Pakistan: A nation that needs to slow down and catch a breath.

by Waleed Ali Khan

Everyone has their own theory about why Pakistan is undergoing such difficulties. Some attribute it to corruption while others say that it is the fundamental beliefs and values of its people that have lead to such turmoil. As I’ve said before, a nation is never built by its leaders, but by its people. And this current age where self determination is valued, there is no reason for us to solely blame our leadership.

The death of the governor of Punjab was an extremely sad setback for the nation. It marked, dreadfully, the beginning of a time where people have realized that speaking up for the rights of others can lead to dire consequences. Pakistan has become a country where the concept of fraternity has been replaced by a philosophy of every man for himself. Aren’t all these signs chaos?

I am not here to give a lecture on what went wrong; I am here to give one aspect of change that the nation seems to be struggling with: rapid freedom of speech. Mr. Musharraf was noble enough to allow freedom of the media, but he never thought how such an overnight change can have devastating results. Neither did he think about whether our new media sources would be responsible enough to guide instead of mislead the people. Suddenly, public debates, where fundamentalist ideologists were allowed to appear to the world appeared in front of a nation where people weren’t fully capable of deciding between good and bad sources of information. They were never given the power to do so.

What I find particularly distasteful is the way the assassin was shown repeatedly on television, with a calm and composed face claiming his martyrdom. As I walked across the streets and in the shops of Lahore, it was common to hear people sympathizing with this so-called martyr and discussing how at peace he was with himself. Hundreds, thousands, and perhaps even millions of people in the country were brainwashed by the footage that was shown by the media stations. It is very unfortunate that this fanatic was seen as a hero for so many.

We might criticize the middle east for its limited freedom of speech laws, but at least they realize that leniency in this area needs to be gradual instead of sudden. This is just one of the many instances where I feel the people of Pakistan are trying to cope with rapid change whilst holding on to their values and traditions.