; a country that gives me more than a green passport (it's a different story that 99% of the world doesn't think much of it), a place for my family to seek continued refuge, a place I managed to find one hell of a wife, a career, friends, comfort (although this last one is completely relative). Now, I am in a bind with my own belief. The bind is a simple one - I don't care much anymore. I figured it's much easier to just avoid being involved than get involved and then settle for utter disappointment not long after.

Going back to my friend's message, I gave it a few moments of thought and moved on with whatever I was doing at that time. A few days later, I see scores of posts on my Facebook wall from other friends supporting some hunger strike related event. Being the ignorant idiot that I am, I didn't sum up that it was the same event. Nevertheless, succumbing to peer (virtual) pressure, I accepted the invite and acknowledged my attendance at the protest. This is when I noticed the photos of an elderly man who looked like no one I knew. This curiosity peaked my interest and I ventured to find that this protest was actually in support of a single man going on hunger strike, Mr. Jahangir Akthar, who was fervent about social causes, especially the ones that would help regain some pride among me and my kind. My role was to merely show up, sandwich and drink in hand, to show that I too believe in someone else going hungry if we all don't receive our fair share of civil rights as tax paying citizens of this land.

So, I was wronged...wronged by my misinterpretation and complete ignorance towards the senior citizens of Pakistan who still hold on to a faint, but present memory of a Pakistan that is fair, just, equal (for all - even the minorities represented by the 'white' part of our national flag) and alas comfortable in real terms. 

My father too is a strong believer in this 'Pakistan' that our generation has not been able to connect with (don't sue me for generalizing - i'm trying to make a point here). He wrote a book some time back called "Flight of the Falcon" or "Shaheen ki Parwaaz" in Urdu. In this book, he discusses his career as a fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force, an active member for a united and accepting Pakistan and an advocate of the Quaid's vision.

Again, returning to the crux of the story, I committed to join the rally and be there every day. Unfortunately, the powers that be (work, not wife) required that I get my things done so I can have a peaceful, stress free evening before starting the new work day. The nature of my work does not allow me to leave at any one time so it varies, safely later than 6pm on average. By this time I am knackered and want nothing more than to go home and lay back. This went on for a while so finally came a Sunday (7 days later) when I was able to make time and visit the rally. While present, I noticed 2 things:
  1. CNBC crew conducting an interactive session with the audience
  2. An audience of no more than 50 people (not including side-liners such as myself)

So, 7 days into this very important protest, supporting a very critical cause in Pakistan's life, and only a meager 70-80 people to support it....on a Sunday, when everyone is free from work and other encumbrances. Fortunately, the 8th day brought a different turn of events for Mr. Jahangir Akhtar, after a visit from MNA Farahnaz Ispahani, who vowed to raise this amongst her peers and bring this worthy cause to the front-lines of our government. I believe that brought a sigh of relief to Mr. Akhtar's family, who are very concerned about his health which has deteriorated significantly. 

A man in his late 60's should not have to spend more than a day without food, especially if he has done his part to make a better country for all of us. This hits home for me because I come from a family of individuals with strong opinions about how this country has come to be the way it is today, and not all of it is bad...but most of it is.

Question: Are we 'really' interested in what the government is up to? Do we really care about things that determine our fate, future and acceptance by the rest of the world? I don't know the answer, but I do know that we probably should be. After all, if we segregate our society so much that we take little or no active interest in public policy, how are we to claim hold over this land for ourselves or our future?

Here is an article link back below on the day I attended the rally in support of my friend, Jawad Jahangir's father and his cause, our cause:

Ironic isn't starves so everyone else can eat. 

The moral: We don't have to starve to get what we need. But we will starve if we don't...

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