A lot of people have privately asked me why I left Pakistan. Since I’m not very open about my personal life on social media because of security reasons, a lot of people are curious. So here’s why I left Pakistan:
I never actually saw myself as a Pakistani and I stopped identifying as a Pakistani long time ago. Now I always refer to myself as a Pakistan-born individual rather than a ‘Pakistani’. The only thing that makes me a ‘Pakistani’ is my green passport. While growing up in Pakistan very soon I realized that I and Pakistan cannot get along. We were inherently different. Everything from our views to our habits to our priorities were different. So it was not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.
Many dissenters left Pakistan before I did, and some of them used to tell me that I should get out alive while I still can. In the beginning, I used to be very skeptical about them. How can they be patriotic if they are not facing what people living in Pakistan are facing? And then they have the audacity to criticize?
But then I found myself in the same situation. I had the option to either live in Pakistan and risk my life every day or to leave Pakistan for a better place. It was the hardest choice of my life, I admit. It’s not easy to say goodbye to a country where you have been raised, where you have friends and family. But what do you do when some of your own friends and family become your worst enemy?
During Mr Zardari’s regime, Mr Gillani who was the PM at that time said during an interview that those Pakistanis who want to leave Pakistan are most welcome to do so. Those words still ring in my ears. He was leaving hints everywhere but no one was listening.
For decades now Pakistan’s progressives have tried to reverse the damage that had been done by the Zia dictatorship. And for decades, Pakistan’s progressives have taken bullets for it. But all this time what many Pakistani progressives failed to realize is that the Zia dictatorship might have ended but the dictatorship of Pakistan’s military establishment was here since before Zia and still is decades after Zia’s death. The problem was not Zia, the problem is Pakistan’s military establishment. Many Pakistani progressives have realized this now but by badmouthing the military they risk being labeled traitors. You won’t find any progressive Pakistani openly criticizing the military establishment in the mainstream media, and if you do then you probably won’t find the person alive or living in Pakistan the next year. It’s the military establishment that sets the narrative in Pakistan and there’s absolutely nothing that progressives can do about it. You cannot fight bullets with words and violence is the culture in Pakistan. People like Mr Jibran Nasir will continue to fight until they too are chased out of the country or worse, shot dead like late Ms Sabeen Mahmud. Everyone is expandable as far as Pakistan’s military establishment is concerned. And should we really be surprised? This is the same military that fed and raised the Taliban. This is the same military whose former head tells a British audience that they should clap for the Taliban. This is the same military that berates India on international forums on Kashmir dispute while occupying Balochistan and killing young Baloch men. So no, I’m not surprised. What surprises me the most is the delusion that many Pakistani progressives seem to be suffering from. The delusion that they actually make any difference. Newsflash: They don’t. This is where I outright disagree with people like Mr Jibran Nasir and Ms Sabeen Mahmud. You are no good to anyone if you’re dead. The imaginary change that Pakistan’s progressives want to bring in Pakistan is actually laughable. For some perspective, whenever Pakistan’s progressives have organized any protest, only a handful of people have showed up. You can literally count these people on fingers. On the other hand, thousands and ten thousands have rallied in Pakistan in protests organized by Islamist parties. But the problem is not just the low number of progressives but also the fact that people are genuinely afraid to come out for change. In recent protests organized by Mr Jibran Nasir and his allies against the Red Mosque, many people were actually being spied on by Pakistan’s spy agency the ISI. Their phones were being tapped and some were being tailed 24/7. Some noticed and complained while others probably didn’t but a source in the ISI confirmed that some people were being spied on. There’s no doubt about that. All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Pakistan’s progressives need to decide between themselves and their country. You cannot bring any change if you’re dead. We also owe more to the humanity itself than to the country where we are born, which is a matter of a dumb coincidence.
Pakistan’s progressives need to ask themselves: If Bhutto and his daughter are both expandable, then who the hell do you think you are?
Pakistan’s progressives who have left Pakistan at least still have the chance to continue their fight. But people like Ms Sabeen Mahmud, who I personally admired a lot even though we disagreed on quite a lot of things, have no chance to continue their fight. Sure, many others will reluctantly join the fight, being shocked and motivated by Sabeen’s death. But it won’t be Sabeen doing the fighting. Because Sabeen is gone and she’s not coming back. People who will follow her path while living in Pakistan will also be eventually silenced. When the military establishment is running the show and even have it’s own cast set up, there’s little that the ‘extras’ can do.
I have never considered myself patriotic or religious, two of the basic requirements to be a ‘Pakistani’. In the golden words of George Carlin, I leave symbols for the symbol minded. I like to form my own opinions and I have my own unique take on most things. For someone like me, it’s now near to unimaginable to be permanently living in Pakistan. But I also acknowledge that there are many people who don’t have the option to leave Pakistan. I genuinely feel sorry for these people and can only hope for their best. I don’t think that they will be able to bring any change in Pakistan as long as they are in blind love with their military.
To the Pakistan’s military establishment: In the last 60 years or so, you have earned nothing but distrust and disrespect of people like me. You have managed to chase away every single progressive Pakistani from Mr Raza Rumi to late Dr Abdus Salam. Keep it up. Every dog has it’s day. One day you will meet an enemy that you won’t be able to overcome easily and that will be the day I will be more than happy to clap.
To the Pakistan’s progressives: You might think that you have rights and you are capable of bringing a change, but the fact is both of those things have nothing to do with reality. But I don’t blame you, it’s not your fault. You are good at heart and well-intentioned. But some of you are also delusional. This will prove to be a problem in the future. I won’t tell you to leave Pakistan since it’s your personal decision but I will tell you to be very careful. I don’t believe in false hopes and I think you are also a false hope but many others do believe in false hopes and for their sake I hope you succeed in doing what you want. If one day you do manage to make Pakistan progressive, I will be the first one returning home, for whatever my disagreements are with Pakistan and it’s narrative, I still consider it my home. But until then I’ll be right here NOT in Pakistan and NOT getting shot at. Good luck to you guys.