Written by Muhammad Arham Shoukat
The Soldiers of Pakistan, like soldiers of any nation, are men who sacrifice their lives and often return to their houses mutilated after a long and tiring battle. In other countries, such men would enjoy heroic statures and would be celebrated. However, here in Pakistan, when these men turn on their television sets at night, they see their nation ridiculing them. Yes, our army as suffered blows such as those of the Abbotabad incident and the PNS-Mehran incident, but that gives us no right to stop believing in them.
A few weeks ago, as a student in Boston, I was invited to my friend’s house for the weekend. His parents resided a couple of hours away from the downtown Boston in a little town of Quincy. As we drove over the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge towards the great digs, leaving the beautiful skyline of Boston behind, I saw more than just the landscape change. And I realized that Boston was a city in more ways than one.
Besides being physically set apart from the cities around it, it stood alone in its moderation and liberalism. The voices of the Republicans and the Democrats had originated from this very city from institutions like Harvard, MIT and Tufts. This was a place where everyone was a true “patriot”.
As I drove on the high, I caught sight of flags and “red and blue” ribbons. I knew that the flag symbolized the support for the troops at war, but the “red and blue” ribbons? “These ribbons symbolize our support for our seals that have successfully eliminated Al-Qeada,” said my friend.
Times had changed, the last time I visited I recall seeing red and blue ribbons on peoples walls, shirts and houses. Majority of the U.S disagreed with their government, but they still supported their army. It has been more than 4 years since that day, and clearly a lot has happened in the world since then. But today, as Pakistan stands on the verge of anarchy, at war with an enemy that has seeped into the very fabric of our society, I long for an expression of unity. And I find myself thinking more and more of that yellow ribbon, confused as to maybe those little town Americans were right in their support.
What is so wrong with being a patriot? And why am I like many other Pakistani’s afraid to rally behind my countries armed forces, to send out positive, supportive signs as these men lay down their lives for us?
Since 9/11, the Pakistani army has suffered more than any other army in the world in terms of casualties. And yet we get nothing but negative reports about its performance in the media. One can be angry with the countries President, think that the dictator sold out and believe that our secret service is nothing but a “sinister” organization with its own agenda without losing compassion for our soldiers, the young men who are being killed every day.
The media today, so used to distorting everyone’s views, has clearly lost sight of the greater picture that exists. So used to being so cynical, we the Pakistani’s have clearly lost sight of those willing to die for us. But it was clear that this would no longer continue, at least not for me.
Almost five years ago, I met a group of people in a small suburb of New York who were neither sophisticated nor educated. And yet they were able to recognize the shades of grey, the fact that it is possible to support your troops without blindly supporting your government.
With the current situation as it stands today, I have realized that it is possible to be analytical without being negative, that is it possible to be patriotic without being brainless and heartless.
When our founders created Pakistan, they envisioned us as a nation that adhered to the principles of “Unity”, “Faith” and “Discipline”. For me there can be no greater show of unity than for a nation to support its troops. Maybe a red and blue ribbon is not the answer. But I, for one, have put up a Pakistani flag outside my house to show my solidarity with my nation — the one created by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and not the Taliban.
Muhammad Arham Shoukat is a senior at Tufts University (2012) from Pakistan.