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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Pakistan: Expectations versus Reality

“The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we're afraid.” Richard Bach

One of the most common drawing room gossip and street talk in Pakistan revolves around Pakistanis’ crib against lack of fair dealing and absence of due respect by most of the developed countries, especially with reference to USA and some European and Middle East countries. It is even more frustrating to hear educated class suffering from self delusion and indulging in building sand castles based on concocted fabrication of narratives. Frustrating though, yet such discussions tend not to factor in the inherent flaws plaguing our national institutions, society as a whole and even contradictions at individual levels.

Introspection is definitely needed to figure out a way that will restore Pakistan’s respectable stature in the comity of nations and subsequently, make every citizen of Pakistan well respected and proud both home and abroad. A closer look at the most respected developed and developing countries’ national mosaic reveals a lot of lessons for us. The most common and noticeable characteristics include rule of the law, good compulsory education system, respect for teachers, parents and elders, well groomed mothers and teachers, ensuring basic human needs like food, shelter, job and security by the state, good economy, zero tolerance for corruption especially in the leadership, honesty, truthfulness, religious and ethnic tolerance, humanity, good manners, individual and societal discipline, practicing respective religious values through actions rather than sermons, greater respect for human rights and global diversity. While all of such virtues may or may not be visible at any one place, yet leaving aside some exceptions, most of the praised societies enjoy this basic system of belief and practice.

Painfully embarrassing though, however we find our state and society faltering on many of the above practices due to a host of reasons. In Pakistan, everyone talks of changing the world, but no one talks of changing himself. We say honesty is the best policy, but we don’t practice it. We expect other to follow rules and law, but keep self beyond that. Our religion teaches us to be clean with declaration of Cleanliness as half of our belief or Iman, but we see the filthiest places on earth all around us, truthfulness and honesty remain a missing link for majority, our most messy traffic on roads, encroachments on private and Government lands, bribe and favours seeking bureaucrats from top to bottom, political elite mired in mega corruption scandals, judicial process handicapped on many counts, dysfunctional state institutions due politicization and rampant sleaze, our economy down on its knees, massive internal and foreign loans keeping our internal and foreign policies prone to dictation by lenders, inability to recover plundered national wealth by big goons, maltreatment of minorities, fire spitting religious bigots, misrepresentation of religion by illiterate self acclaimed molanas and misguided cults, lack of self respect and esteem…..all combined together give a very stained image of our nation and country; that cannot be addresses by rhetoric but by good deeds both by state and by people.

Someone rightly commented that he saw a lot of Muslims in Pakistan but most of Islam outside Pakistan. Our envy of others devours us most of all. Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts. Most of the Pakistani people neither know about the beauty and blessings attached with Pakistan nor about the value of freedom. The dichotomy between rights and privileges provides a clear example of this. In Pakistan, we often hear people talk of their rights, but show couldn’t careless attitude towards social responsibilities. The comparison we tend to draw with other countries and people therefore tantamount to comparing oranges with apples. While Pakistan has remained busy in fighting imposed and acquired wars in the last 40 years, our arch foe India followed a strategy of reaching out to the world by sending their skilled labour and youth abroad for higher education in the last forty years; and today they occupy most important places in USA, Europe and ME countries in all walks of life, successfully looking after their motherland as well as their acquired lands’ interests.

Or strategic mistakes cannot be compensated and corrected by tactical steps. Without envy, we need to sincerely follow the examples set by India, China, Malaysia, Turkey, Japan and Germany with almost same life spans in the aftermath of Second World War, but all countries less Pakistan have been able to achieve zenith of overall national progress based on the characteristics highlighted above. There is no shortcut to national progress; the path ought to be arduous and stretched, however our national resolve will make it a proud pursuit.

“You told me once that we shall be judged by our intentions, not by our accomplishments. I thought it a grand remark. But we must intend to accomplish—not sit intending on a chair.” ― E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread.

Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a senior retired Army officer with rich experience in Military & Intelligence Diplomacy and Strategic Analysis. (

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