Reflecting on a decade

On January 4th, 2012, my first op-ed appeared in The Express Tribune

For several months, I wrote once every few weeks, and was then invited to write a weekly column

I consider myself extremely privileged to have had this opportunity for a decade

I am grateful to the editors, sub-editors and colleagues at Tribune for giving me the space to share my views and perspectives

Even when the editors refused to publish a piece (lest it would be viewed in a negative light by a long-time ally), and that happened only once in the last decade, the editors were polite and transparent

I understood their predicament, even when I found the censorship troubling

I recognise that my lens and vantage point may be different than others who write in these pages

I do not have the microscopic lens of experience that someone who is permanently living in Pakistan would

My perspective is more about events and policies at the systems level, and I can comment on how things seem from the outside, while still connecting those dots with the lived experience of friends, family and colleagues combined with semi-frequent personal travels

Over the last few weeks, I re-read some of my pieces that I wrote years ago

My tone, over the years, has become less optimistic

Perhaps it is age, or it is the global state of affairs, or the situation in Pakistan, but the window that would bring the wafts of optimism seems to be closing in my mind

More importantly, I noted that the hope I had for institutions early in my writings was largely misplaced

Ten years ago, I was hopeful about changes in the way institutions conducted themselves

I am not sure if I feel the same way anymore

In my own areas of research, in science and higher education, there is a shift away from rigour, quality and reasoning

The case in point is that no one knows what the current minister of science considers a priority, and if there is any question of scientific importance worthy of attention in the ministry besides the electronic voting machines (which, by the way, is not a science and technology issue)

Our higher education institutions today are largely bankrupt, and it is hard to think of grand policies when there is not enough to pay the salaries

There are some bright spots and the pandemic response is one of them

The recent efforts by the ministry of health, and NCOC, in keeping the pandemic relatively under control is a noteworthy achievement in an otherwise mediocre performance in the health sector in the last decade

Perhaps what has troubled me most in the last ten years is our sheer hypocrisy

We cry foul when Muslims are targeted in the east, but stay silent when it happens in the north

We are worried about Palestinians but keep mum on the situation in Yemen

Most of all, beyond our own personal interests, we do not care about the dispossessed among our midst or around the world

Our slogans are lies

Yet while I have been disappointed by the institutions, I have been inspired by people

The common term used is “ordinary people”

But these people are anything but ordinary

I have been inspired by people who, despite their privilege, stand up for the stateless Bengalis in Karachi, who speak up against pervasive domestic violence against women and children, who teach the homeless kids on our streets, who give a helping hand to their neighbours, and above all who care about the truth, and not the image

To me they are all inspired by the same two principles: empathy and honesty

I do not know how the next decade will unfold

I still hope for institutional changes, though I find it more elusive than I did a decade ago

But I do believe that if more of us were brave enough to look in the mirror, and conducted our lives with empathy and honesty, the next one will be way better than the previous one

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2022

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Date:05-Jan-2022 Reference:View Original Link