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Archive for the ‘About Myself’ Category

Since I get asked this question all the time, let me state upfront that with my blog and accompanying YouTube channel, I want to prove that Pakistan is in a deep mess on account of its own making. I further want to prove that the mess we Pakistanis find ourselves in today will not only become deeper with the passage of time – but will most likely threaten the very existence of our beloved country – unless our leadership takes drastic, corrective actions that involve a complete re-think of longstanding state policies and ideology.

As an aside, I would like my blog readers and channel surfers to know that I consider myself to be an objective, rational, open-minded, curious, honest, and sincere person. It is not in my nature to sweep key issues under the rug or to root for an ideology just because I grew up with it. Rather, I try to impartially identify, analyze, and confront fundamental forces that are destroying Pakistan in the hope that we may learn where we went wrong and how we may save ourselves from near-certain catastrophe around the corner.

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I am indeed a Pakistani in that I was born, raised, and educated in Lahore before coming to the US for college and university. I am currently based in North America and frequently travel between Canada and the United States for business and personal reasons. My parents live in Lahore and very much want to die in their house. Despite my repeated attempts to encourage them to move abroad on account of deteriorating security situation, they refuse to do so. My father jokes that he never got scared during Partition, so what is there to get scared of now! Of course, I am in constant touch with them and also visit Pakistan periodically. I have a younger sister who also attended university in the US and is currently settled in California.

This blog and accompanying YouTube channel are a small attempt at public service and reflect my thoughts, analysis – and, yes – biases. My family background and upbringing has had a major impact on my thinking and values. In addition, I have been heavily influenced by my educational, social, and professional experiences in North America and Europe. Let me briefly touch on the former; the latter is self-explanatory on account of the liberal, cosmopolitan, egalitarian, rational and secular nature of European societies.

To begin, my parents represent two distinct cultures and their families account for two different perspectives on Partition. My father’s family is from West Punjab and strongly opposed Partition while my mother’s family is from UP and suffered from Partition by having to move to Karachi in 1947.

According to my father, who is in his early 80s and witnessed Partition as a college student in Lahore: (a) it is culture, and not religion, that binds people together; and that (b) it takes at least several centuries to forge a common culture. He thought Partition was plain wrong as it was an attempt to divide people on the bases of religion – despite a common unifying cultural identity – and that it would never work for Pakistan due to state-sponsored attempts to modify prevalent local cultures. As proof, he would talk about how out of place students from Aligarh looked in Punjab (in terms of dress, mannerisms, speaking styles, language, and outlook) when they came to his college in Lahore to propagate the idea of Pakistan. Conversely, there was no point in driving out Hindus and Sikhs from their homes in Punjab with whom Muslim Punjabis shared a deep cultural (and linguistic) bond.

My mother’s family – that is, both maternal grandparents – believed in Partition as they were forced to flee their homes in Allahbad and Lucknow on account of communal riots. But their views changed over time as they could never break out of UP-centric social groups in Pakistan and constantly reminisced about the culture and friends they had left behind in India.

(By the way, in case you are wondering how my father as a hardcore Punjabi ended up marrying a woman from UP, it is because he went for a trophy wife after his Punjabi wife died of cancer. I don’t know how else to put it; he married a beautiful society woman, of Persian extraction to boot, who was more than 20 years his junior. He says it was out of love; in my view, it had to be lust. Any how, that is how I am in my 30s and still relatively young, so to speak).

Be that as it may, this simple but powerful principle of the supremacy of culture in creating a bond between people has stayed with me since childhood. I experienced it first hand in my US college, for example, when I could instinctively connect with Indians from Punjab, Haryana, and UP, but found it a challenge to bond with compatriot Sindhis and Balochis. Similarly, despite pervasive state-sponsored Islamization and distortion of history, I could never relate to Arabs at a personal level. And we are taught in school that Pakistan’s history starts with arrival of Mohammed bin Qasem in Sindh in the 8th century! My comfort zone has always been in South Asian (ie. Indian) cultural heritage, for example, when it comes to dress, films, music, food, literature, sense of humor, and people.

My fellow Pakistanis – including those who are strongly nationalistic – have never been able to deny the cultural bond with most things “Indian”. Whether they accept their cultural affinities and afflictions as “Indian”, however, is another matter. Most would prefer to label their cultural heritage as “Pakistani”, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. I can, therefore, say with certainty that Pakistanis are engaged in a massive identity crisis. And that identity crisis – apart from being highly destructive via ideology and polices it entails at the state level – is an unfortunate but direct legacy of the Partition.

Yes, Partition of the Subcontinent has bequeathed to Pakistan a negative (ie. anti-India and anti-Hindu) ideology. Zaid Hamid – the popular YouTube Pak TV personality – is but one manifestation of this sad legacy.

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Despite being a Pakistani, I have not encountered any personal harassment in the US any since the Times Square bombing incident. This is for two major reasons: (a) I am assimilated in North American society (in terms of my attire, attitudes, values, views, cultural mores, etc.). In other words, I live a secular and liberal life; and (b) a white person (American or European) generally cannot distinguish between an Indian and a Pakistani, and on account of the heavy presence of Indians among US professionals, automatically assumes that I am an Indian.

Note that North Americans or Europeans do not grow up in Indian society, and so, cannot distinguish a Hindu from a Muslim based on his name. The exception, of course, is popular “Arabized” Muslim names such as Muhammed and Hussain on account of their publicity by media (as in discussions on Prophet Muhammed, late dictator Saddam Hussain, etc). So, whites generally go by the physical attributes, accents, and cultural traits which very clearly identify almost all Indians and Pakistanis as South Asians.

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