Pakistan on the Global Stage
Over the past few years Pakistan has been bestowed with a number of colourful and imaginative taglines – the “most dangerous place in the world”, the “epicentre of terror” and the “backyard of Bin Laden” to name a few. And as the country’s image takes one battering after another, most of us are left wondering how things could have gone so wrong. The current situation seems like such a world away from the generation of our grandparents, many of whom still recall with a mixture of pride and disappointment the instant admiration they would receive around the world when mentioning that they were citizens of Pakistan â€œ a bright new star on the map of the world, poised to embrace a future full of hope.
But then somewhere along the way, lurching from crisis to crisis, we gradually came to resign ourselves to a bad reputationâ€œ it’s as if we no longer wished to try, no longer knew or cared what the world thought of us. But in an increasingly globalized world, where dependence on other countries grows daily, we have no choice but to engage in constructive ways or just get left behind.
The central issue here is of nationalism, which essentially boils down to what, as a nation, we can point to as a source of pride in ourselves. It’s important to remember that nationalism can also be a very dangerous thing: it can serve to divide and destroy as easily as it can unite and build; it can demonise the“other” as quickly as it can blind a nation to its own ills. And so, it’s necessary for a nation to be proud of the right things.
In Pakistan’s case, what are the right things? We may be proud of our sporting victories against India, but do we need to be anti-India in every way in order to be proud Pakistanis? We may criticize American and Israeli foreign policy where it’s so blatantly wrong, but must we blame everything on an imagined Israeli/American conspiracy to bring down Pakistan? We may be proud of being overwhelmingly Muslim, but do we really need the state to tell us which interpretation of Islam to follow and to punish us for not following it?
And what’s happened to our history? How many of us know that in the territory that is now Pakistan, great Sanskrit scholars like Panini wrote treatises on logic and grammar that laid the foundations for modern day computing? How many were aware that in this very territory, the Indus Valley civilization flourished with a level of egalitarianism unseen in the ancient (and perhaps the modern) world?Â Everywhere we look there’s evidence of the rich history we’re a part ofÂ â€œ so why are we ignoring our civilisational greatness? Why have we not claimed these achievements as readily as we claim those that came after 1947? And what of the great men and women who have gone on to make Pakistan proud in the fields of science, medicine, IT and the arts â€œ why are they not celebrated in our school textbooks as the heroes of our age?
It’s time we remember that we have been a country for only 63 years, but a civilization for millennia â€œ a civilization that has been richly pluralistic and has tied us irrevocably with our neighbours, whether we like to admit it or not. And it’s time we projected this image of Pakistan to the world, so that the record can finally be set straight: we are so much more than a nation of corrupt politicians and murderous fundamentalists.