I have rarely been one prone to self doubt (I'm fairly certain that I'd struggle to put together a workable definition), but even I am sometimes amazed about the stereotypes that foreigners (or locals, after all, I was in their country) had about Pakistan. In class, everyone tries very hard to be angelic, but once the class room vanishes, peoples prejudices have the ugly habit of rearing their elephant sized heads. Being a Pakistani, I generally enjoyed taking classes on politics; I dubbed it my 'genetic imperative', and whilst I was happily debating foreign policy, domestic policy the workings of governance, I never really took into consideration of what others thought of me, of my country, I naturally assumed that they
I took a Political theory class on good governance, and as was custom, a bunch of the students got together and established a study group, or a 'think tank', as we liked to call it, though truth be told, there were relatively few thinkers and more jock 'tanks' in the group.
Since I knew some of the tanks through various joint activities, some of which involve this wonderful ..um... sport called cow tipping. I would typically give them a hand on their essays and edit their relatively un-impressive finished product (My nascent expanding ego was in full force). On one occasion a person who I had considered as a friend took some criticism I had on his paper rather badly, to be fair, I was in overly good spirits hence, couldn't help my self from amusing myself over vast number of spell checkable errors (which he has disabled because he thought it was 'dumb') and what was the last straw for him was his argumentation that in order to promote good governance, people ought to take a religiously principled morality test before they were allowed to join the government, elected or either wise. Now, I have no problem with a morality test, as long as it fits my morals. However, this particular 'Tank', felt that 'Does, Jesus guide you in your every day life' was an appropriate question for anyone desirous of joining the United States government.
Now, whilst I should have gently explained him the ludicrousness of the question and how it wasn't practical or ethical for a country founded on the principles of division between religion and government, (as most would have expected) I instead took a far more humorous route and made several satirical caricatures of how Jesus's guiding, could open the door for the government to be dominated by alcoholics and chemists trying to find the right formula for turning water into wine....as well as how Chris Angel could very well make the argument that as a master of walking on water, how he should be accorded the same status.
Needless to say, as funny as the rest of the group found my attention seeking antics, 'Tank' did not, he felt grossly insulted and felt that I was belittling his faith (I wasn't, just his stupidity). He immediately responded that I didn't have a right to criticize him as I came from a country run by terrorists. Now, to say I was shocked into silence would be accurate, but the truth was that I was fuming. How dare he criticize my beloved country, even with our imperfections, it was the only home that I had known. Unable to come up with a proper argument to admonish him for his ignorance, I retorted that my country wasn't the one that murdered thousands of civilians through repeated air strikes just to find one man.
My country wasn't the one that invaded nations to take advantage of their natural resources, my country wasn't the one that propped up Israel, despite the massive atrocities their forces commit in the west bank and finally that my country wasn't the one with the largest military and nuclear arsenal in the world (I may have forgotten to mention how his country collapsed the entire global economic system).
No, that was not my country. My country was the one that stood by the side of his country as an ally should, my country was the one that turned over suspected terrorists, and my country was the one that set up the meeting that ended the cold war. That is my country, what had his country done for the world lately other than throw money around, murder innocent women and children and prop up west-friendly dictators in the name of 'Democracy'. From that moment on, I knew who I was, I was Pakistani, and forever I would be Pakistani. It would be my home through disaster or prosperity and my love my nation could never diminish despite all the imperfections and negativity surrounding it. All countries are imperfect in their own way, just as they are perfect to each of our own.
In a media dominated world, we hear all the negativity, but we fail to see past our troubles and enjoy the small victories, whether it's an NGO providing environmentally friendly light bulbs or the fact that we have the cheapest tractors in the world to boost a strong, prosperous agricultural economy, we have many reasons to be proud, and it was a 'Tank' that made me really 'Think' about it. I know that despite the odds that I may live in many other places, that I am forever Pakistani and I will never doubt my own patriotism ever again.