One must never deny that which is going wrong. Indeed, to accept and acknowledge it is itself the first step towards finding ways to reverse the wrong. But nor should one forget that which may be going right. So, what do you think are things that are going right in Pakistan? (Please, keep your cynicism to yourself – it is neither funny nor useful).
Let me give you a very preliminary and a very arbitrary list of five. These are not in order of priority, nor indeed are they the most important five. They are just five things that came quickly to mind. Trivial as they may sound to some, what is important is that each is a sign of societal strength, not of the state’s weakness. Each, therefore, is a sign of hope.
#1. Music. No, I am not joking. Pakistani music is going through an age of amazing innovation and a passionate embrace of all that is socially meaningful. But that, in fact, is not why I list it here. To me the richness of Pakistan’s music scene – here, here, here, here, here, here and everywhere – signifies that innovation is alive and kicking, in fact, thriving. The innovative spirit embedded in today’s music is what is going so very right in Pakistan, and so very worth celebrating.
#2. Media. We at ATP have bashed the media when it over-steps, over-does and over-reaches as anyone else. We believe that is deserved because there is much to be rightly bashed. But there is much more that deserves to be celebrated. Overall, and despite all that needs to be improved, media independence in Pakistan has been a force for the good. It has also often been a force of courage. The media has not just found its voice, it has given voice to society – the good as well as the bad, but a voice that neither relents nor can be silenced any more.
#3. Youth. That Pakistan is a youthful country is a legitimate demographic concern but also the most powerful potential for societal change in Pakistan. But that is a game of numbers and speculation. What is going right with the youth in Pakistan is not that there are so many of them. It is that so many of them are so very active and engaged in the redefinition of all sorts of social contracts. This is not an unconcerned and unconnected youth. This is a youth that is alive with passion and activism. That passion and activism may sometimes come in flavors we do not like, but this is not an indifferent youth. This is a youth that will make a difference.
#4. Resilience. It is sad that the resilience of this people has been tested as often and in as many ways as it has. At one level, the people of this country have no option but to be resilient. But beyond the resilience for survival is the resilience from an indigenous entrepreneurship. Earthquakes. IDPs. Floods. Pakistanis have lived through these not only with a spirit of philanthropy, but with a spirit of entrepreneurship. It is resilience as an expression of the entrepreneurship of survival that is going right. If only we could find a way to convert entrepreneurship for survival into entrepreneurship for growth.
#5. Responsibility. This is the one I will probably get flak for. But if I am right on this then this may be the most important. The fact that we now hear and read so much about not taking enough responsibility for our own actions instead of forever seeking ‘outside’ hands and conspiracies is itself a sign that times have changed. When the pathology of denial was at its peak, no one would dare talk about that pathology. We have not yet fully turned the corner and there are too many who are too eager to divert, deflect and deny. But the tenor of the national conversation today is not a conversation of denial, but one of taking responsibility. It is an uncomfortable conversation for exactly that reason. And for the very same reason, it is also a much more relevant and important conversation for all of our futures. It is a conversation that is, indeed, going right.
My list is longer. My faith in this society and this people is stronger. Even as there is so much around us that is cause for despair, there is also that which must be a cause for hope. Now, you tell us, please, what you think is going right in Pakistan?