Some thoughts for end of the year

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Dr Syed Man­soor Hus­sain

Now we have a demo­cratic sys­tem in place or per­haps just an­other demo­cratic 'in­ter­reg­num' wait­ing for the time when the next army strong­man de­cides to save Pak­istan from the Pak­ista­nis The last week of the year is a mixed bag or me. It is a time for in­tro­spec­tion, of con­tem­pla­tion about what hap­pened and hope for the fu­ture. So, I of­ten vac­il­late be­tween the maudlin and the manic. That I made it for an­other year with­out any overt se­ri­ous phys­i­cal prob­lems is al­ways a plus. But then as a wit once said about birth­days and what equally well ap­plies to New Year cel­e­bra­tions, what is there to cel­e­brate about closer to the end of your life. How­ever, the end of this year is also an end of a decade - a decade that was with­out doubt a 'game changer' for Mus­lims in the US as well as in this part of the world.

It all started with the elec­tion and in­au­gu­ra­tion of Ge­orge W Bush as pres­i­dent of the US, a mat­ter caus­ing me con­sid­er­able anguish since I had sup­ported Al Gore. The pro­longed fight for vote counts in Florida made it all the more sad­den­ing or per­haps mad­den­ing. Then there was 9/11 and the col­lapse of the Twin Tow­ers; this hap­pened just a few miles from where I was on that fate­ful day. In a mat­ter of a few hours ev­ery­thing changed for Mus­lims in the US. The con­se­quences of that day are still un­fold­ing and so far the best that can be said is that things did get bad for Amer­i­can Mus­lims but not as bad as many had ex­pected.

From the time I left for my med­i­cal train­ing in the US and then stayed on to prac­tice medicine and raise a fam­ily, I al­ways had a han­ker­ing to re­turn to Pak­istan. In its own way, the elec­tion of Ge­orge Bush and 9/11 some­how jelled these vague thoughts into a more con­crete de­sire. A few years later I fi­nally de­cided to come back to Pak­istan. Of course there were also per­sonal and pro­fes­sional rea­sons for tak­ing this step. Yes, it has been a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion but in the bal­ance I feel that I did the right thing.

For Pak­istan the decade was a mixed bag. It might well be called the 'Mushar­raf' decade. It started off as most mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships do on a high note but then pre­dictably ended in a long drawn out whim­per. And now we have a demo­cratic sys­tem in place or per­haps just an­other demo­cratic 'in­ter­reg­num' wait­ing for the time when the next army strong­man de­cides to save Pak­istan from the Pak­ista­nis.

The decade also saw the pass­ing away of many im­por­tant peo­ple. Of these in a way, one that touched me at a per­sonal level was the death of Ahmed Faraz, the poet. Faraz and his po­etry were a part of my life. As I grew up and reached adult­hood, his lyrical love po­etry was a source of in­spi­ra­tion and then when I ended up in the US, he soon went into self-ex­ile and his po­etry of long­ing for the land that he had left be­hind res­onated with my per­sonal sen­ti­ments and kept my de­sire to re­turn to Pak­istan alive.

How­ever, the most touch­ing loss was that of Mo­htarma Be­nazir Bhutto. Her loss is some­thing that at least for the fore­see­able fu­ture will af­fect how things hap­pen in Pak­istan. If she had lived and con­tested the elec­tions, would things in Pak­istan have been dif­fer­ent and per­haps much bet­ter? That is a ques­tion which of course can never be an­swered but it will linger on in the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness of Pak­istan for many years. An­other sad thing that I saw over the last few years was the rise of re­li­gious ob­scu­ran­tism and an es­ca­la­tion in ter­ror­ism aimed against civil­ians and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties. The causes of this are well known and well dis­cussed. How­ever, it is some­thing that has made life dif­fi­cult for all Pak­ista­nis due to its di­rect ef­fects as well as the in­di­rect con­se­quences, in­clud­ing a col­lapse of for­eign in­vest­ment in Pak­istan. The re­cent floods added to the mis­ery of or­di­nary peo­ple as well us un­der­min­ing what­ever eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity that was go­ing on. Less said about load shed­ding, the bet­ter. But as is my wont, I did try and find some­thing to look for­ward to as the New Year comes upon us. Well we are hav­ing the sesqui­cen­ten­nial (150 year) cel­e­bra­tion of King Ed­ward (KE) Med­i­cal Col­lege/Uni­ver­sity. Friends and col­leagues are vis­it­ing La­hore from all over the world as well as the rest of the coun­try. On Sun­day I will have a chance to meet my class­mates at a 'class re­union', see old friends, some that I have not met in years and re-live a part of my youth. KE is un­der a lot of pres­sure and things are not as well as they should be, but more about that an­other time. Right now it is time to cel­e­brate the grand his­tory of this old lady, whom I once called in a col­lege mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle "the aged ma­tri­arch sub­sist­ing on tra­di­tion". Per­haps the best part of these cel­e­bra­tions is the won­der­ment expressed by many of my med­i­cal col­leagues from the US who have not vis­ited Pak­istan and es­pe­cially La­hore for many years. They are in­deed sur­prised that La­hore is not a bat­tle­ground and that peo­ple are ac­tu­ally go­ing around do­ing their 'thing'. More in­ter­est­ingly, they are im­pressed by how much bet­ter La­hore ac­tu­ally looks com­pared to the time they were last here. And that is what gives me hope. Those of us who live here keep for­get­ting that things are per­haps not as bad as we think they are. This of course does not mean that they could not and should not be a lot bet­ter. But then one of the vis­i­tors said, if we do not watch TV, we would not know that things are fall­ing apart in Pak­istan and af­ter at­tend­ing two med­i­cal con­fer­ences he re­marked, wow, they are al­most like con­fer­ences in the US! I sup­pose it does take an out­sider to put things in per­spec­tive.

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