Un­der­min­ing our own

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Kamila Hyat

AS a na­tion badly in need of he­roes, of role-mod­els and of peo­ple to look up to, we do a ter­ri­ble job of cre­at­ing them. In­stead, we de­lib­er­ately knock them down and un­der­mine their achieve­ments, no mat­ter how re­mark­able they are.

While the rest of the world ap­plauds, we turn away in scorn, in­creas­ing our iso­la­tion and our de­ter­mi­na­tion to stand alone, un­mind­ful of the fact that our lone­li­ness makes us weaker and in­creas­ingly sub­jected to ridicule in the world. To­day, our coun­try - rated by world or­gan­i­sa­tions in the 1960s as a na­tion with im­mense prom­ise - is listed as a 'failed' state. We have con­trib­uted to this in many ways, over decades of poor gov­er­nance. But we have also done ev­ery­thing we pos­si­bly can to un­der­mine the suc­cesses we do achieve. Yes, the prime min­is­ter showed wis­dom in screen­ing Sharmeen Obaid-Chi­noy's Os­car-award win­ning doc­u­men­tary on 'hon­our' killings and the laws that make it eas­ier to com­mit such crime. From the ex­pected chan­nels, there were heart­felt and ex­u­ber­ant words of praise in so­cial me­dia and seg­ments of the main­stream me­dia.

But be­neath the write-ups on the web­sites were the com­ments - the same com­ments that were made by peo­ple talk­ing to each other - un­gen­er­ous, un­ap­pre­cia­tive and un­will­ing to recog­nise suc­cess. There were re­marks about how the di­rec­tor had de­lib­er­ately se­lected a 'neg­a­tive' topic, aimed at 'ma­lign­ing' the coun­try. There were ac­cu­sa­tions that she had done so only to in­crease her win­ning po­ten­tial, given that the jury would pre­sum­ably be made up of Westerners seek­ing 'bad news' from Pak­istan. There was very lit­tle cel­e­bra­tion that a Pak­istani film­maker had once more walked down the red car­pet to col­lect what is per­haps the world's most fa­mous tro­phy. We see the same at­tempts to knock down peo­ple in other places.

The story of Malala is, of course, one ex­am­ple of this. The doc­u­men­tary about her was screened in many na­tions around the world, but it has not been ex­hib­ited on our tele­vi­sion chan­nels or at other pub­lic fo­rums. Peo­ple should at least be given an op­por­tu­nity to make up their own minds about events and peo­ple. Yes, 'neg­a­tive' re­ports about Pak­istan come out when Sharmeen Obaid uses a cam­era or Malala her voice. But the strug­gle should be to tackle th­ese prob­lems, so that that tale can also be told, rather than lam­bast the peo­ple who are try­ing to high­light the is­sues that in­fringe upon the ba­sic rights of mil­lions in the coun­try.

Lit­tle has been heard in the coun­try about the as­tound­ing work car­ried out by an­other Pak­istani woman, as­tro­physi­cist Dr Ner­gis Maval­vala, who was among a USbased team of sci­en­tists, which dis­cov­ered grav­i­ta­tional waves in space for the first time. The dis­cov­ery has been hailed around the world as one of the most im­por­tant of our times and one that backs the­o­ries put for­ward by Ein­stein. The rea­sons for the fail­ure to em­brace Dr Mal­val­vala as one of the more no­table high achiev­ers of our coun­try are that she is not from the main­stream Mus­lim ma­jor­ity and also be­cause of the life she has cho­sen for her­self.

Th­ese, of course, are petty mat­ters; her con­tri­bu­tion to sci­ence is far more sig­nif­i­cant, but we have locked our­selves in a world of pet­ti­ness, which pre­vents us from be­ing more gen­er­ous and em­brac­ing those from our coun­try who suc­ceed at the high­est lev­els. The late No­bel lau­re­ate Dr Ab­dus Salam is per­haps the big­gest vic­tim of this ne­glect. He does not ap­pear in his­tory books and he seems to have been wiped out from our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness as a na­tion. We have oblit­er­ated other he­roes too in a sim­i­lar fash­ion, much as ex­trem­ist groups wipe out im­ages that they do not like by black­en­ing bill­boards or by burn­ing CDs and books.

An­other prob­lem is that we are mak­ing no ef­fort to cre­ate or nur­ture po­ten­tial. The vast ma­jor­ity of our schools have be­come places where ac­tive think­ing or cre­ativ­ity is dis­cour­aged by teach­ers, who per­haps fear be­ing asked ques­tions that they can­not an­swer. To avoid this, the gen­eral norm is to crush cu­rios­ity and en­sure that chil­dren re­main re­stricted to rote learn­ing and do not ven­ture out­side the lim­ited con­tent of their text­books.

This con­tent it­self is dis­turb­ing in some cases, such as the com­ments about the Baloch peo­ple in books used in Pun­jab, which were pointed out re­cently in the Se­nate. Such neg­a­tiv­ity and racism do not help us be­come a more united or a more suc­cess­ful na­tion.

There are Pak­ista­nis ev­ery­where who are suc­ceed­ing in other fields - in mu­sic, graphic de­sign, dance and other ar­eas. We make too lit­tle ef­fort to high­light their achieve­ments. Our peo­ple need to know more about them and also learn to ac­knowl­edge the acts of those who achieve ma­jor feats in life. Pulling them down or crit­i­cis­ing them will do noth­ing to help. It will also not help to try and cover up the many flaws of our coun­try. It is far more im­por­tant that we at­tempt to re­move th­ese prob­lems and end the dis­crim­i­na­tion, the vi­o­lence and the divi­sions that have led us to this pre­car­i­ous point in our his­tory.

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