The Silent Revolution

By Mona Hassan

January 27, 2015

sophie m

Electricity, inflation, water and now (gas) petrol crisis; all of these utilities seem to be an urban legend in Pakistan. In the past few days, I have come across a number of excited posts on my Facebook time line about full tanks of fuels. There is an unignorable euphoria seen when a common man finds fuel.

“Rumors” of fuel being sold in black and the riches getting their hands on it without any difficulty are also circling around. An obvious blame on the government for creating “artificial crisis,” usurping public funds for fancy twenty member delegations overseas, lavish lifestyle of the prime minister and other members of the government isn’t a secret.

Bugs infested swamps and ponds, creating serious health conditions in many parts of the country, and food price hike in open market are a few of the hottest topics of discussion for a while. Meat is a rare commodity. Even grains, sugar and lentils are very expensive for an average Pakistani household. Pakistan has been in this chaotic state for over a few decades now and to top it all Thar keeps facing a high death toll due to famine; 47 deaths only for the current month of January. That is more than two deaths per day in Thar and the food aid that was supposed to be distributed was hoarded by the local feudals of the area. Government has obviously repeatedly failed its people who need help the most.

Pakistan is in the most dilapidated condition at the moment and it didn’t happen overnight. With each passing day the situation is getting worse. Each election year we gather around to listen to absurd speeches, claims and promises by the same few religious or family run political parties and chant for their success. Well actually, we chant for the most disliked parties to lose. Some of us have had other reasons to wait for election years as well.

I have to admit that at one point Professor Naeem Bukhari – because he taught me Constitution during my law school days – used to be the only person during election time for special election edition that would get me hooked on national TV. Come elections and we sit through the rigging allegations, disappointments, conspiracy theories and struggle to make ends meet all over again and next election year, same story. Being a Pakistani, it seems like it is a part of the package that you don’t learn anything from your mistakes and habitually repeat them.

Every now and then Pakistan sees a coup or two. A military officer comes into power, things seem to get better or enough to feed Pakistanis’ wishful thinking and then the vicious cycle starts back all over again.

When we don’t get anything from our feudal and business Politicians we run after an all-rounder cricketer hottie turned social worker turned politician and stand up to make new Pakistan. This new Pakistan gave people a great floor plan. It has great ocean views, beautiful gardens with big healthy luscious trees and flowers, fresh grass to roll on, sweet waterfall and… wait… stop!

I got carried away for a little bit over there just like the people who sat in the sit-in protest for 126 days with their Captain and then poof! Everything back to the same state. Captain got married and Pakistanis focused their attention on her new bride and her past.

There is a very clear and obvious pattern here. People keep looking at the sky and wait for the savior to come down and rescue them, hope for the best and go back on with their same lives struggling between putting food on the table and not getting sick every other day.

The problem here is not the government. It is merely running the show as a master and all Pakistanis are accomplices to this crime of self-destruction. Some people create their own storms and get mad when it rains (unknown). Pakistanis are those very people; victims of their own doing. How do they mitigate that? They blame; they blame anyone from their own government to Jews and India.

These days, after clear disappointment from Captain all eyes are on COAS Raheel Shareef. Although the Army hasn’t taken over the country officially but the Chief is calling all the shots and making all important decisions while Prime Minister visited ailing King of Saudi Arabia. People hope that Chief will make things better by hanging the already imprisoned for life “terrorists”.

Pakistani Army has by far kept the most consistent gold star record in the eyes of the masses than any other department in the country. There is not all bad news though. In fact, it’s quite refreshing to see that Pakistan’s “silent majority” is slowly rising against terrorism and fearlessly telling Taliban and their agents operating incognito in the country that is rallying with #IAmNotAfraid. That is by far the only platform where people have stood together as Pakistanis without the religious, sectarian or financial distinctions and/or discriminations.

Thanks to Jibran Nasir who took the first step and the most dangerous job in the world to stand against terrorists and motivated other Pakistanis to come forward. Right step I’d say at the time when this country is fighting war on many external and internal fronts.

People of Pakistan have much more talent and craftsmanship than any handyman in the world. Who hasn’t heard of truck jingle art? Sialkot is the biggest industry for surgical tools and sporting goods. Every kid on the street is a potential cricketer, every third will show how to dismantle something and tell you what each of those parts are. There is no scarce of talent but putting that talent into good use is the question. At least one person in each household knows how to grow plants and almost everyone knows how to ride a bicycle. As a matter of fact Pakistan has its own home industry of Sohrab Cycle which started in 1953 from a little shop.

Speaking of bicycles, China brought reform in the country by introducing a bicycle culture in 1950s. Recently, after the years of this declining culture and now disturbed by the smog emission and traffic Jams in big cities like Beijing – that used to be called the Kingdom of Bicycles – China has decided to bring it back by introducing a bike share program. What changed? Not the government, but people and their perception, their behavior and thinking.

At one time in China, bicycles were a symbol of poor man’s transport or just school kids’ afternoon out door entertainment like in Pakistan. It is now getting popular to become a cool and hipster transport in China despite the fact that there are still some organizations in cities that do not allow bikes on their property.

Denmark, ranked the happiest country in the world has bicycles as their choice of transport. For over half of Copenhagen population ride their bikes to work albeit being the rainy and snowy city.

Similarly, growing up I have always seen some vegetable and fruit bushes and plants in my house. My late aunt had a small area in backyard where she grew different vegetable including okra, spinach, tomato, chili peppers, eggplant, cucumber, lemon and few others that I am forgetting. She would have enough vegetables to feed five people in her household.

What’s the point of all this growing vegetables and bicycle discussion? The point is these countries and people that changed, they weren’t always like that. They changed their perception and attitude towards things and life. No savior came to rescue them they started their own little revolution to make is a “new” life for themselves. They took the matters into their own hands for their well-being instead of relying helplessly on the leaders repeatedly or waiting for the manna dew to drop from the sky, inflation to end or cleaner environment.

At the moment Pakistanis judge each other by the size of the car they drive, the home they live in and how well they can communicate in a fancy English accent and not how much they themselves can do for any betterment – individual or collective. There is a lot of frustration around resulting into stress and anger within people, hopelessness, and rise in crimes or any other way they can satisfy their own human body and mind. Destructive thinking has taken the place of constructive attitude. No jobs, no utilities, terrorism, no food for so many, people dying from terrorism and hate crimes every day.

So why is that we haven’t been able to bring about any positive change in our country? It’s because we haven’t starting riding bikes like Chinese and Danish people and have stopped growing little food in our back yards. Say what? Well we haven’t changed our thinking, perception and attitude towards people and life. We just keep following the same monotonous routine like a herd of sheep that’s either waiting for food or to be sent to a slaughter house.

Finding petrol after a four-hour wait isn’t an achievement; it’s an admission of failure and defeat. If Pakistanis believe that it’s them who can bring change and not the metro, nuclear weapon or sit-in protests, the change will be seen much more quickly and clearly. As Albert Einstein said “The world as we have created, it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

A bike and a few seeds in the back yard can make new Pakistan. Only the silent majority can bring the Silent Revolution.

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monaahassan

Mona Hassan is a Human Rights' activist

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