By Zeeba T Hashmi:
Dear friends across the nation,
We in Pakistan celebrated Pakistan Day yesterday. You are also celebrating it today, as we have both been doing for the past 70 years on our respective days. We hoist our flags, flaunt our pride and patriotism with much vigour and zeal every year. Instead of living to the spirit of freedom and independence, it is quite unfortunate to see how we end up rallying out slogans against the ‘enemy’ neighbour and feel a sense of great achievement in that.
The love for the country here, it appears, has been taken over by our pretences and prejudices. As we compete against one another to show one’s toxic power show, we fail to notice the very dark part of history we share behind all this grandiose. There is a constant pain we had been feeling for years; the pain of the muffled cries of the countless souls we lost in the madness that entailed our partition seventy years ago. The sacrifices many have already forgotten, or don’t want to talk about anymore.
Our current generations breathed into India and Pakistan and Bangladesh, and we may have acknowledged one another as sovereign states on the map of the world, but, I have a sense that there remains an amnesia of our shared histories, legends, arts and politics. While our states will insist on the differences that justified India’s division, no one can deny that we resemble each other a lot to this day. While there are people who will continue to cash on ideas of revenge, we cannot ignore those who want to confront hate, and it is exactly for this reason I am writing to express how moved I am by the common will for love expressed the people on both sides of the border.
A group from India played Pakistan’s national anthem, and in reciprocity, a group from here also sang the Indian anthem. Nothing can be more symbolic of love that we have, no matter how is it shot down by the hyper-nationalists on both sides, ready to jeopardise our contact at any slightest opportunity they find. Recently, we hosted the friendship letters exchanged between our students, and I must tell you how amazing it was to see the response from the people here, something you may not be aware of through your mainstream media. I have to say this. The media is largely to blame for why our people’s voice calling for peace between our people is shunned Instead, people are being portrayed as ‘traitors’ to the land for promoting peaceful, progressive relations between the neighbours. They wouldn’t tell us that people have suffered a lot due to the policies of our governments.
We have seen our misery with extensive spending on ‘defence’ in both countries by using the rhetoric of ‘enemy neighbour’. And I don’t think that at any level of our state relations have we really addressed the real common enemies we have: poverty, population explosion and most importantly, climate change. Yes, if we do not act or strive to policies to counter our potential disasters now, we will be doomed.
The sense of patriotism, the idea of one country’s success by ‘defeating’ the other is nothing but a false sense of security we are being given. You know it well, as much as I do, that we can never claim ‘success’ by ‘beating’ the other. We may not agree to certain policies we have, but making one’s prejudices a basis of policies is what we can disown through awareness.
We need to encourage each other for better relations, political or non-political, by making our voices heard through all the forums we have available. The letters exchanged between our students across the border is an inspiration, and I hope that we can establish this culture with more such contacts. The more we talk to each other, more will we able to set aside our differences. I believe we can do without war, but I don’t think we can survive without each other’s support.
Lots of love from Pakistan,
Zeeba T Hashmi
Hi, Hope you are doing great. As you just celebrated your 71st Independence Day, I want to address a lot of thoughts which have been running in my mind. A lot of unanswered questions which have kept me awake at nights.
This open letter was possible due to Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak friendship initiative. Zeeba T Hashmi, the author of the letter is an education consultant based in Lahore and can be reached at @zeebahashmi on Twitter.