Thursday, December 17, 2009

We deserve better

I look out the window at the beautiful mountains, the clear blue sky, and the wonderful winter sunshine. I see cars driving along the road - from the luxury four-wheelers, to the economy small cars. Busy people. Peaceful people. People going about their daily lives. People working hard on their jobs to feed their families, to fulfill their ambitions, to make something of their lives, to raise their children, to love and to live.

Then I hear the news of some terrible incident somewhere close by. The contrast between what I see all around and what I see in these isolated incidents is jarring.

And I think to myself, we're peaceful, friendly people - we deserve better.


I walk out of a meeting and reflect on the people I have just been talking to. Intelligent, smart people. People with a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, with ideas, with the will to find new solutions, to overcome every obstacle and succeed. Articulate, intellectual people who fill you with confidence and hope.

Then I switch on the television and see a public figure harping on the same rhetoric he's been spewing for years. He has no ideas for the future, he has no inspiration for his countrymen, he offers little hope and little sense of direction. The contrast between the people I meet everyday, and the people on television is jarring.

And I think to myself, we're an intelligent people - we deserve better.


I finish reading a book on our history, our traditions. I think about the glorious selfless individuals who once led us, about the people who were kind, who had honor, who had values, who put their principles before themselves. And then I think of our current crop of people in authority and the contrast is jarring.

And I think to myself, we are a people with a proud history, with a glorious tradition - we deserve better.


I drive along the M2, taking in the wide lanes, the lovely countryside, the clean, efficient service areas. As I stray above the speed limit I get pulled over by a traffic sergeant. He is polite but firm, courteous but confident. He doesn't even hint for a bribe, simply writes me a ticket and advises me to drive more carefully for my own safety. Then I reach the city and get mired in traffic again, the road is crowded, the lanes are narrow, and patience is running low. The contrast between where we are and where we can go is jarring.

And I think to myself, we are capable of so much more - we deserve better.

I visit the market and stopover at the video shop. I browse through DVDs of the latest hollywood blockbusters, and a dazzling choice of music from around the world. I head over to the bookshop next and spend a pleasant hour leafing through literature on every topic under the sun and from around the world. The place is buzzing with people, moderate, intelligent people with an interest in the world around them and a hunger for the creative outlets. Then I turn on a foreign news channel and see a couple of guys discussing Pakistan as if it were some prehistoric backwater filled with people disconnected from modern life. The contrast between how we live and how people see us is jarring.

And I think to myself - we deserve better, we deserve so much better.


I have no answers. I don't know how to bridge the contrast between the reality of a great country, with proud people and glorious traditions; the equally jarring reality of a greedy, spineless set of people holding them back; and a suspicious world that is bent upon painting 170 million people with a single, morbid brush .

But I know this: change will come, change is inevitable. We have too much potential to go down as history's footnote.

(This post also appeared on


  1. Anonymous6:56 AM

    For sure this cannot last forever- there is no precedence in the world to negate what I’m saying here. It will be over soon. Already I can see a silver lining- people are now talking about it and that’s the first step- The crucial step! The will of the people is being tested, here as it was tested before also. I have every reason to believe that we will come out of this man managed mess just like we did it before. Hang On!

  2. Appreciate your positive thoughts and patriotic feel. But i was wondering how many will be able to share your experiences of the positives........the majority has for lifetimes been confronted with the harsher and much more painfull reality of a system thriving on a social, moral and legal corruption. I fear that your experiences are based on perhaps belonging to a limited group of educated and sensible people lucky to be living their lives mostly in the relatively saner environment of the famously quoted 'Islamabad being a city only 20km from Pakistan'. What light you see, will burn like a fire when Trillions of Rupees of national wealth plundered and squandered by the corrupt is all legalized under the harp of a TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION process. Why not a TRUTH AND JUSTICE i say ?

  3. Well, this is our old debate Umar :) Yes, I insist on being optimistic, but I thought this one was actually one of my less optimistic posts, except my conviction in the end that change will come.

    There is much in what you say. The educated people are in the minority in Pakistan, but they are still a sizable population. There is close to 17 M English speaking people in Pakistan (I'm using this only as a measure of access to education, not in any elitist sense). While this is only 10% of the population, 17 Million is still bigger than the total population of many prosperous countries. That was kind of my point here - that we have a very large population with a lot of diversity, and so lots of possibilities. Just like it is unfair to the poor to look only at the privileged few and draw conclusions, it is quite possibly also unfair to only look at the corrupt & misguided and lose all hope. At the end of the day 170 Million people have to live in this land, and a way forward has to be found, and we have large numbers of people in a position to make it work, if only we could find a way to get started.

  4. Beela9:49 AM

    What we see right now is a cross section in time and indeed things will change, and hopefully for the better.What concerns me and what is keeping things from changing, is a general and wide spread deterioration of the moral structure, disregard of core human values, and a shift in the significance of what should be the priority in life. These factors are prevalent, not just at the higher socio-economic levels but also in the well-educated groups, as well as in the poorer and less educated groups.All of us need a a more personal , positive direction in life.

  5. What I would like to know is why Pakistanis in general want to desperately go to places where:
    they see 'Pakistan as if it were some prehistoric backwater filled with people disconnected from modern life.'

    Muslims are often complaining about lack of rights etc in certain countries of the West ignoring the fact they are way better off than non-Muslims in the Muslim world.

    Depends which part of the prism you look through!


  6. @Thyrone:

    Well, speaking for myself, I'm in Pakistan and have no ambition of going anywhere - I love it here !

    My remark about the view of Pakistan as a backwater was a reference to some of the media articles I come across about Pakistan in various news items - I personally certainly do not think this is the case, quite the opposite in fact.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by and for your comment.