Hassan Abbas's comment on my post about his book0 comments
I hope you will be enlightened by his comments too.
Hassan Abbas said... As we say in Urdu: "Umed pay dunia kaaem".
Yes, Pakistan has every potential to become a truly democratic state. As far as signs are concerned, they are not good given Pakistan military's entrenched position in the country and its corporate interests but I believe sooner or late it will be realized in Pakistan that its very existence depends on its capability to transform into a democracy. We lost half of the state in 1971 primarily due to Pakistani establishment's refusal to hand over power to the democratically elected leader Mujib ur Rahman.
And in my humble view, the path towards democracy is linked to strengthening of civil society in Pakistan as well - people have to stand up and challenge the autocratic tendencies of Pakistan's military, bureaucratic and political elite on one hand and expose the true face of Pakistani mullahs on the other.
Hassan! I have some reservations. As a child growing up in Pakistani society was so depressing. I was depressed all the time by reading about 1971 and Bangladesh. I saw it happen. I witnessed the war. I saw the cat fight of fighter planes over my city. I saw my parents and uncles crawling under beds and dragging me under as well. They thought if the roof would collapse by a bomb or something they may be protected by trapping under some empty space (seems silly at this point but when you are living under war you want to hang on a string of hope).
I witnessed the divide. I was 4 years old but I still have memories of protests and anxiety that prevailed around my neighborhood and house as well.
I remember we had only two rooms (a bedroom and a kitchen). In our only bedroom my father (May he rest in peace) would turn on the radio and listen carefully.
He would tell me to be quite.
At times my mother would come out of kitchen and ask what happened?
I did not understand much but as I grew up and kept reading more about it, I became more depressed. I read stories in my school about the betrayal. I delivered speeches in debating contests in my school. My depression increased and I kept asking why? Why this happened to my society?
Finally I reached a conclusion it was hard to manage a country like this apart from Mujib, Bhutto and Establishments interests. We had thousand of miles and a hostile neighbor liking its wounds of partition in between. No internet or hot and secure communication line to manage day to day affairs of state swiftly. It is good that a brother is living independently in his house. Let's get over with it and care about future only.
By teaching this to myself I became more pessimistic about the future of my country. However, I have realized that my nation does not learn from its mistakes and Pakistani society is composed of slow learners who are more interested in maintaining the status quo. When I think about its future unfortunately I become more pessimistic. I don’t remember who said this but someone did say that as pessimism become wide spread the change occurs. The optimisms is a sugar pill that tells you things are fine and going in good direction. Such optimisms helps to maintain a status quo. I don't want to be an optimist.
In 1996, I met Mr. Sulaiman then member Pakistan's Federal Tax Commission. I was working for National Tax Reform Commission set up in Planning Commission under Hafiz a Pasha's supervision. I discussed some research possibilities with Mr. Sulaiman using the data they had (which is kept as a prized secret). He laughed and said: Young man you are very optimistic, there is no place for you in Pakistan. Go abroad and do as much research you want to quench your thirst. I became pessimistic about doing research in Pakistan and left in 1998 to pursue a PhD in US. So Pessimism did bring a change in my life. In fact, similar pessimism about my civil society is the prime mover behind this blog. I hope I may be able to bring a change with my views someday.
In 1997, as part of SAARC Poverty Alleviation Conference Committee host, I met Bangladeshi delegates. Aziz-ud-Din once a key official in pre-divided Pakistani establishment now was a high profile official in Bangladesh government. I took all the delegates on a sight seeing trip to Margallas in those controversial parliament’s luxury buses imported by Mian Nawaz Shariff's government. I asked him how does he feel by coming back here. He said quietly, young man you wont understand just don’t ask, it hurts. Live and let live is better (his voice was bitter). I said to him I just want to learn outside the textbooks and Pakistani media, but he did not talk. I became pessimistic that our countries and people cannot even have dialogues. We will just keep mourning. In US, I met more Bangladeshis, vibrant, and friendly. I believe they are happy and we should rejoice with them. Keep good diplomatic relations and stop mourning otherwise we will keep hurting ourselves and them as well. All this pessimism did help me to get over with the issue of Bangladesh. I believe live and let live. Have a dialogue with your neighbors not about why this happened but what can be done to strengthen friendships. In order to have a good friendship do not mention the bitterness of past. There were establishment mistakes but there were some infeasibilities and hindrances as well. Things that should have been done in 1947 did happen later. If Bangladesh had been an independent country in 1947, probably we would have enjoyed good terms with them all the time without any bitterness. Brothers with Arms are better than Brothers in arms. Just living next door in your house should be ok.
Hassan you may disagree but this is probably my pessimism speaking that helped me to overcome the depression of divide.