Celebrating independence


on this Independence Day let us put aside our differences, recognise and celebrate all that is good about our still-young country and strive, together, for a fuller glass next year. PHOTO: ONLINE

on this Independence Day let us put aside our differences, recognise and celebrate all that is good about our still-young country and strive, together, for a fuller glass next year. PHOTO: ONLINE

Independence Day — flags flying from rooftops, marches and parades, the sense of national pride on display and a country of around 200 million people celebrates its birthday. The man who did more than any other individual to create the state of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, would not recognise much of the state that Pakistan is today.

It is all too easy to concentrate on the negatives, they are all around and plain to see and hear. The last year has seen a significant uptick in the number of mass-casualty incidents of terror. Hundreds have died and well over a thousand have been injured, the majority innocent civilians and the government pledge post to the Peshawar school massacre in 2014 to eliminate terrorism is looking increasingly hollow. Tensions surround Pakistan on all sides. Relations with India took a nosedive after an attack by Pakistan-based elements, Kashmir is in ferment and littered with the dead of innumerable clashes.

Afghanistan is a neighbour with whom relations fluctuate and are currently on a down, the trust deficit with the US remains as it ever was and our standing in the international community is not enhanced by the perception that we are an exporter of terror elsewhere in the world. Corruption, sectarian divisions, a poor human rights record generally, persecuted minorities and the dreadful plight of women across the country persist and in many instances are measurably worse than they were a year ago.

All of the above are somewhere to be found in the headlines both in and out of the country on most days — and they are the glass half-empty narrative that tends to shape perceptions both in and out of the country — but the glass is half-full as well. The paradox of Pakistan is that it has failed to fulfil the expectations of many and become a failed state. Indeed, it is far from being a failed state and there is little indication that it is likely to fail in the foreseeable future. It is moving forward in developmental terms more slowly than is the regional norm but it is moving forward.

Education remains perhaps the greatest challenge, with the state sector still massively underfunded and poorly resourced at every level. Millions of children remain out of school, but the number is dropping albeit slowly. Children are going to school in places where they never did before. They may not be getting the best there is in terms of quality but some education is better than none. The state needs to address, and soon, the inequities in education — Punjab is pulling ahead — but given the political will, the crisis in education is fixable.

Public health runs a close second — but the struggle against polio has seen truly heroic efforts in the last 12 months and although eradication may not be possible by the end of this year, it is at least a strong possibility by the end of the next. To no great fanfare new health units have opened in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and even in sleepy Bahawalpur. Again to no great fanfare the 1122 emergency services go from strength to strength and are now replicating across the country. The rudiments of a social safety net in the form of the Benazir Income Support Programme have survived a change of government and continue to narrow the food insecurity gap for millions of mostly rural women.

None of the above with the possible exception of education makes the headlines very often, and neither should they. They are the glass half-full that increases by small increments, and there are times it must be admitted when the half-full part of the glass shrinks in the face of those who would batter our country back to the Stone Age. But on this Independence Day let us put aside our differences, recognise and celebrate all that is good about our still-young country and strive, together, for a fuller glass next year.


Original news : http://tribune.com.pk/story/1161764/celebrating-independence-2/