It is 14th August today. My country is fifty nine years old. It is much stronger than it was
in 1947. It is still beautiful and it is the only country I have. But deep down, something troubles me. Countless questions hit my thoughts like relentless waves. Could Pakistan have been different if we did not flout the will of the country’s founder – The Quaid. Or if we had treated the East Pakistanis better or nurtured leadership that could have held things together???
Ironies of our existence are baffling: there are more Muslims in our ‘enemy’ country. Those who led the Pakistan movement and gave it the popular basis live in a separate country and I need a visa if I want to see the green vistas of Bangladesh.
And, today my passport eludes me at every airport. And, questioning eyes and gestures welcome each time I proudly introduce myself as a Pakistani. Why do I have to answer questions on Islamism, bin Ladens and the talibans of the world? What do I have in common with them, anyway? And, why do I have to explain each time that Pakistani women are not locked in their homes and that all Pakistanis are not the flag burning, hate mongering ideologues.. My ancient land of Harappa, Moenjodaro and Mehergarh, my Indus plains, the Sufi subcultures and the tall mountains in the north are permanent. All else is transitional, a product of colonial and post colonial histories.
Cliched as it is, on the eve of Pakistan’s independence day, amidst the celebrations a part of me that sadly remembers Faiz:
Subh-e-Aazaadi -Freedom’s Dawn
This leprous daybreak, dawn night’s fangs have mangled —
This is not that long-looked-for break of day,
Not that clear dawn in quest of which those comrades
Set out, believing that in heaven’s wide void
Somewhere must be the stars’ last halting-place,
Somewhere the verge of night’s slow-washing tide,
Somewhere an anchorage for the ship of heartache.
When we set out, we friends, taking youth’s secret
Pathways, how many hands plucked at our sleeves!
From beauty’s dwellings
and their panting casements
Soft arms invoked us, flesh cried out to us;
But dearer was the lure of dawn’s bright cheek,
Closer her shimmering robe of fairy rays;
Light-winged that longing, feather-light that toil.
But now, word goes, the birth of day from darkness
Is finished, wandering feet stand at their goal;
Our leaders’ ways are altering, festive looks
Are all the fashion, discontent reproved; —
And yet this physic still on unslaked eye
Or heart fevered by severance works no cure.
Where did that fine breeze, that the wayside lamp
Has not once felt, blow from — where has it fled?
Night’s heaviness is unlessened still, the hour
Of mind and spirit’s ransom has not struck;
Let us go on, our goal is not reached yet.
Translation: V. G. Kiernan
How could I not re-produce the Urdu version here
Ye daagh daagh ujaalaa, ye shab-gaziida sahar,
Vo intizaar thaa jis-kaa, ye vo sahar to nahiiN
Ye vo sahar to nahiiN jis-kii aarzu lekar
Chale the yaar ke mil-ja`egi kahiiN na kahiN
Falak ke dasht meN taroN kii aakhiri manzil,
KahiN to hogaa shab-e sust mauj kaa sahil,
KahiN to jaake rukegaa safiina-e-gham-e-dil.
JawaaN lahu kii pur-asraar shaahrahoN se
Chale jo yaar to daaman pe kitne hath paRe;
Diyaar-e-husn kii be-sabr khwaabgaahoN se
Pukaarti-rahiiN baahen, badan bulaate-rahe;
Bahut ‘aziiz thii lekin rukh-e-sahar ki lagan,
Bahut qariin thaa hasiinaN-e-nuur kaa daaman, ,
Subuk subuk thii tamannaa, dabii dabii thii thakan.
Sunaa hai ho bhii chukaa hai firaaq-e-zulmat-o-nuur,
Sunaa hai ho bhii chukaa hai visaal-e-manzil-o-gaam;
Badal-chukaa hai bahut ahl-e-dard kaa dastuur,
Nishaat-e-vasl halaal o ‘azab-e-hijr haraam.
Jigar kii aag, nazar kii umang, dil kii jalan,
kisii pe chaara-e-hijraaN kaa kuchh asar hii nahiiN.
KahaaN se aa’ii nigaar-e-sabaa, kidhar ko ga’ii?
Abhii charaagh-e-sar-e-rah ko kuchh khabar hii nahiiN;
Abhii giraanii-e-shab meN kamii nahiiN aa’ii,
Najaat-e-diidaa-o-dil ki ghaRii nahiiN aa’ii;
Chale-chalo ke vo manjil abhii nahiiN aa’ii