Dawn News

Pakistan is changing

LAST week I heard of a cellphone app developed by a group of young Pakistani developers called Angry Imran: similar to the incredibly popular Angry Birds, Imran Khan’s head is launched off a catapault to destroy the heads of other Pakistani politicians — Asif Zardari, Yusuf Raza Gilani, Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain — in the various cities of Pakistan.

When you finish them off successfully, the jalsa crowds roar and Imran’s voice shouts out, “Tabdeeli aa gayi hai!” Kudos to the CreatiXe team who have given us a badly needed laugh in difficult times (and good for Imran Khan who is said to have found the game “quite funny”).

I thought of this game while travelling through the UK and meeting many expat Pakistanis in different cities — London, Leeds, Newcastle — because all of them had one question on their mind: are things changing for the better in Pakistan? And they looked at me, fearful of what I was going to tell them, and I surprised myself with my own answer: yes.

Expats have a hard time because they genuinely worry about the country from far away, yet because of their decision to leave and make a life elsewhere, their loyalty to Pakistan is questioned by those of us who decided to stay. But I’ve found that their concern is real, and their wish to help has not been diminished by the actions of our selfish politicians and reckless institutions who mismanage the donations and help sent from abroad.

So my response was met with by both cynicism and surprise. How, when all they hear is terrible stories coming out of our country about the corruption, the ineptness of the government, the blatant flouting of the rule of law by all members of society, is Pakistan changing?

The answer is complex, but I believe that Pakistan has finally woken up to reality. For decades we’ve been living like sleepwalkers, asleep and unaware while our rulers led us from one disastrous reign to another. We’ve been sedated with a harmful political ideology, we’ve been restrained by the years of dictatorship and war, and we’ve been fooled into thinking ourselves indispensable to world politics, the darling of all the superpowers who can’t put a foot wrong. But over the last 10 years, we’ve had our eyes opened by the harsh conditions of a post-9/11 world, and no longer are we living like zombies, in denial and ignorance of the very deep waters in which we stand.

I see a growing awareness of the past: all the wrong steps taken over the last 60 years that have led us further and further into a labyrinth of our own making. I see a burgeoning youth, hungry for information and education, going to university and entering the workforce in exciting numbers. I see the Pakistani free press converging with the ultimate wave of information, the Internet, and challenging the political and societal narrative force-fed to us by our state and its decrepit, tattered information and education systems.

I see a powerfully aware civil society, ready to raise its voice against violations of human rights. I see a people who want answers and accountability, and a government system with functionaries who are slowly realising that it can no longer get away with disrespecting the people, no matter how hard it tries to do so.

I see an independent judiciary that is functioning with great confidence. I see a lawyers’ movement that rid the nation of a dictator without bloodshed, a revolution that was a shining example to the Arab Spring nations. I see women fighting tooth and nail for their rights and refusing to accept the status of second-class citizens. I see attempts to normalise relations with our neighbours. I see dedicated activists trying to change laws, bringing balance and tolerance into our system, despite the attempts of the uneducated and the closed-minded to continue injustice in the name of ‘tradition’ and ‘honour’.

But that’s not to say that all is rosy in Pakistan. Our political system is weak. The battle between extremism and moderation and liberalism rages on our streets, in our workplaces and schools, in our mosques and our homes. Our economy is an aeroplane that tries desperately to achieve lift but is only able to avoid crashing and no more than that. Egregious crimes are committed against women and religious and ethnic minorities every day.

Yet in this wild pendulum swinging between left and right, between one extreme and the other, is a sign that we Pakistanis are struggling mightily with our identity; we are trying to redefine it, having woken up to the monster we were becoming and realising that we didn’t want to become that particular spectre.

So with caution, I tell my expatriate brothers and sisters that yes, Pakistan is changing. It’s a slow process that may take generations, but at least we’re seeing the beginning of it now. It’s a revolution even if it doesn’t look like the ones we’ve read about in history books or watched on television. We’ll probably never eliminate all the evils in our society, or right all the wrongs of our history, or magically never make any mistakes again, but we’ll continue to struggle to tip the balance in favour of the right and the just.

The important thing is to continue to look our problems straight in the face, without denial or excuses, and work to defeat them, and never lose hope. And remember the words of Angry Imran, even if you don’t agree with his politics: ‘tabdeeli aa gaye hai.’

The writer is author of Slum Child.


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Bina Shah is a writer and columnist in Karachi; she is the author of the novel Slum Child and A Season for Martyrs.

She tweets @binashah

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (69) Closed

Jun 12, 2012 06:36pm
Pakistan will certianly change in several ways but for Indians it wll mean atleast two things:- 1) It will realize that all people in the world are not muslims and are not interested in becoming one. 2) Attacking India cannot be the sole reason for existence of Pakistan . The religion of the people of India ( Hindus ,Sikhs ,Jains ,secularist ,sufi muslims ,christians ) which Pakistanis love to hate will not die even if India were to be over run by Pakistanis. So live happily in your new country whose image in the world is you all know what like .
True Pakistani
Jun 14, 2012 03:55pm
Well said BRR. I also see changing rapidly, but for the worst!!
Pakistan Zindabad
Jun 14, 2012 03:55pm
In Pakistan only he (or she) is honest who didn't got a chance, Saleem.
muhammad mushtaq
Jun 13, 2012 01:12pm
Jun 12, 2012 08:24pm
I am sorry to break this you, rather sadly, madam but nothing in Pakistan is changing or is going to change anytime soon.
Jun 12, 2012 08:25pm
Very insightful.
Jun 12, 2012 08:26pm
Very old talk isn't it? We need . . . we need . . . We need to be quiet.
Jun 12, 2012 08:28pm
The biggest change here is the positive number of likes to comments which favour Imran Khan. How interesting.
Hasnain Raza
Jun 12, 2012 08:48pm
pakistan needs leaders, every pakistani is a leader in himself. The thing is that we don't even know how much we ourselves can contribute to our country. We all are infact leaders to move our country and make a group of people follow us in our region. Why does this easiest thing not come into our minds that only govt. can't change the whole country's destiny.
Suhail Ahmad
Jun 12, 2012 09:16pm
Yes. It is very easy, especially if the judiciary is independent. Bring a decent number of the corrupt big fish to court and get them sentenced. An example will be set and the corrupt will learn from it.
Jun 12, 2012 02:33pm
Has anybody noticed that PTI and IK has been away from the lime lights lately. No dharna against drones in a very very long time. After disqualifying of the dual citizens from holding the political office by the SC, the IK is in big trouble as he was counting on dual citizens to run his government if (god forbid) he won the election.
Jun 12, 2012 02:34pm
Jun 12, 2012 03:06pm
A Pakistani cab driver hands over a 5 euros as goodwill gesture to a kid of Indian family newly arriving in Germany. This shows the mindset of "aam admi" and how bad the the system is on both the sides of border. The indian family happens to be mine when I visited Karlsruhe,Germany some time in 2007-08.
Jun 12, 2012 05:56pm
Change is a process, revolution don't come overnight they come when nations are able to lift them self and go beyond personal self interest. I believe the chances are higher of a revolution in Pakistan as compared to India given the circumstances. Change has started but i believe the change to good will take its time and will come with a price.
Jun 13, 2012 01:24am
hope finally...Give him a chance at it
Wasey Shah
Jun 13, 2012 12:45am
very optimistic n hopeful article... Imran khan is undoubtedly d only available option for us bt unfortunately Imran khan doesn't have d magical stick.. we need to change ourselves we've to become responsible n disciplined, v need to learn how to raise voice for our rights n v need to reject sectarianism n extremism, lastly v got to b sincere at least with ourselves n to our motherland... n i think these 4,5 things r nt dat difficult if we all start contributing in our own capacities. i'l conclude vd a comment " tabdeeli aani shuru ho gai ha, soch badal rahi ha aur hamein isy badalna ha puri tarha se..."... n ye soch ka badalna hi wo contribution ha which i mentioned earlier.. thank u for showing people a ray of hope.
Jun 12, 2012 01:20pm
Ajamal, Let me just repeat the author's words: "The important thing is to continue to look our problems straight in the face, without denial or excuses" Taking comfort in false parallels drawn with non-existent strawmen and conspiracy theories is just more of the same. Don't fall into the same trap that has kept your countrymen entrapped for so long.
Jun 12, 2012 01:30pm
Pakistan can be economic power house provided is should abandon India centric policy and look in to its potentials...
Jun 12, 2012 11:23am
Well said Rao!
Jun 13, 2012 11:45pm
Jun 14, 2012 12:01pm
Thanks to Allah we still have positivity around us.Pakistan is definitely changing and will ultimately be changed by Imran Khan inshallah.Good piece of article.
Jun 14, 2012 10:03am
pakistan is going nowhere yes there are problems,but which country doesnt have problems. And i guarantee you,one day,pakistan will become the envy of the world.
Jun 12, 2012 03:34pm
"I will end corruption in three months"..... do you think he will deliver
Jun 12, 2012 07:04pm
Changing? Yea it is going backward.
Ramsha Rashid
Jun 12, 2012 07:07pm
Amazingly written- Hats off to you ^_^ :D
Zahid Qureshi
Jun 13, 2012 02:48pm
Not even in 30 years.........
Jun 12, 2012 04:16pm
Sure Imran Khan can't deliver every thing but as long as steers the "ship" in the right direction for others to follow him that will be a good start!
Jun 12, 2012 03:10am
Imran Khan is not a change. It is just the middle class getting into political throne through politics and not through military or bureaucratic manouvres.
Jun 12, 2012 03:26am
Thank you for this article. Love it. #ptifamily #pti
Jun 12, 2012 03:28am
The writer continues to harbor misconceptions - a) "despite the attempts of the uneducated and the closed-minded to continue injustice in the name of ‘tradition’ and ‘honour’." It is NOT just the uneducated, it is quite often the educated who are close-minded. it is the educated that support and run the al-qaeda, it is the educated Pakistanis from UK coming to train with the taliban. b) another fallacy - I see the Pakistani free press converging with the ultimate wave of information ...challenging the political and societal narrative force-fed to us by our state and its decrepit - the Pakistani media, especially the TV does NOT challenge the standard narratives - they still rail against Hindus, the Jews, the evil west. I am not sure what the writer is writing about, with such fallacies.
Jun 12, 2012 03:37am
The Govt of Pakistan[ Civil as well as military] has invested more in arms, ammunition than in education, health, food, housing. Same is the case in India. For eg. no of doctors in India per 1000 people is 0.6 whereas ideally it should be minimum 3 per thousand. In pakistan it is a little better, 0.7 per thousand. The govt of both the nations should increase the support to health care about 10 times in their respective budgets instead of wasting in arms and ammunitions if they really care for the people of their respective countries.
Jun 12, 2012 04:37am
Appearance of an honest man on the political scene is a Tabdeeli in itself, we badly hope for more to come ... soon.
Jun 12, 2012 04:38am
Bina u may have ur own perception but the ground reality is quite different our society is full of crime and corruption which is supported by local politician / bureauctats ,whther civil or military , in their respective jurisdiction . Every body is busy in plundering the wealth of the nation they dont care if this country economically collpase which have statrted to show their indication .Inflation is sky rocketing , dollar is being ttraded at 96 , factories are closing , no foreign or local investment is made, the ratio of jobless people are increasing , sectarian and other violencde is at peak and many more counless issue has been crippled in this society which is difficult to list down here.The bottom line is that AS A NATION WE ARE CORRUPT.
Jun 12, 2012 04:55am
An article full of hope, optimism and anticipation. But when you say: "I see a government system with functionaries who are slowly realising that it can no longer get away with disrespecting the people, no matter how hard it tries to do so." Here I go down. I do'nt see any sort of that thing happening from the present regime, neither in any of the provinces. They will have to be removed and will be. AND I am sure and confident that ‘tabdeeli aa gaye hai.’
Ahmed Rizwan
Jun 12, 2012 11:34pm
great thinking...... I hate when indian and pakis fight even over comment boxes. salute you for your positiveness :-)
Muhammad Ali
Jun 12, 2012 05:24am
justice jawad's comments about media's wrong and nonsense reporting is a slap on whole media channels
Asad Malik
Jun 12, 2012 05:37am
I'm happy that others exist who think like me. I hope to establish a start up company in Pakistan after I complete my education and gain the required experience here in the US. InshAllah by that time, things will have changed for the better and will continue.
Jun 12, 2012 05:40am
Stop expecting a change from Imran Khan as he cannot change the society by himself alone, I am away from Pakistan since 1992 and seen how the society has gone to so low. Corruption, hypocracy, lie become part and parcel of Pakistani society. The current corrupt politician, bureacracy are from the same society. Imran Khan or any other leader cannot change Pakistan until the people themselves changes.
Jun 12, 2012 10:31pm
Pakistan is going down with 3 failed engines and one barely running.
Osman Rashid
Jun 12, 2012 05:48am
At last an article that does not just talk about the doom and gloom but hope: 'Yeh Daana Khak Mein Mill Karr Gull-o-Gulzaar Hota Hai'
Jun 12, 2012 06:01am
yes,i am totally agree with the writers point of view, after the long standing hardships, ultimately Pakistan is changing,but this is due to one and only agree imran khan, i am not activist of imran but i try my level best to save my next generation future,..................
Ilyas Khan
Jun 12, 2012 10:10pm
I find it incredible that Bina Shah is blind to the real change: the deconstruction of the state where there is nobody bothering to even think of the country as a whole.
Jun 12, 2012 06:05am
We Indians hope that this change picks up pace and we can see each other in both the countries, instead of meeting as immigrants in other countries.
Dr.Ghaus Qureshi
Jun 12, 2012 06:20am
Great! I feel there is an undercurrent of change that has started and to me it looks like the atmosphere created by ZA Bhutto; less intense but probably more long-lasting.
Jun 12, 2012 06:26am
It is Tabdeeli indeed that people have realized need for it and taken ownership for the same. Sitting at home or keep quite won't work now.
Jun 12, 2012 07:16am
Pakistan needs to act fast to prove that it is a part of civilized world. The fast moving world of today does not have time. it is running out of patience while dealing with Pakistan. Pakistan has to work hard to come out of the hole it has dug for others to fall in it. Ironically now Pakistani finds itself in that grave. It needs a forceful and honest effort to come out of it before it is sucked in by the black hole.
Jun 12, 2012 07:25am
Change through Election!!!??? Yes Pakistan is changing, but will Imran Khan or any one else will be that agent remains a million dolalr question, because according to 73's consitution, the rural areas have higher seats in National Assembly as compared to urban areas, because majority of people live in villages. Even if Imaran Khan wins the urban vote, he will not be able to form government, but will be depended upon feudals to form the government. Will feudals will allow Imaran to persue his agenda? I am not questioning Imran's intention.
Agha Ata (USA)
Jun 13, 2012 01:24pm
Along with other good tabdilies, I have observed a very dangerous tabdili; and that dangerous tabdili is to criticize the Chief justice or the apex court whenever one pleases or feels need to do so. It is absolutely dangerous for any healthy society.
Jun 12, 2012 07:31am
The first step in bringing about a change is to eliminate terrorist camps and support to terrorists operating from the Pakistani soil.
Jun 12, 2012 07:31am
Great....a good optimism base article showing us hope and social and political consciousness that is needed for the survival and growth of every nation.
Aqsa Tariq
Jun 12, 2012 07:35am
Very nicely expressed. I think the rise in political consciousness across the country is a great sign of hope and positive change!
Jun 12, 2012 07:43am
India and Pakistan have one thing in common : corrupt politicians ruining their nations.
Jun 12, 2012 07:44am
Pakistan is changing for the better but will take a long time. Change can be catalyzed if we throw out the present political dispensation out and bring in a more honest leadership and because Imran Khan and PTI are untried, we should give 'em a chance.
Jun 12, 2012 01:41pm
No sustainable change is possible without educating the younger generation and correcting the grossly distorted history the older generation had been fed on.
Agha Ata
Jun 12, 2012 01:39pm
I am a great admirer of Imran Khan, but “tabdeeli” doesn’t come just by announcing its arrival. I sincerely hope it comes soon.
Jun 12, 2012 10:58am
As soon as we a corruption free government and the politicians in Pakistan and then things will change for the better in Pakistan until then its all talks and the common people are suffering in Pakistan because of these corrupted government and politicians who are just interested in filling up theirs own pockets.
Jun 12, 2012 08:14am
can you read through your comment again, middle class in politics... this is change bhai
M.Mansha Sherazi
Jun 12, 2012 10:54am
The change should be accompanied by some code of conduct and redefined directions!! Merely saying it or writing it would not mitigate the deteriorating and diminishing levels of confidence and greatly increasing levels of anxiety amongst us (the overseas Pakistanis).
Jun 12, 2012 08:22am
There is so much hope pinned on Imran Khan and so many eggs in one basket. What will happen is he fails to deliver the goods ?
Jun 12, 2012 08:31am
Awesome guy. change is truly here.
Najmul Islam
Jun 12, 2012 10:29am
Recently Pakistan was ranked 4 for producing record number of Doctor and Engineers, we have everything in Pakistan from professionals to natural resource. It's such a shame that we never realized our true potential! We need to revoutinalize our education system and instead of spending our precious money on defence, we should look for good education system and bettr oppurtunity for professionals.
osman narejo
Jun 12, 2012 09:40am
...............unless we accept the basic premise of tolerance and coexistence; unless we openly shun the quest of domination over others; unless we agree that our languages and cultures are our both property and biggest source of our regneration; unless we accept that the development is common right of our entire citizenry, and the underdeveloped ones will adopt a tangential course tommorrow; unless we willingly grant the federating entities control over their resources; unless we sing songs of our cultutal icons like baba bulleh shah and shah latif - our revival will remain a pipe dream and our extremism will carry us into a ctastrophy - which is coming nearer with every passing day, as we have recognized it now!
Jun 12, 2012 09:41am
Both India and pakistan need politicians who would invest the govt wealth in Health, education, food,employment, housing of the people rather than investing in military hardware , arms and ammunitions.
suneel Kumar
Jun 12, 2012 09:44am
great artile but lack practical approch it will take time the chage will feed poor people in pakistan i hope for better but prepare for worst . as nation we have to mature now ! still emotional people who always see extreme of situation but never think logically.
Jun 12, 2012 09:44am
Sorry Bina, Now with the latest incidence - I do not see a judiciary that is NOT independent - In fact that has just been deroaded
Jun 12, 2012 09:53am
Blaming Pakistan won't resolve any issue. First admit both governments have used terror as a tool and there are terrorists on both's soils.
Jun 13, 2012 06:54am
OBL the most wanted terrorist was killed in Pakistan.
Romman Khan
Jun 13, 2012 07:23am
Yes Dr. Ghaus!!!!!!!!!!! Thats why you can see a separate Bangladesh with having good GDP with comparison to Pakistan.
Jun 14, 2012 02:15am
Unfortunately at best, I would call this article wishful thinking. The level of corruption in our nation is at a level unseen before. Unless a radical change happens, things are not gonna get better. Pakistan is slowly disintegrating, people want things for them selves, not for the nation, wish it was not true, but for someone who has lived and worked in Pakistan for over 2 decades, things are NOT getting better, and the changes are NOT positive as much as the Author may wish to believe..