“So Young – Pakistan Through a European Lens”
by Aanya F Niaz
By: Romain Loeuillet, Guest Contributor – contact: email@example.com
Pakistan is a young country. And if countries were getting old like human beings – at a much slower pace though – then Pakistan would probably still be in the middle of its teenage crisis.
Going even further in the metaphor, I will use one of the tricks of my mother tongue – French -, which allows to “genderize” countries.
Pakistan is like a young man. A 64 year-old young man.
Probably immature, clearly angry, certainly insecure, irrefutably fragile.
Yet, how can we blame Him for that? Growing in the context in which Pakistan has been growing since His birth is not an easy task.
For decades, Pakistan has tried to construct Himself despite British sire’s hasty flight, conflicting relationship with Mother India, brutal split with twin brother Bangladesh, ambiguous support from Uncle Sam, and uncertain “friendships” with Iranian, Afghani, and Chinese neighbors.
Given that, Pakistan’s story appears amazingly unique.
In this respect, media do not hesitate to point out what they interpret as Pakistan’s cursed destiny.
Smart people try to predict its future, or should I say the absence of one. “Pakistan will be a failed state in 30 years”, they claim.
Among other turns of phrases, Pakistan is often referred as “the most dangerous country in the world”, hopeless and helpless, incapable of finding solutions to its own problems, where corruption and extremisms subsist at the expense of freedom and democracy.
Although part of their analysis is true, such statements sound more like a desperate need to justify and legitimize non-action. Or to sell newspapers. Or both…
Pakistan’s existence just started. Let’s not envisage His death.
As paradoxically as it may seem however, the story of Pakistan remains implacably ordinary. After all, Pakistan is like many other countries nowadays – young and old ones -, tormented from within.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is not the only country where people get killed for having different political opinions. This even happens in the glorious United States of America.
Likewise, the recent attack at Moscow Airport showed that other countries in the world have trouble containing terrorist movements.
On the other hand, the latest examples of Ivory Coast and Tunisia proved that corruption is a universal plague.
So what do these comparisons mean for Pakistan?
Well, first of all, they should remind us that teaching lessons is not always appropriate when we do not apply them ourselves as perfectly as we expect others to.
Second of all, they should encourage us not to narrow down the analysis of Pakistan to certain themes, in particular incurable nepotism and uncontrollable terrorism. Doing so would be, again, finding excuses not to do anything at all.
More importantly, they also confirm that change is possible.
The point is – Pakistan does not need our pessimism.
Pakistan is a young country, a young Man, which is precisely why it is time not to give Him up.
I spoke once with a wise Pakistani man who told me that the most difficult thing about living in Pakistan on a daily basis is not to be the potential target of potential terrorist attacks, but to get used to living without electricity for hours every day.
The reality – way too often forgotten by Western media – is that Pakistan, despite its immense capacities, remains, before everything, a poor country.
Like Haiti, like Somalia, Pakistan is a very, very poor country, symbol of the failure of globalization.
From an economic perspective, the absence of real property rights and stable legal and political institutions in Pakistan has prevented many people from accessing globalization.
This not only widened the gap with richer nations, but it also contributed to increase inequalities between the Haves and the Have-Nots within Pakistan, which may explain the absence of a proper middle-class in the country.
Worse, the lack of transparency and the abstruseness of Western institutions, as well as the nonnegotiable enforcement of its cultural standards to the rest of the world have triggered profound sentiments of frustration and despair among those who are excluded from what is referred as “modernity”.
More communication has not led to more comprehension between people, elites, and governments.
Instantaneity and simultaneity have not prevented discrepancies and misunderstandings.
By not fulfilling their informational and illuminating role in a fair and consistent manner, and by focusing on what sells as opposed to what really matters, the media has a huge responsibility in the formation of resentments and the closure of minds.
Far from considering terrorist movements solely from a religious perspective, it is not exaggerated to argue that, in certain cases, extreme fundamentalist groups have been using terror as a way to justify their political and cultural opposition to globalization.
This is also probably the case in Pakistan.
More generally, it seems that globalization has led to a deep identity crisis within our current global environment.
By trying to make us become aware of what we had in common, globalization has actually revealed our differences, thus triggering resistances and conflicts.
Like a survival instinct, this has engendered an increasing need to define ourselves and determine what we belong to.
Recently, several old nations like France and the Netherlands tried to launch debate about their national identity, without much success.
Indeed, more and more people do not define themselves according to what they are, but to what they aren’t. With such logic, being French would imply not being Black, not being Arab, not being Muslim, etc…
In a context where anti-Indian, anti-American, as well as anti-Christian positions flourish, Pakistan is currently facing the same type of identity crisis.
Yet, without peace, trust, and understanding between and among communities, leaders, and institutions, achieving the economic prosperity and stability that globalization had promised will be tough.
Tough for everybody, but probably even more for Pakistan.
As a young country, Pakistan is trying to grow in a world that does not give Him time to.
A world whose (Western) model is faltering.
Consequently, it seems important that new generations of Pakistani leaders take advantage of the youth of their country to start defining what being Pakistani really means in the world we are living in today.
This may sound way too idealistic, at a time when an overwhelming majority of Pakistani people is simply trying to survive.
However, creating an idea, or should I say an ideal of Pakistan, is essential to gather people and guide them towards a better future, envisioned by caring leaders.