Patriotism and our youth | By Tariq Aqil 

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Patriotism and our youth


DURING my teaching career of over forty years, I have had the opportunity to talk to numerous parents of my students, ordinary hardworking middle class parents of school going kids with dreams of great achievements and lucrative careers for their children.

Most parents are worried about the dilemmas of conventional patriotism and the challenges of middle class parents. Most parents are now really worried about the future of their kids in Pakistan.

Today, the economy is on the decline, prices are rising, unemployment increasing, inflation on the rise and the purchasing power of the middle class under severe pressure with each passing day.

Middle class, educated parents with decent jobs and adequate salaries are now spending over thirty percent of their income to provide a decent education to their children every month.

In the absence of any social security benefits like old age pension, medical relief or housing benefits this is really a crippling expense for any salaried person to bear.

Students are now overburdened with a crippling rote culture and they have to perform in a very competitive environment for admission in college and subsequently better chances in the job market.

Salaried couples are now sinking deeper and deeper into debt and can only dream of a happy family life, leisure activities, holidays or even entertainment.

Most salaried people switch on their TV sets to be bombarded with news of doom and gloom, they dare not hope for better times and all they can do is to wait for the coming social and political disaster that appears imminent.

For generations now Pakistan’s economy has been dependent on the financial institutions controlled by the Western powers especially the World Bank and the IMF or the economic and military assistance provided by the USA and countries of the EU with some help coming from China and some middle eastern countries.

The latest development on the economic front has been the lavish praise heaped upon the Chinese and Scandinavian economic models by our Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan and his emphasis on the Islamic interest free economy which is a great contradiction in itself.

After the Taliban victory in Afghanistan Mr. Khan congratulated the Taliban and was all praise for their great efforts as they had broken the “Shackles of slavery” we are all well aware of Imran Khan’s support and love for the Taliban but he should at least get his facts correct before issuing such statements.

Most parents have lived their lives believing in and supporting the ideology of Pakistan. They have believed in the India centric policy and the many ridiculous and unwarranted military adventures of our leaders such as “Operation Gibraltar” “Operation Searchlight” Kargil and even the nurturing and support of religious extremist monsters as “Strategic Assets” They have always been very patriotic Pakistanis and like most teachers parents too have done their best to instill feelings of patriotism in their children.

In the present information age the availability of the internet and easy access to knowledge data bases parents now find it very difficult to provide answers to the well-articulated questions of our students regarding history, wars, economy or our decaying political institutions.

When stumped for providing a satisfactory answer to their well-read and well informed offspring they just scold their children and tell them not to ask such disturbing questions.

To satisfy their children most parents avoid discussion on national issues and try to engage them in lighter topics like fictional stories, movies or even motivational stories about our military heroes of the wars with India or they encourage them to watch movies about our success on the field of battle or do their best to paint a rosy and promising picture of our future.

Different tactics employed by the parents to disguise or hide the truth is only a momentary diversion.

In a world of information technology the younger generation has access to a vast resource of information and facts and are in the habit of verifying the answers from online sources.

Youth of today find it pretty easy to contradict the parents or teachers version because the elders have failed to provide correct answers to their questions.

During a discussion about the economy one of my students came up with the shocking figures from the internet.

The country has accumulated Rs 15 trillion additional debt in the last three years, Pakistan has Rs 38 trillion of debt which is more than 85 per cent of GDP and Pakistan’s total exports has dropped to USD 25 billion while Bangladesh has crossed the 45 billion USD mark.

Bangladesh is 45 per cent richer than us, and the reason is pure secular democracy. Parents and teachers must realize that the modern child cannot be fed a staple diet of fairy tales.

We cannot hide the bitter facts of life or sugar coat our own national follies and blunders. We have to be honest and upright about our own national flaws and mistakes.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

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