Historically, the ancient plains of the Indus (now Pakistan) served as the first line of defence against plundering armies – Mongol invaders, marauding tribal bands from Afghanistan, Arab Muslim zealots anchoring their ships on the Sind coast, Iranian regal armies marching with pride suited to those who have never been subjugated, and adventurous Central Asian princes on gliding horses. The Indus Valley was also a grand gateway to benevolent sufis singing melodious songs of love when they appeared on the northern horizons of India from Central Asia, along with traders of silk, precious gemstones and colorful, aromatic spices snailing in on the silk route from China. Rarely did these armies penetrate deep into the south as they hurried back with jewels and gold, exhausted by the thick expanse of the sub-continent. As they retreated like sea waves, they left behind a few shells on the sands of time. Gardezis of Iranian descent, Kakazais from Afghanistan, and Qureshis and Sayyeds from the Arabian Peninsula integrated into the body of the local community like deep delicate veins in uncut emerald.
Thus the present inhabitants of Pakistan form a mosaic of multiple lineages and races. Fresh blood kept on pouring in bringing with it youthful zest and resilience. New religions and philosophies conveniently gained ground as they found receptive adherents. Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Atheism co-existed in all their glory. These influences are inherently ingrained in the genetically coded subconscious of the Pakistani people, who are proud inheritors of their two million year-old rich and diverse civilization, as the earliest archaeological discovery in South Asia is a Paleolithic hominid in the Soan River Valley of Punjab.
The present day Pakistani is a miniscule rung in a long chain of human existence in the Indus region. He has ridden on the waves of time and seen its highs and lows, learning in the process that a low will inevitably follow a high, thus the existing turmoil is for a brief period and will soon give way to better days. The Indus (wo)man will live as long as the Indus land exists. Thus, I am one of the millions of proud sons of my motherland – Pakistan.
I am a proud son for rational reasons, ones beyond the invisible emotional umbilical cord that bind me with my soil. Vague, clichéd and exploited patriotic slogans apart, rationalistic and logical grounds are convincing enough to let us see our ailing country with affection and love.
Pakistan certainly doesn’t have a flawless democracy, but at least it has a fledgling one. That makes it stand out in the Muslim world, even if that is not saying much. The majority of Muslim countries are governed by monarchs, autocrats or dictators, others have single-party rule or myriad forms of controlled democracy. Pertinently, critics in Pakistan point to the interference of other actors in the working of democratically elected governments, even then a largely free media is also an anomaly in the Muslim world, one whose standard bearer is Pakistan. There are still many obstacles to a complete sense of freedom of speech, journalists in Pakistan are unfortunately often under threat and many have been actively attacked, even then Pakistan remains a bastion of free speech in the barren wasteland of Arab states, some as rich and advanced as Dubai and Abu Dhabi whose newspapers read like paid promotions for the royals and those with capital.
Renoned writer Shakeel Adilzada once remarked “Literature is the manifestation of dreams and hope. A nation that produces fine literature exhibits its desire and ability to progress.” Pakistan has been producing the finest of literature since its birth. Urdu literature; both prose and poetry, is comparable to any other world class literature. There is a plethora of untranslated literary wealth that awaits fine translators to expose its beauty to the world. Luckily, in recent times a few highly talented and promising Pakistani writers writing in English have stepped forward to hold the torch of this fine literary tradition.
Much maligned as the Sharifs’ obsession with building roads and bridges is, there is no denying that Pakistan has some of the best road infrastructure among SAARC countries. A frequent traveler to South Asia does not require a very keen eye to observe and appreciate the edge Pakistan enjoys in terms of better infrastructure and civic sense over its neighbours. Inter and Intra city highways, link roads and bridges are well-built and duly maintained. Karachi a city of 20 million teeming inhabitants is generally compared with Bombay, Calcutta and Dhaka; Lahore with Delhi and Colombo, but both excel with their better road infrastructure and cleanliness. From Karachi to Khyber and Gawadar to Sialkot Pakistan is comfortably bound by a web of fine roads.
Not to fuel tensions with Pakistan’s much bigger and more prosperous and progressive neighbour, Pakistanis have an ability to laugh at their foibles, a trait often lacking among the far more self-important Indians. While India produces some fine comedy, it lacks the self-deprecatory leg pulling that has come to be known as the hallmark of Pakistani humour. This is best evidenced among Pakistan’s vibrant twitter population that often creates hilarious hashtags that end up on international websites like Buzzfeed.
Generosity and hospitality is a rare social virtue in free market economies. Pakistanis are generous in philanthropy. Pakistan ranks fifth in the world in terms of charity viz-a-viz GDP. In hospitality human relations take precedence over other things. A cursory glance at the manner in which Indians are greeted and warmly welcomed in Delhi versus the relatively cooler reception those from Lahore receive in Delhi bears testimony to the fact.
Social courtesy in Pakistan is real and genuine. “What can I do for you?” is taken for granted or a routine meaningless sentence depicting formal courtesy in many countries. In Pakistan generally this sentence is uttered by a person who is ready to go an extra step to help the addressee. Other such pleasantaries are also pregnant with honest intent in local diction.
Presently Pakistan is the second largest producer of buffalo meat, buffalo milk and Chickpeas; third largest producer of pulses and cotton seed, fourth largest of goat milk, meat, onion and lint cotton, fifth largest producer of dates, spices, apricot, dry chilies and pepper, sixth largest in production of mangoes, wheat, okra and sugarcane, eighth for unmanufactured tobacco and castor oil, ninth in global production of tropical fruits, spinach and cauliflower, ninth and tenth in pistachio, eleventh in oranges and twelvth in rice paddy.
These facts are reiterated often and perhaps are a small drop in an ocean of troubles, but they suggest a certain Pakistani character that is not defined in terms of merely being not-Indian. It is an inherent character that Pakistan has developed organically over time, well mixed with its ancient heritage, producing a unique culture that can go a long way.