Happy Birthday Dear Pakistan — Our Collective Hearts Still Hurt
Seventy years old today, I am reminded of the words of Pakistan’s founder and father Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This man was an inspiration and Pakistan has ever to live up to his ideals. The legacy of this man is unrivalled and the respect unparalled.
“With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.”
Celebrating azaadi (freedom) from British rule and the creation of a Muslim state in South Asia fills millions of hearts with pride. As the nation battles terrorism, patriarchy, corruption and poverty, it’s people swim in oceans of love.
A nation of poets and lovers, Pakistan will win your heart with its words, with its music and of course with its food. There is nothing more beautiful that the Sufi expression of love for God and you can find that every corner of this nation of Pakistan.
Jinnah’s dream of Pakistan however came in the wake of rivers of blood and an enmity that remains even today. The pain of the partition of India 70 years ago today remains. And it’s this deep rooted hurt that is felt by the generations that were there and all those after.
Watching the first of BBC’s Partition programmes and seeing and hearing those stories brought tears to my eyes and pain to my core. My father was a child of 8 when he and his family left their ancestral homes in Ajmer Sharif and Delhi and trekked across the country on horse and cart to the newly formed Pakistan. My grandmother selling her gold and jewels along the way for sustenance, they along with millions of others hoped for a better future in this new land. Settling in Karachi waiting for the government to find them a new abode, my family were known as ‘muhajirs’ (immigrants). These Urdu speaking migrants who looked for a home amongst their Sindhi, Balochi and Punjabi brothers and sisters started anew. Torn from their century old roots to form new ones is not an easy path. Longing for this future of hope and unity and being marred by an all too bloody legacy.
Turning migrant again, many like my father came to Britain, the green and pleasant land, this time by invitation only to find once again that they’d always be known as immigrants. Once again building new hope and new roots. The thing is, these roots are never new, they are the ties that bind and cross borders and generations, hearts and minds.
I am a second generation British Pakistani. My heritage cuts across Britain, Pakistan and India. I am from a generation who desperately searched for an identity, still reeling from that pain of the past. It still strikes me that I can feel my heart wrenching every time I see or read or hear about partition. Although it was part of my G.C.S.E history curriculum I’m amazed that the history of the British’ Empire’ is still mainly vanquished to kitsch period dramatisation of the exotic. truth the British cut lines in maps and ran. In truth, a nation of brothers and sisters turned upon each other. In truth, the British policy of divide and rule faltered when its army could no longer cope. In truth, millions were displaced and massacred with widespread religious and sexual violence. Pakistan split into two, thousands of miles apart could and would only lead to future woes and wars.
So here we are today, seventy years later, still hoping, still hurting, still healing. I for one still long for Jinnah’s Pakistan. One that champions a pluralistic society, that favours the heart and that knows what true faith and unity can bring.
first published in Medium August 14th 2017