Pakistan in 2007: A Year of Anger and Angst

Posted on December 31, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, >Owais Mughal, About ATP, Society
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Adil Najam and Owais Mughal

It is appropriate, at many levels, to start our New Year Post with the same verse we used at this time last year. The sentiment of the sheyr is even more true now than it was a year ago.

Har saal yeh samajh keh guzara hai aye _Saba_
Yeh ishq ki saddi meiN adaawat ka saal hai

As we look back at the events and people and news of 2007, two thoughts immediately strike us. First, there is relief that this year – which has been so sad and tragic in so many ways – is coming to a close. Maybe, just maybe, what follows will be better. Second, if there was any one and only one thing that defined the year 2007, that thing was the manifest anger and angst that defines Pakistani society today.

Anger was the face of Pakistan in 2007.

The one that that defined Pakistan in 2007 more than all others – more than Benazir Bhutto and her tragic end, more than Pervez Musharraf and all his political machinations, more than the lathi-waving vigilantes of Lal Masjid, more than Iftikhar Chaudhry and his judicial assertiveness, more than Aitizaz Ahsan and his legal struggles, more than civil society‘s struggles for democracy, more than the media and its battles for independence, more than anything else that one can think of – that one thing was the latent anger in society.

For Pakistan and Pakistanis, 2007 was the story of this anger erupting ever so violently, at every possible opportunity, in every which way, and in all its many possible manifestations.

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This anger has been spilling all year long on the streets of Pakistan in the form of slogans, batons, bricks, sticks and – all too often – blood. As we look back at our year of blogging we find that we have written about this anger more often than just about anything else. And each time we have written about the anger people have become more angry at us for even questioning their anger. The anger with which people have justified their own anger is probably the most disturbing of all.

The violent death of Benazir Bhutto and the even more violent reactions to that on the streets of Pakistan have been the most recent, most dramatic and most poignant representations of this national sense of outrage and angst. But the anger has been a constant theme throughout the year. More than that, our own angst comes from the repeated justification of this anger and a societal acceptance of violence (physical, verbal, emotional) as a legitimate tool of political action and of social expression.

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What has disturbed us consistently and increasingly through the year is how many good people are willing to justify violence and anger as the means of achieving what they consider to be valid social goals. What is also clear is that this justification of anger is not restricted to any group or ideology. Some religious activists justify violence because they seek to purify Pakistan, but so do some liberals who are rooting for democracy and rule of law. Government is ready to express their authority through violence but so is civil society. This, of course, is not a case of moral equivalence and the violence of those who have power is different from the violence of those who do not. But at the end of the day blood spilled on a street is blood spilled on a street. It is the sanctity of that blood – no matter whose blood it is – that has been totally thrashed this year.

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If you have the time, go and follow any of the heated discussions on our posts relating to anger this year. Focus, if you will, on how different groups will justify their own or someone else’s anger. It is this acceptance of the legitimacy of anger, and therefore of violence, that defined 2007 for Pakistan and which made this such a tragic year for all of. Look for example, at this story we did very year in the year (Feb. 21) on the murder of a woman Minister in the Punjab by a religious fanatic. We wrote then:

What killed Zille Huma Usman? Not religion. Not madness. But anger. Uncontrolled anger.

Note the comments of some of our friends who seemed less concerned about the woman who had been brutally murdered than about our questioning the anger in society. But the anger was around us all year round, everywhere.



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The above were all not direct manifestations of anger, but they were all contributors to or reactions to anger and violence of various forms. We realize that anger and violence is not unique to Pakistan. We live in a world where violence is increasingly used and justified everywhere, including by the biggest powers of the world. But this post or this blog is not about them. This is about Pakistan. The anger and the violence of others cannot be a justification of our own anger and violence. If we are to have any credibility in speaking out against the violence of others, then we must first restrict our own.

Here at ATP we see a manifestation of this anger every day in our comments (and these from the more literate and affluent Pakistanis, many living abroad). In recent months especially, these comments have been simply a chronicle of national angst and anger with less and less substance to them. Even after having to moderate out 20% or more of the comments from people on all sides of all issues, what remains is a testimony to the sad conclusion that as a society we may now be incapable of disagreeing without being disagreeable. It seems that some of us cannot even discuss Rooh Afza without questioning someone else’s patriotism or religious piety!

All of this is, of course, an incomplete picture. It is meant to be incomplete. As our posts all across the year have also shown, there is much in Pakistan – much more than this – which is good and positive and very worth being proud of. We highlight the anger today in this end-year post, not because this is the only thing that represents Pakistan today, but that this has grown to alarming proportions in this year and we, as Pakistanis, must rise against this anger and this violence. Indeed, as we noted above, there are some in the civil society who have chosen to reject the protest of violence and choose the protest of principle. We must stand with them and against violence.

For the sake of our future and for the hope of the future we must confront this anger of ours and resisit all and any justifications for violence. The first step in solving any problem has to be to recognize and name the problem. That is what we are trying to do today. Please join us in doing so!

50 Comments on “Pakistan in 2007: A Year of Anger and Angst”

  1. Rahim Khan says:
    December 31st, 2007 5:22 pm

    Happy New Year and may God save Pakistan!!!

  2. RE says:
    December 31st, 2007 5:23 pm

    When the clock strikes twelve on December 31st, people all over the world cheer and wish each other a very Happy New Year. For some, this event is no more than a change of a calendar. For others, the New Year symbolizes the beginning of a better tomorrow. So, if you look forward to a good year ahead, spread happiness with these wonderful New Year wishes.Peace on a global scale is a reflection of each individual. Each persons
    contentment reflects upon the other. Peace of mind has positive outcome as happiness can spread in this most unique fashion. Forgiveness of negative experiences, of the past, is difficult for many people. As incidence of the past cannot be changed, often forgiveness is the best way to spark contentment and peace of mind. Toward a goal of global harmony & renewed love of life.
    Make everyone be peaceful and no fighting.Make no one be poor at all and no more wars. I would wish that no one in the world would ever be sick again. I would wish that there would not be no more killers. I Would wish for my mum and dad to be happy. I wish for everyone to always have faith in God.
    http://www.longlivepakistan.com

  3. Owais Mughal says:
    December 31st, 2007 5:38 pm

    zabt kehta hai khamoshi se basr ho jaaye
    dard ko ye zid ke dunya ko khabr ho jaaye

    diloN ka haal to ye hai na rabt hai na gurez
    mohabatteN to gayee theeN, adawateN be gayeeN

  4. Reza Kamran says:
    December 31st, 2007 5:41 pm

    May be we all need a graduate course in Anger Management! Happy New Year to all!

    Pakistanis are resilient people. By Allah’s grace, 2008 will bring hope and prosperity for all. After all, hope is what keeps us all alive!

  5. Rahim Khan says:
    December 31st, 2007 5:51 pm

    Nawaz Sharif wrote an interesting article ” What Pakistan Deserves” in todays Washington Post, here is link for you>

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/31/AR2007123100952.html

  6. ASIF says:
    December 31st, 2007 5:59 pm

    This is an eye-opening summary of a very sad year. You are right, we have become too angry and too violent.

    But I would highlight what you say at end. Most Pakistanis are good and there are many good things too. Let us not let the few stick wielding adn bomb throwing and martial law calling amongst us impose all their anger on us.

    The majority of the country has to take back the country from these angry few.

  7. Ahsan says:
    December 31st, 2007 6:15 pm

    Wish you all a happy 2008.
    Dear Adil and Owais,
    I will not say that 2007 was the year of Anger for the people of Pakistan. It was an year of more frustration. The day when Pakistani people will be angry, it will be the year of revolt against dictators, autocrats, corrupt politicians, Feudals, Mullahs and .., It will be year of the people governing itself. It will be the year of system of the government without Islam The year of real anger of the people is still very far.
    I wish you the best for your effort.

  8. temporal says:
    December 31st, 2007 6:29 pm

    well said!

    frustration is the root cause of this anger

    frustration at not knowing how to channelize it positively

    frustration at not seeing a ray of hope

    this new dawn will usher in more darkness….more uncertainty than ever

    i refrain from any wishes save wishes for safety and peace to my friends here

  9. Eidee Man says:
    December 31st, 2007 6:31 pm

    Reading your tabulation of the many, many events is really eye-opening. Despite all of the obvious problems with us, I still believe that the vast majority of Pakistanis are yearning for an environment where there is none of we have been subjected to this year.

    Being Pakistani, and also having lived in the U.S. for a while, it seems to me that the major problem with the majority who are peace-loving, not extreme, etc is that they put up with too much!

    Sure, most of our elections have been rigged, but seriously, how many of us “educated” people are going to vote in the upcoming elections? Does that not mean that the people who have been robbed (by our society) of a good education understand democracy more than we do?

    I pray to God that the next year will bring the restoration of the removed judges, the election of a national, consensus government, a strong and unshackled press, and peace, security, and prosperity for the people of Pakistan. InshAllah.

  10. Lahori says:
    December 31st, 2007 6:35 pm

    Pakistaniat.com has become the chronicle of all our anger. Thank you for reminding us that we get overboard with our anger, here and everywhere.

    And my apologies for whenever my comments might have become angry and caused you guys angst.

    Wishes for a safe and peaceful and less angry 2008 to everyone.

  11. Boy Wonder says:
    December 31st, 2007 6:44 pm

    Finding this blog was one of best things for me in 2007. I wish “Pakistaniat” was a TV or Radio channel, sometimes. I thank Adil Najam for creating and keeping up with this site every day with lot of passion. I would request Adil Najam to consider Podcasts for this blog in 2008, that would be really, really great. Again Thank you, ATP !

  12. Anwar says:
    December 31st, 2007 7:04 pm

    Happy new year to ATP fraternity.

    2007 for Pakistan was indeed sad and dynamic. I am however optimistic about 2008.

    Future will turn for the better as citizen are becoming politically more mature because they are better informed – thanks to information highway, the internet.

  13. Eidee Man says:
    December 31st, 2007 7:20 pm

    Yes, I second the call for podcasts….for one, we will be able to listen to the poetry that is posted here instead of reading it in roman letters.

  14. Abid says:
    December 31st, 2007 7:40 pm

    Anger is haram in our religion

  15. Ahsan says:
    December 31st, 2007 8:07 pm

    Podcasts sound like a good idea. It seems Adil Najam is on NPR radio all the time, specially recently, so he knows the spoken word medium well. But I wonder how many of the readers here would use podcasts.

  16. ISMAIL says:
    December 31st, 2007 8:10 pm

    Very impressive post in analysis and looks. This is a great collection of all we have been through together this year. Boy O Boy what a year it has been. I am also impressed looking at this what a great recorder of events this blog has been. Despite teh sadness of events you all at ATP have much to be proud of. WELL DONE.

  17. Nisar says:
    December 31st, 2007 8:24 pm

    Dear ATP, and Adil Najam
    Its been a long time, Adil, you probably don’t remember me. I was at ICB a year ahead of you. It was nice to hear you on NPR, on All Things Considered, with Mr Seigel. Thats how i found out about your blog.
    Inshallah, things will get better in Pakistan. Unfortunately it wont happen very soon, because its the old politics, the politics of blame, and same old faces.
    For years I have refrained to comment on the state of affairs in Pakistan, and most people may consider me unqualified to do that, however if one has the sense and sensibility, i think thats enough qualification.
    Thank you for starting ATP, good luck.
    Best Regards
    Nisar

  18. Azra says:
    December 31st, 2007 9:12 pm

    It has been a bad bad year and like you I am also relived that it has ended. My prayers for 2008 is that it should be a quiet year for Pakistan.

  19. Shaji says:
    December 31st, 2007 10:19 pm

    So, nothing good happened this year???? AT ALL!!!

  20. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 31st, 2007 10:22 pm

    Bloody last unfortunate Year 2007

    @ Last year for Pakistani Politics was very bad,
    opposition became impotent, opposition “leaders”
    betrayed the nation, they took help from evils
    they manipulated the whole nation by cooperating
    anti-Islamic powers and agencies, we have proves
    of this collaboration. Anti-Islamism, islamophobia
    was adopted by some Pakistani so called muslims
    who asked help from evil to exterminate their fellow
    Pakistanis.

  21. Azra says:
    December 31st, 2007 10:24 pm

    Shahji, read the last two paragraphs.

  22. zia m says:
    December 31st, 2007 10:55 pm

    Anger is just another emotion and is ok if regulated by reason.
    Like to thank ATP for providing a forum where we can let the steam out and stay nonviolent.
    Wishing good health,happiness and prosperity to all.

  23. MQ says:
    December 31st, 2007 11:10 pm

    At the risk of repeating myself I would quote Faiz:

    Pehlay bhi khazaN maiN baagh ujray, par yuN nahiN jaisay ab kay baras
    Patta patta, boota boota, ravish ravish barbad hooay

    Good riddance 2007! and hopefully a better new year.

  24. Shaji says:
    December 31st, 2007 11:25 pm

    The last paragraphs are just hope for a better 2008 and hints that a lot of good happens in Pakistan, which I didn’t happen to notice in the archives of ATP… nothing substantial anyway.

  25. Shaji says:
    December 31st, 2007 11:32 pm

    Also the ‘Face of Pakistan’ is not anger… he’s just stoned. The appropriate face of Pakistan should be http://pakistaniat.com/images/NY3.jpg this one.

    Of all the images I’ve seen, this one portrays the true frustration and anger of the society now which feels completely helpless in the events surrounding it. You can’t blame that person for going out and venting his anger by thrashing a few shops and burning a few tires.

  26. Azra says:
    December 31st, 2007 11:45 pm

    Things have been bad, but as you yourself point out the civil society is alive for democracy. That is the silver lining. I hope that the new year will bring a change. After everything that our country has gone through we need positive change.

  27. Shaji says:
    January 1st, 2008 12:15 am

    Not yet… I know u must think I’m crazy, this just wasn’t enough. In all honesty I think more people need to raise their voice and more needs to be done.

    If you wish the violence to stop, u need to go out and put a stop to it. If you want a regime change then you need to vote. If you want to express your anger and disgust at something then just say it.

    In my opinion, we need more people out in the streets than watching TV at home.

  28. Shaji says:
    January 1st, 2008 12:19 am

    Ok… second comment of 2008… come out, hold huge rallies like the Koreans do. Put your face on the media by amassing in numbers exceeding wildest expectations. Be the one that inspires others to come out.

  29. ISMAIL says:
    January 1st, 2008 12:24 am

    I agree, I hope that 2008 is the year of activism. The year when people actually come out and speak. You don’t have to burn things to be heard. But you do have to speak.

  30. -Farid says:
    January 1st, 2008 12:49 am

    Its been a bad year indeed. But God bless Pakistanis – we are one resilient bunch ! As I look out the window of my office in Islamabad here today on January 1st, I see life all around me. People going about their business, people getting on with their lives.

    I was just thinking that if all this had happened in any other country in the world, half the population would be in trauma centers and psychology clinics.

    But here we are, living on. Nobody is giving up.

    We’re like the energizer bunny – you can knock us down, push us off-course, put walls around us – but we just pick ourselves up and keep going.

    There is no shortage of hardship and poverty in this great country of ours, there is no shortage of corruption and greed and hate and anger.

    But there is also no shortage of grit, determination, and love.

    May God help us find better leadership. Such a great nation deserves better leaders – leaders whose souls are bigger than their egos, whose intellects are bigger than their pocketbooks, whose humility is more powerful than their pajeros!

    God bless Pakistanis ! Happy new year everyone!

  31. legaleagle says:
    January 1st, 2008 12:53 am
  32. Daktar says:
    January 1st, 2008 12:57 am

    Guys, I read a little dispair in the post. Uncharacteristic, but then these are difficult times. I like the last comment. We are resilient and I hope we will remain resilient. But as a commenter said earlier, it is now time to stand up. Otherwise the grit might disappear.

    Best of luck and good wishes to all for 2008. May it be a better year for everyone.

  33. Viqar Minai says:
    January 1st, 2008 1:14 am

    I wish Pakistan embarks on the road to real freedom and justice in 2008.

  34. Aslam says:
    January 1st, 2008 1:18 am

    I wish we will have peace and democracy in 2008.

  35. Kashif says:
    January 1st, 2008 2:03 am

    I would take this opportunity of the New Year to thank Dr. Adil Najam, Mr. Owais Mughal and their team for this excellent website that has become a link to the pulse of Pakistan for so many of us.

    Things have been so traumatic the year that many of us have not had a chance to express our gratitude for the hard work they put into this and for making this such a great platform for all points of view to talk and talk decently. I know that many of us get angry sometime and it could not be easy for them to deal with all our anger and tantrums. But this is just to say that we do appreciate greatly what they do, specially in keeping the discussion clean and (mostly) decent.

    Thank you, Sirs.

  36. JayJay says:
    January 1st, 2008 2:50 am

    It is not anger, but unconstrained violence in us, that is our bane. We are violent as individuals, as family, as community, as nation. We are violent even when not angry. We are violent to the extent of being almost Neanderthals, lesser humans. We are violent for nothing.

    We burn and pillage to demonstrate our anger. We burn and pillage to display our power, too. We burn and kill in mourning. We burn and kill in victory. And defeat.

    We take kick out of kicking animals. We have no qualms in being violent to our children. We are aggressive towards weak

  37. Mukarram says:
    January 1st, 2008 3:11 am

    I like the post. At first read I thought there are so many types of angers that all seemed to be lumped together in the post; perhaps there is a need to dissociate and look at them separately. However, with bit of a thought I reached a different conclusion.

    It is the persistent and deliberate type of anger that has caused the most visible and deep wounds on our society and is the one that needs to be dealt at societal level. Psychology would diagnose strong under-currents of feelings of injustice, and being violated. We would all tend to agree with that.

    Flash anger, which is typically in response to a threat, can also persist, if one feels under *constant* siege and threat. Unfortunately, a number of us perceive to be besieged and under a constant onslaught.

    The third kind is a personality trait, and would typically be something that we would not deal with collectively. Unfortunately, persistence makes habits, and habits become non-differentiable from traits.

    So it is really difficult to dissociate the different kinds of anger in our society.

    The question then is how to mitigate the threat and injustice where it is real and correct the perception where it is false.

    That is were we all start to disagree; the ones who are not angry, angrily start squashing and complaining about anger of the angry ones. The angry ones think that they are being further unduly subdued. And alas the cycle continues. (Listen to Benazir’s angry speech complaining about extremists on the day of sad attack, for an example. What followed minutes later unfortunately wrote one of the darkest chapters in this seemingly never ending book of chaos.)

    What we need is a voice of sanity and ‘tadbeer’; we must hold the fort but at the same time break the cycle by not making things worse. Mitigate the threats, do the justice, and correct the perceptions. Easier said than done.

  38. January 1st, 2008 4:17 am

    The nation needs to learn from our neighbouring country’s leader Ghandi who once said “Eye for an eye would make the whole world blind”. And thats exactly what is happening to Pakistan unfortunately.

    If we are angry due to one or the othe reason, we need to understand that using violence to express it will not take the country anywhere……….. but perhaps things like civil disobidence and non-violent protests is too much to ask from a nation that belives and expects instant results!!

  39. whatever says:
    January 1st, 2008 10:28 am

    Good post. You have identified the cause. Now give a solution…. how does one control his anger?

    One thing that you have missed is that, in most cases of voilence in the streets, only 15 to 20 percent of the people are really angry, the rest are their for shughal. This is a fact as I have been on the other side for 5 years during my time at an engineering university.

  40. TAHIR says:
    January 1st, 2008 3:26 pm

    Happy new year and best wishes to everyone at Pakistaniat. I pray the dark clouds are gone in 2008.

    I also want to thank Dr Najam and Dr Mughal for creating this great place where we can all be Pakistani . My thanks to you.

  41. YLH says:
    January 2nd, 2008 12:31 am

    For me personally the year ended on a devastating note. My father passed away on the 10th of last month.

    I am glad to be done with 2007.

  42. Mudassar says:
    January 2nd, 2008 12:51 am

    I forward my condolences to you and your family, long live Pakistan.

  43. YLH says:
    January 2nd, 2008 4:19 am

    Thanks mudassir. Long Live Pakistan. Long live the federation.

  44. Adnan says:
    January 2nd, 2008 5:24 am

    Inna lillahye Waina Alaihye rajioon.
    Accept my condolence- May Allah give patience to your family-Ameen

  45. Jamshed Nazar says:
    January 2nd, 2008 7:50 am

    Hello All!

    For one reason or another, Pakistan has been in the world news almost every week in 2007- mostly for bad news.

    To me it appears that the confrontation between the militants and the Army will rise. The militants have safe heavens that cannot be cleansed and the stream of suicide bombers shows no end. The more the Army tries to push into the tribal areas, the more the militancy infiltrates in the settled areas of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad. Even if Musharraf resigns, the Army will continue due to American pressure and the militants will retaliate.

    The people of Pakistan are just spectators and unless a new Goverment dcouples itself from American interests, there is no chance that this confrontation that is playing out in the streets of Pakistan will cease. However, there is little chance for a change in Government policy in Pakistan as it looks now – unless Hillary / Democrats in the US take a “U” turn in policy.

    Reading the recent history of Algeria, I fear that Pakistan is going in the same direction unless we figure out a way to stop these crazy militants.

    The tragic end of Benazir is unfortunate – but at the same time it could provide a wake up call for Pakistanis and specially the Army / Musharraf. However, looking at all the signals coming out of the country, it is clear that no one has really learnt much from the event.

    There is no doubt that with or without Pakistan, people in Sindh, Punjab, NWFP and Balochistan will continue to be – as they have live for centuries. But a demise of Pakistan will be the death of a dream that could have been a heaven and so much more.

    I am more pessimistic than most people are – but then there are not many promising signals coming from our homeland – looks like a downhill path to me.

    Best wishes for the New Year to all!

  46. Tahir says:
    January 2nd, 2008 5:03 pm

    What an elaborate archive of events of this landmark year in the history of our country. And a tremendous, truly skillful analysis of the root cause emotion running through most wrongdoings whether domestic affairs, political landscape, judicial struggle or even the cricket ground. Adil Najam is on the money here.
    That the list of even the most serious angry events in just one year has reached encyclopedic proportion is hard to believe.
    One wonders why is there lack of tolerance in the society?
    Tolerance and respect for difference of opinion is the essence of democracy. Why have we not shown this trait on the political scene even when we had democratic rule?
    We do lack this virtue at a societal level. This fact was compounded but the use of brute administrative power against peaceful expression of disagreement by the civil society.

  47. zakoota says:
    January 2nd, 2008 11:50 pm

    Its anger but more so is the amount of immense frustration that Pakistanis have developed over the recent violence in the country. My believe is that this anger is mostly due to the presence of this poor administrator called Musharaf. The corruptions of Late Benazir and Nawaz Sharief doesn’t even match the chaos that has come under Musharaf’s leadership. He has proved himself on almost all occasions to be the worst administrator. I even believe that the rage and anger towards Pakistan’s army is actually against Musharaf. His slogan is ‘Pakistan first”, so please for heaven sake do a favor and go, no Pakistani wants to see further turmoil in the country.

  48. True Pakistani says:
    January 11th, 2009 12:12 pm

    You have rightly pointed out that ‘anger’ is one of the main motivation behind many happenings in our country. we see anger every day on streets with people yelling at each other & scuffles for minor disagreements. One important manifestation of anger was killing & burning of decoits & mobile phone snatchers in Karachi, that galvenized our police into action like never seen before, arresting those responsible for the killings. After all if this had continued there would have been no decioties & mobile snatching & the police will have to go without all the share/bribes & ‘Bhattas’ that go with such activities

  49. True Pakistani says:
    January 11th, 2009 12:43 pm

    On ‘Anger’ I came across a poem of Noon Meem Rashid that someone who was angry posted on
    http://teeth.com.pk/blog/2008/09/25/rahman-dakait-international-peace-award
    (see last comment on the page).

    and also at
    http://marvimemon.wordpress.com/write-to-marvi/

    for those finding the urdu too difficult there is an english translation of the poem at
    http://www.chowk.com/interacts/f/32808/1/0/240

  50. Habibies says:
    September 29th, 2010 5:42 am

    God Bless Pakistan

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