Originally Published in The Express Tribune
As a rejected son, how do you celebrate Mother’s Day? Who enjoys the breakfast tray? Who receives the flower bouquet?
That’s my story. But it’s not my biological mother who rejected me. It’s my motherland – Pakistan.
So on this Mother’s Day, let me have a heart to heart talk with you – my motherland. You don’t want to accept my love; that’s your choice. I have learned to deal with that. But please answer my questions, for I have lots of them.
Why did you abandon me? Why did you institutionalise hatred against me in schools, workplaces and houses of God? Why did you throw me at the heap of your putrid, discriminatory legal system? Why did you exhume my people and not even shed a tear? You were not my step-mother; then why did you treat me like Hansel and Gretel?
Only because I remained resolute to call myself an Ahmadi M _ _ _ _ _ ? See, you cannot even handle a hint of my identity. But isn’t it true motherland, that the father of our nation, Quaid-e-Azam, promised all children of Pakistan equal status and equal rights when the nation was born?
As for me, despite the fact that I moved to a foreign land, it was hard to move on. For days, I couldn’t eat or sleep well. For months, I worried about your weather. For years, I dreamed of your streets. And for over a decade, I pulled all nighters to watch your cricket matches, frantically praying for your success. I argued with my Indian friends – yes, there is nothing wrong with having Indian friends – how Pak-pride was not a fallacy.
There was an element of fallacy though, I now realise. Like other nations, you also served us the soup of patriotism, mixed with indoctrination. How you indoctrinated the nation to forget about the Munir commission report of 1953, how the textbooks programmed us to believe that we won the 1965 war, and how generations were brain washed in believing that a National Assembly has the right to copyright Islam. Just a few weeks ago, I gagged on that soup when I claimed that we won the 1965 war. After reviewing history books, encyclopedias, and YouTube clips, I threw up the contaminated ingredients of the soup. We did not win the 1965 war. The facts were clear.
But who cares about facts in Pakistan these days? Facts are dry. Propaganda is juicy. It is juicy to blame everything on a conspiracy theory. Go ahead. Blame me for being an “agent of the west who got an American visa on a plate.” Never mind the two decades of my hard work at school. Never mind the more than two million Pakistani Ahmadi residents, with no prospects of getting a visa, who are still facing daily rejection at your hands.
Motherland – I understand. You don’t appreciate this conversation. You are hurting too. So here is an analgesic; I still remember you. The Rockies remind me of Swat and the meat balls taste nothing like the koftas (remember, the secret nickname of my high school chemistry teacher was also kofta!) The Main Street brings flashbacks of Lahore’s Mall road and Jersey shore is not the same as Clifton.
You are 65-years-old motherland and I recognise you need me. You need the millions of Pakistanis who were shunned to distant shores, many because of religious differences. We could be helping your systems, building your institutions, treating your patients. And we would love to.
But your preferences are weird motherland. You release convicted terrorists and arrest Ahmadi students. You embrace politicians with fake degrees and reject scholars with Nobel Prizes. You glorify the charlatans but nullify the bona fide.
Don’t worry about me; my adopted mother has treated me well. I don’t fear discriminatory laws. I don’t fear mob attacks. I don’t fear a National Assembly telling me how to define my faith.
Vindicate yourself motherland. Take some bold decisions. Come out of isolation. Instead of converting to Mullah’s radicalism, revert to Quaid’s Pakistan. Espouse true Islam by cherishing the values of equality and absolute justice for all. Don’t allow politicians to use religion as a wedge issue. Come to the 21st century as a pluralist country committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with the modern world.
Whenever that happens, you will find me holding a breakfast tray and a flower bouquet. Whenever that happens, I will say, “Happy Mother’s Day.”