OCCASIONALLY, just occasionally, there is a glimmer of hope. Not for the immediate present, nor even for the near future — but hope there may be for a future as yet somewhat out of sight.
An email message fell into my inbox following a column on Independence Day and the gloom and doom that prevails — particularly if one finds oneself in Karachi — and descends even more blackly when one looks back into the past and the beginnings of the country with the acts of commission and omission which have brought this republic to where it now finds itself.
The message came from a university student — and even better, the student is a girl. But is she part of the majority of the young amongst us, that vast percentage? That is a moot point and the answer is probably no.
She had understood that one point that had been made was that the state as it exists nowhere approaches Jinnah’s dream state as no one seems to have realised exactly what that was. This is valid, for the debate still rages on as to whether the founder had intended the state to be secular or Islamic. Based purely on his one famed Aug 11, 1947 speech one must plump for secular, but the expert scholars are adept at quoting from earlier or later words he spoke which lead them to believe that his aim was Islamic. We can never know and can argue on till the end of time.
But my e-mailer, maybe believing as do I, assured me, “with due respect, you and most of your generation fail to realise that the young of this unfortunate country want to correct the mistakes (deliberate or not) that our elders made, and wish to bring this country as close to Jinnah’s dream as possible”.She continued, “I can assure you that people of my age don’t carry labels of religion and ethnicity, we just want to call ourselves Pakistani. We don’t believe in superficial divisions of race, religion and caste, we believe that the only division is that of good and bad.”
She assured me that the young feel for the poor and deprived, that they oppose terrorism and extremism and that they are imbued with far more patriotism than the preceding generations. They aim to prove this, not by blocking roads, but by doing things practical which will benefit the nation.
In optimistic mode, she wrote of using the right to speak freely and spread the message of tolerance. Speaking freely is indeed a constitutional right, but then in times such as these it can be dangerous as has been proven. The bigots and enemies of progress do not countenance tolerance and duly exercise their right by opposing it tooth and nail.
As happy as I was to receive such a message and to know that out there are young people who so far think on the right lines, pessimism inspired by what one reads and hears in the media prevails, and one is hard pushed to believe that my young correspondent and her companions are truly representative. That they exist is of course a boon.
“We want to address every problem,” she wrote, “that we feel is blocking our future such as the lack of tolerance and respect, lack of communication, environmental decay, inequality, concept of freedom and so on. We are doing everything we can by creating platforms for ourselves.”
That the young, even a mere few, recognise the environmental disasters that beset the country is most cheering, because the overall degradation, inspired by greed and grabbing, is one major contributive factor to the overall degeneration of the country.
But then came the rub: “When we discuss our vision, people just ignore us and tell us to stop ranting, that we can never do anything to revive Pakistan. It is true that Pakistan has had the same problems since it was born. We don’t want to revive it.
We want to change it. But change is gradual and can only be brought about when all support it. We do not see many people doing that. No one wants to believe there is still hope. We will continue to do everything we can to spread awareness.”
No one, in fact, is listening to anyone. All are on their own tack. My answer to her is that the leadership is, and has been, such that it is not interested in moving the nation onwards. Now, the sole motive is perpetuation and each action taken has a bearing on the next election. Nothing is done, per se, for the country at large but merely for a small group of people who form the government, who sit in the assemblies, plus their hangers-on and families. They look after themselves; they are not interested in you or your less fortunate compatriots.
Obviously, such youngsters do realise they are a minority group — but then so were the Bolsheviks — but they intend to persevere. “Few people realise that they have the power to bring change,” she rightly says, and goes on, “Most of my peers and I do not cast votes because we do not trust these old faces and their claims of being democratic. We expect nothing from them, we want them to stay away from us. We cannot afford to let them steal what little we have achieved....”
Well, if they really want to get somewhere they must vote — and find the right people to vote for.