Raza Muhammad Khan
PAKISTANIS are a very courageous nation and they know how to survive. This is borne out by the following facts: We endured the backlash of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan for 9 years from 1979 to 1989, followed by the civil war there for another 10 years; the blowback of the attack on the WTC in the US in September 2001, and the occupation of Afghanistan by US and NATO forces for 17 years. During this entire period, we remained steadfast in the face of massive and blatant misuse of the turmoil in Afghanistan and the spread of state sponsored terrorism throughout Pakistan by India. These are recent testimonials about our willingness to offer any sacrifice to defend ourselves successfully, despite heavy odds. Under similar circumstances, many societies were disrupted or collapsed in the ME and Africa, but we exhibited unprecedented resilience, patriotic ardour and patience in the face of all these adversities. It is indeed a matter of gratification for us to have protected our sovereignty and integrity in this manner. This is the first reason why we should be proud of ourselves and our country.
We may be over critical of ourselves, particularly when we find something amiss in the country and occasionally, it seems that self-deprecation is our societal and social trend. I would largely blame the constant and disproportionate coverage of bad news by the local and adverse propaganda by foreign media for this condition. But mercifully, this trait has also sensitized our error processing, detection and self-correction, which includes rejecting many undeserving politicians, as seen in the past elections. Considering our complex socio-political environment and our modest literacy rates, this is indeed a big achievement in our democratic history and the second reason for us, to be proud of.
In his address to the Muslim League in 1943, the Quaid had said: ‘for the sake of humanity, I care more for the Hindu untouchables of India than for the Musalmans’. We have generally embraced this sentiment and thus, as compared to Modi’s India or Trump’s America, our national and official stance towards minorities is more benevolent and tolerant towards minorities, despite a few individual acts, that are contrary to the collective ethos of our society. This is the third reason to be proud of ourselves. Here are the remaining reasons that should make us all, feel proud as Pakistanis: Around 200,000 troops from Pakistan have served the UN in peacekeeping missions since 1960 and over 6000 are presently volunteering in 9 UN missions –This makes us the largest and most consistent UN peace keepers in the world despite extensive troops deployments at our borders and against foreign and domestic terrorists. With three million Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan for many decades, notwithstanding our economic constraints and security concerns, we are the world’s most hospitable refugee hosts. We built the Tarbela Dam, which is the largest earth filled dam and planted the largest manmade forest on over 12400 acres at Channga Manga. We are endowed with the highest mountain ranges and peaks in the Himalayas and Karakorum ranges.
Gwadar is the deepest warm sea port, and at over 15300 ft., the Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world. We are cheerful and contented and are at the top in the happiness index, among SAARC countries. With over 1800 running vehicles, the Edhi Foundation has the distinction of being the largest charitable ambulance system in the world. This speaks volumes about the philanthropic nature of our people. We are famous for our loyalty to the family that often comes before our other social relationships and even our businesses. Unlike the West, all the crops that we grow and the food we consume is 100 percent organic and natural. We are famous for our warmth and traditional hospitality and for lifting each other when we are down. The quality of our surgical instruments and footballs at Sialkot are one of the best in the world. We have the best T-20 Cricket and Squash players in the world. We possess the longest glacial system outside the polar region, we have the highest polo ground at Shandur and Saifulmaluk Lake is the highest in the world. We own the largest irrigation system and the second largest salt mines in the world at Khewra. At the IQ levels assessment conducted by the European Business Administration, we were among the top four.
Our English speaking population is the 4th largest and we are the 5th most populous country in the world. Our global ranking in cotton production is 4th, gold and copper mines 5th, Nuclear status 6th and pool of scientists and engineers 7th. The Forbes magazine recently listed us among the 8 best countries to visit in 2019. Our world ranking in mobile phone usage is 9th, labour force 10th, wheat production 11th, potential to become one of the world’s largest economy 11th (Jim O Neil Report) , rice production 12th , cement production 16th, and purchasing power parity 23rd ( India is 126th). The ADB and World Bank figure of our real GDP growth at 5.3 % in 2018 is modest, yet remarkable in view of the numerous shocks and setbacks confronted by our economy.
The enumeration of our positive traits, endowments and assets in this exposition is meant for our self-assurance and not self-aggrandizement. Hopefully, these should also calm down the skeptics, including some angry twitteratis and blogorattis among us. Granted that all is not hunky-dory in Pakistan, but we have usually overcome our imperfections; we don’t quit; our true gravitas resides in our belief that nothing is insurmountable and nobody can scare us; we fight on to rise and to be the best and finally; that we put our trust in God, who has always helped us in helping ourselves. Long live Pakistan.
— The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University, Islamabad.