The Prime Minister’s Quest For A “Khudaar” Qaum
Scrolling through the news websites as part of my morning ritual, my eyes gazed for something exciting to peruse. The heading “Don’t strive for “soft image” of Pakistan only to please the West” caught my attention. As a Pakistani student, currently based in the West, I wanted to read the advice given to the nation by the worthy Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. The proposition came while he was addressing a gathering in Islamabad held to showcase a docu-drama “Paani ke pankh” that highlights Pakistan’s potential to harness its hydropower capabilities.
Trying to connect the dots between hydropower generation and appeasing the West, I could not resist but watch the entire address. In the first part the premier stated the plethora of problems inherited by his government from the preceding ones, and the enormous deficits caused by the policies of the past regimes. The latter part of the address was of most interest to me. Imran Khan equated promoting a soft image of Pakistan to an “inferiority complex” and urged the nation to portray itself as a Khudaar qaum (Self-conceited or self-reliant nation). This was not the first time when the Prime Minister urged the nation to show dignity, stand-up on its feet, and not beg other nations for monetary assistance. In fact, this has been a recurring theme in his speeches; both nationally and internationally.
While advising the nation to be more self-reliant, independent, and most importantly, believing in itself, the Prime Minister clearly overlooked how to achieve this status and impart these values. He highlighted the term “Enlightened Moderation” coined by General Pervez Musharaff and the way it was misunderstood by the people of Pakistan who considered wearing western outfits and speaking English as markers of enlightenment. However, the expression enlightened moderation as stated in the article by Musharraf calls for a renaissance, where he suggests the way forward is through enlightenment. Although it was written under different circumstances and its connotation may have changed today, my take from it is the message to concentrate on human development through poverty alleviation, providing quality education, enhancing healthcare, and improving social justice, all of which bears resemblance to the Prime Minister’s supplication.
While a comparison of the Musharraf regime and the current government is not the scope of this article, the indicators stated above have taken toll under the current administration. It has been frequently criticised for constraining space for journalism and media. Unfortunately, such practices are in contradiction to the attempts of promoting the image of a Khudaar qaum that as a matter of principle requires more resilience to criticism, and tolerance towards contrarian perspectives. The Prime Minister further insisted to think big and have greater aspirations. This insistence also doesn’t align with the education system afforded to most of the people in Pakistan that neither emboldens critical thinking nor encourages to dream big. Unfortunately, teaching state-sponsored curriculum and sanctioned histories only exacerbates the problems as it influences our identity formation and thought process that subsequently makes it difficult to achieve independence of mind. Although the prospective democratised Single National Curriculum (SNC) outlined by the government claims to ensure a common platform for all children to receive high quality education. However, it has become a contentious subject in its early phases.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister has frequently narrativized the mistakes committed under external pressure by the Pakistani state to fight wars that were not necessitated. While doing so, he often omits to call attention to other sensitive issues that have left an imprint on the country’s history. To bring about the much-needed change in the mindset of the nation, we must be open to debate, tolerate other opinions, and move forward with lessons learnt from the past. Unfortunately, these qualities are not nurtured enough in the society. Moreover, the assumption that people need enlightenment only when they lack confidence also undermines other universal values of resilience, independence, and autonomy that the Prime Minister wants to instil in the Pakistani nation. While the message given by the Prime Minister is very strong and commendable, the mechanism to enforce it is needs to be strengthened.
In the remaining part of the speech, the Prime Minister praised and encouraged the media industry of Pakistan to create documentaries and films. However, in doing so, the setbacks caused by censorship boards were entirely overlooked. For example, the famous blockbuster Raees starring Mahira Khan opposite Shahrukh Khan was banned in Pakistan because of portraying Muslims negatively while setting records in other Muslim majority countries. In the same way, Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha (Circus of Life) is still in the process to get through the red tape. Paradoxically, the film has already been premiered at the Busan International Film Festival in 2019 where it won the prestigious Kim Ji-seok award, and is Pakistan’s submission to the Oscars. We need to acknowledge the vital cultural contributions that account for Pakistan’s global success. Such incongruities impede the very efforts to instil confidence in the nation. Encouragement across-the-board will boost the media industry’s morale and motivate them to work on original ideas – as stressed by the Prime Minister during his speech.
Finally, the Prime Minister concluded the address by celebrating the highly talented Pakistanis working all around the globe, and underlining Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change. While Pakistan is vulnerable to climate change, it is also susceptible to other social mischiefs that need to be addressed as we move into the future. Similarly, the fact about Pakistan’s extremely talented diaspora and multitude of students excelling in all walks of life in the international arena should be celebrated, it should also make us ponder why most of them choose to serve other countries instead of Pakistan. These energies if invested in Pakistan will only deepen the bond Pakistanis living abroad have with their country and help implement your vision. There are many Pakistanis who are waiting to come home to help realise this ambition and build the Pakistan promised to us.