By Aksa Bilal, honorable mention in the CIPE 2013 Blog Competition. Read the rest of the winning entries here.
I remember it was just 6 years ago, when boys and girls of merely 16 or 17 years of age wore a black cloth on their arms as a sign of defiance against our very own, our very recent, 4th dictator and former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. They wanted what is the right of the 7 billion people of this planet. They wanted democracy, a free and fair system, a truly representative government.
Now some wore the black sign of defiance not because of their sudden political awakening or out of their spirit of democracy, but because defiance seemed oh-so-cool and I admit – all the cool kids were doing it. When they talked, you could hear the father’s and uncle’s last-night dinner conversation, with angst driven knives and forks waving in the air. You could imagine furrowed eyebrows and big mustaches while the kid reminisced very verbally, for too long, only to forget it as soon as the black cloth was no longer “in.”
Then there were those who took to the streets for the judiciary and for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and stood their ground against dictatorship with such zeal and zest that these became monumental achievements in the history of the country. They were the theatrical productions of the power of the common man, of the power of masses. With sadness I confess that I was amongst neither of these people. I was among the indifferent, too occupied with the next exam, too ignorant of what was not happening within the kilometers between my home and my high school.
There was a fourth category of people, the ones who couldn’t care less about what was happening: the 8 year old barefooted newspaper boy knocking on the shiny black Honda to try his luck one more time, and the woman who sits outside the bakery shop clad in shawls with the bare bottomed child, begging for money for his clothes; and no matter how much money she has at the end of the day, he looks the same the next day, small and bare bottomed. They don’t care about whether we are a democratic state or a dictatorship. They care about the now, the very personal, intimate now of their lives.
My heart ached for the 4-year-old beggar I embarrassingly gave a doughnut to, which she took happily. I would like to do more than just give a doughnut.
When I look at my country, I look at all the beauty and the pride, and all the crevices and troubles, and I see some platform of ‘fixing-space.’ I have undoubtedly seen one of the world’s most charitable nations, ranking 1st among the South Asian nations, but we need a serious filtering system. I and the 180 million of this state do not want another failed democracy or a dictatorship. There is a need to filter out corrupt people both from bureaucracy and other government agencies. They should be given independence to make impartial decisions. They need to be out of the shackles of corrupt politics, not be its blood-brothers and first-cousins. We need the National Accountability Bureau to be independent of any political control.
As people, as youth, we could educate ourselves and others about democracy, local governance, transparency, and tolerance etc., acquire the skills of conflict resolution, idea generation, problem solving, constructive dialogue, and be the ones to lead sustainable projects. The government and the people both should provide voter education, and human rights education, to all segments of society.
A well-governed, uncorrupted system would support economic development. An increase in microcredit loans, free and relevant education and vocational training, and transfer of tangible assets to the poor (e.g. livestock, land etc.) are measures that should be adopted. Microcredit is already saving thousands in the country, but a wider microcredit loan system is needed.
In the past few years I have seen many youth-led organizations, like the Pakistan Youth Alliance, affect thousands and thousands of homes. A teenager is more politically aware today than two decades ago. With such clarity of objective, prosperity in all its forms, such charisma and love for the country, democratic and economic efforts could change the picture of the nation. The world could really be what we want it to be, and then maybe the bare bottomed child would not be bare bottomed anymore.
From the author:
What brought me to this competition is my love of writing. I had wanted to write about the democratic and economic situation of Pakistan for some time and the competition gave me an opportunity to do so. By writing my personal experiences, depicting the need for reforms, I found a great opportunity to use my skill to talk about what is extremely important for the 180 million people of the state.
Writing on such platforms gives us an opportunity to make our voices heard on a wide scale. The ability to directly address the governing body of our country provides the easiest way to communicate with the leaders of our nation.
The fast nature of this communication helps bring forward quick responses from other publics including advocates, intellectuals, educators and policy makers. The free nature of the information and ideas posted through social media helps get thoughts across without any omissions and limitations.
It provides an opportunity to the public to unite for their principles and against the unwanted policies of the government and other agencies. Such a strong media with its ability forces the government and other agencies to be accountable and respond to the concerns of the citizens.