Like every year, we commemorated the day when Pakistan achieved independence and was declared a “sovereign” nation following the end of the British Raj in 1947. “Mourning independence” might sound like talking about our existence in a negative way, but it is full of the love of the country that has given us so much to feel proud of. And when we love something so badly, there are bound to be feelings that are aimed at pointing out our follies within us for getting our direction right. The souls that do not carry within themselves the feelings of association generally come up with cosmetic rhetoric of portraying a rosy picture, despite so many things falling and crumbling around us because they simply do not care.
Before 1947, we were only ruled by British imperialists; today, we bow our heads in front of almost everyone who is ready to put a tag price on us. As individuals, as well as a nation, we have fallen to the lowest levels of existence where the moral fabric of our society has gone down, bit by bit, since our independence.
The word “sovereignty” can be the right point to start with. Are we really sovereign? According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), the number of drone strikes conducted under President Barack Obama’s administration stands at 318, while the total number of strikes carried out since 2004 is 370. These strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region killed at least 3,549 people, 890 of whom are said to be civilians. The report further states that around 200 children lost their lives in drone attacks with around 1,480 people injured. The “profit-loss” (if you may call it) of these strikes, in terms of killing the real terrorists, speaks for itself the effectiveness of these “killing” exercises. And when the words “human rights” is echoed everywhere, one feels like nauseating. However, the real tragedy is the issuance of cosmetic statements every other day, “condemning” the strikes or “reserving” the right to defend. Sovereign nations do not exhibit this behaviour, no matter what the cost is. We tend to hide in the blanket of cowardice, thus defying the very fundamentals of what our independence should mean to us and how to defend our identity and existence. Sovereignty can only be claimed by nations who stand up, instead of bowing down. But we tend to live in perpetual slavery.
Celebrating independence also means giving rights to the people, who have either been the part of the independence struggle or are born in this country. At times, what can be more disturbing then is to see them being treated as worse than animals; whereas, they are insulted by the state machinery with impunity.
Even the other day, the whole of Islamabad Airport was closed to the public because of the arrival of a foreign dignitary. People were asked to park their vehicles outside the airport and walk all the way to the building along with their baggage. The arriving passengers were asked to leave the trolleys and leave the airport on their own. The sight of an old lady pushing her suitcases could only bring tears to one’s eyes. Ever heard of this happening in any other civilised self-respecting nation? But here we are humiliated every day, may it be standing on the road for hours waiting for the parasites to pass or banging our heads in any institution that is meant to provide public service.
There is always a way to celebrate one’s independence. We have a choice to spend it just like any other holiday or look deeply into the real meaning of breathing as free people. Looking around at the atrocities committed every day and raising our voice for rectification is the real celebration of independence. We need to march as one people with one shared understanding that the blessings we enjoy are earned through the burdens we endure. Reaping the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of joining the broken pieces. The dawn of real independence cannot be described more powerfully as was poetically narrated by Faiz Ahmad Faiz;
“Hum dekhain gay,
Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhain gay.
Wo din ke jis ka wadah hai,
Jo loh-e-azl pe likha hai.
Jab zulmo-o-sitam ke koh-e-garaan,
Ruii ki tarha urd jain gay.
Hum mehkumoon ke paun talay,
Ya dharti dhard dhard dharkay gi.
Aur ehl-e-hukam ke uper jab bijli kard kard kardke ki.
Jab arz-e-khuda ke kabay se,
Sub but uthaaiy jain gay.
Hum ehl-e-safa mardood-e-haram,
Masnad pe bithaaiy jain gay.
Sub taaj uchalay jain gay,
Sub takhat giraaiy jain gay.
Bas naam rahay ga Allah ka,
Jo gayab bhi hai aur hazir bhi,
Jo nazir bhi hai aur manzar bhi.
Uthay ga analhaq ka nara jo main bhi houn aur tum bhi ho,
Aur raaj karay gi Khalq-e-Khuda jo main bhi houn aur tum bhi ho.
Hum dekhay gay,
Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhain gay.”
How far away we are from “aur raaj karay gi Khalq-e-Khuda jo main bhi houn aur tum bhi ho” is the real yardstick to determine where we stand today. Till then, let’s celebrate our independence every year through mourning, for in the end, we will for sure rise from the ashes. Let this be our dream.
n The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist.