Adil Najam and Owais Mughal
One thousand, four hundred and sixty-one days. Some of those days were stirring and stimulating, some were emotional and enthralling, others were traumatic and tumultuous, too many were depressing and distressing. But each and every one of them was important in our shared journey in Pakistaniat.
As we ponder upon the memories of these days, our own discussions of them and those of our readers, one of the thoughts that resounds and inspires us is:
jissay bhi daikhiaye gilla
‘watan say yeh nahiN milla, watan say woh nahiN milla’
koee nahiN jo yeh kahey
‘watan ko tum nay kiya diya, watan ko meiN nay kiya diya’
In that spirit and as a very small gesture to mark this milestone, we will donate one US dollar for each of those days – US$1461, or Rs. 124,492 – to a charity in Pakistan. We have not yet figured out exactly which charity to give to and would appreciate any ideas from our readers on who to give to, how and for what. More importantly, let us urge our readers to also give back to Pakistan in whatever way you can and in whatever way you think best.
Long time readers would remember that on different occasions ATP has donated its advertising receipts to various Pakistani charitable causes, and we have been moved by those many of our readers who have heeded our appeals and opened their hearts and wallets. Back in July 2007, we sent Rs. 100,000 to those affected by Cyclone YemYeni in Balochistan; in October 2007, we donated our meager advertising revenues for relief efforts for those displaced by the 2005 Earthquake; In the summer of 2009 as the Swat IDP crisis was at its peak we launched a campaign where ATP readers helped us raise US$10,000, of which $3400 came from ATP advertising (here, here and here). On other occasions we have regularly been donating to other worthy Pakistani causes, as we know so many of our readers. We announce our very little gesture in this post today, merely in the hope that it might inspire others to do the same. In whatever way, small or big, that they can; to whatever cause they think will make the most difference making Pakistan’s next 1,461 better than they might otherwise be.
As we think back on the last four years, it has been an amazing journey. One that we never expected would ever last this long or be this exciting. Today, with 1461 days of operation, nearly 1,800 posts, 126 authors, 65,500 approved comments, over 5000 newsfeed readers, nearly 1000 Twitter followers, some 11,700 Facebook fans, and multiple millions (yes, millions) pageviews later we remain surprised that we are still at it and thankful that you are still here with us.
In the past we have used or milestone posts (100th post, ‘Going Forward’ post, ‘Move to Pakistaniat.com‘ post, ‘Tangay Walla’ post, 6-month anniversary post, 1-year anniversary post, Redesign curtain-raiser post, 2-year anniversary post, 3-year anniversary post, ‘Who Reads ATP’ post, Best Current Affairs Blog Award post) to detail the philosophy of ATP, chart its development, make announcements, share our frustrations, and examine our achievements. All of those posts remain on record, and part of us hopes that you will go back and read them.
The most detailed of this was our 2-year anniversary post. In that we had laid out our story, our philosophy, the frustrations of comment moderation and our ‘Tangay Wallah Khair Mangda’ approach. All of that post remains relevant today, some snippets from it are worth repeating:
ATP’s essence was always to be a community. A community forged out of a common desire to understand, to explore, to debate and to express one’s Pakistaniat. A community does not always agree. Sometimes tempers flare. Often smiles are shared. Occasionally laughter breaks out. Some in every community are perpetually angry. Others only marginally interested. Some act as if they are uncomfortable to even be part of that community. Others cheer-lead even when cheer-leading is not needed. Some help build the community spirit, others assume that they and they alone know what the community is or should be about. Communities celebrate together, communities grieve together, but communities do not always have to agree. They bicker. They sometimes fight. But in moments of joy and in times of grief, they embrace each other again. Such are the dynamics of a community. Such is our ambition.
We may not be there yet, but we would like to believe that we are on the way there. This last year has been full of anger and angst for Pakistan. And the same has been reflected in our pages. Tempers have flared. Hearts have been broken. Blood pressures have gone through the roof. People have said things they might (we hope) later regretted. This is a reflection of the times we have lived through. These times have not been – are not – easy. But for those who keep their eye out for moments of community, there are many to be recognized. Some come out of shared grief. Some out of shared pride. But, most such moments come from the recognition of the small things we share. Those memories of old PTV Ads, of using fountain pens, of drinking chai, of the TV show Fifty-Fifty, of the Naai back home, of Rooh Afza, and of so much more.
… We know that many – nearly everyone – is annoyed at us for trying to implement our comment policy through strong moderation. We know that some would prefer no moderation, but we also know that many are like us and seek a certain civility in the discussion. Civility does not mean agreement or running away from tough argumentation. It merely means a certain respect for the other.
The single largest reasons for moderation remain (a) personal attacks, and (b) irrelevance. We are ourselves often attacked personally, and viciously. We know how much it hurts. We therefore assume that others when subject to personal attack will feel the same. Hence, our policies are what they are. Whoever is moderated seems to believe that it is they and only they who are being subjected to moderation. And that this is because of some conspiracy against them and their views, rather than because of their failure to follow the fairly simple principles we have set out in our comment policy. We seem not to be able to convince them otherwise. We take some solace – but only scant solace – in the fact that in just about every controversial post, we tend to moderate out as many posts on each side of the argument. Two years of evidence suggests that the tendency to habitually ignore the stated comment policy, particularly in terms of personal attacks and irrelevance, is not restricted to people of any particular ideological persuasion, or age, or location!
afsos be-shumaar sukhan haaye guftani
khauf-e-fasaad-e-khalq se na-gufta reh gaye
As we had argued in a post long ago, our role is like that of the Tangay Walla in the song "tangay walla khair mangda." There is "banda rang rang da" on the tonga, and the Tonga Walla cannot choose where they go. All that he can do is to make the journey pleasant and sing the song of Khair (I guess here it means something like â€˜goodnessâ€™ and â€˜friendshipâ€™).
But those frustrations, we have internalized. More important than these frustrations is the sense that there are people out there willing to give a listen to what we have to say. Sometimes they give us an earful back. But always they have to share insights and ideas that help us in understanding our own Pakistaniat.
It would be presumptuous to say that this blog is a way of giving back to Pakistan. It is not. We do it for ourselves. Because it gives us the sense of being – and remaining – connected. But the of the many many things that doing these four years have taught us, the one which we are most struck by today is the need – and even the necessity – for us to give back: whatever little we can, in whatever way we can.
Join us, dear readers, if you can.