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What have you done for your country?

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Mariam Magsi
The News



When I come across feedback and comments by fellow Pakistanis, that are discouraging, baseless, defamatory and corroded in every way possible, a temporary feeling of dejection takes over my being. If only they knew, how many of us living outside of Pakistan continue to struggle for the country. Some of us make charitable donations on a bi-weekly basis to various NGO’s. Others organise fundraisers, talks, philanthropic events and awareness campaigns to coax members of the civilised worlds to not only focus on Somalia, Kosovo and Peru, but to also put in their time, effort and finances into the shattered lives of millions of Pakistanis suffering from displacement, abuse, neglect and poverty. Here are a few hurtful statements made by individuals under various news articles and blogs by Pakistanis studying, living or working abroad.You gave up your right to a green passport by accepting immigration elsewhere.
No I didn’t. I am allowed dual citizenship, quite legally, from the government of my country. If I am allowed dual citizenship, that directly implies that I can be a citizen of Pakistan for the rest of my life and also enjoy the benefits of a progressive country like Canada that is offering my family and I free health, free education and a platform to progress with my non-conservative views on life. At the same time, this does not mean that I will not be putting anything back into the Pakistani economy. When the floods of 2010 grasped the nation and a regurgitation of people, cattle, disease and squalor took place, I was the first one on the streets of Toronto, screaming, soliciting, fund-raising and spreading awareness. I approached a promotional company and we managed to convince a nightclub to let us use one of its nights to raise money and awareness for the victims of Pakistan. That also received negative commentary because according to several Pakistanis we should have been “praying instead of dancing for a cause.” Typical. Either way, we had radio coverage; news reports and local University journalists came out and interviewed us regarding the floods. So, no, I do not lose any rights over my country and when it gets into a rut, I am on the front lines, doing something about it rather than whining over social media.
When you leave Pakistan, you shouldn’t look back. You made a choice and now you are done with it. Move onto your adopted country.
Let me get this straight. Suppose you leave your hometown for a work opportunity or schooling. Are you still considered a member of your family or are you denounced and disowned? Just as my mother will always be my mother and I will forever be a member of my family no matter where I am, geographically, my homeland, my “des,” will always be the soil I was born on. I was born there. I will keep coming back to it and no one, not even the President of Pakistan himself will ever have the audacity or the authority to tell me otherwise.
If you want to do something for Pakistan you should be in Pakistan.
I beg to differ with this statement especially when it is uttered by documentarians, activists, organisers, philanthropists, philosophers and politicians who lived abroad well into their 30’s, received foreign degrees, received citizenship into their adopted countries and then decided to go home to Pakistan, after earning vast multitudes of foreign currency and achievement acknowledgment, only to give interviews and lecture to those who are working abroad to come back and do something for the country because “if everyone leaves what will happen to us.” That is unfair and hypocritical on many levels because the expectation to save the country should not apply to the rest of us who are still working on getting somewhere, going through immigration legalities and pursuing further education. My aim in wanting to be a citizen of Canada and sponsoring my family is so that my father’s burden is lessened. My siblings can be educated for free and as my parents age, not only do they deserve a healthy retirement but I know Canada can and will provide them with significant health coverage. I earned this privilege by working extremely hard and facing challenges head on. So to those, who continue to comment on why I should be there and not here, kindly focus on what you can do for the country from within it and I will focus on what I can do for the country from outside of it.
You are an ABCD/CBCD.
I was born and bred in Pakistan. No matter where I go, whether it’s an island in Vancouver, a communist city in Cuba or volunteering with children in Mexico, the moment anyone asks me where I am from, I say: Pakistan, with pride, dignity and fondness. This is immediately followed by questions about Osama Bin Laden, honour killings and acid victims. While living in Pakistan you do not face this scrutiny, but we do and we spend most of our lives clarifying these stereotypes and showing people not all Pakistanis are the same and we are living examples of that. I tell people about how we have an incomparable textile industry. Our people are remarkably charitable and hospitable. Our food is to die for. We have a furniture industry that could be one of the best in the world. We love colour, vibrancy, spice, music and drama. I have friends who would slit their wrists in the name of cricket. Our beautiful North needs its tourists back and our resourceful South needs exploration. I make it my duty to inform everyone from every corner of the world that we are not all about arranged marriages, fundamental Islam and hidden al Qaeda leaders. I represent my nation everywhere I go and I will continue to do so because I do not classify myself as those who bash the country, lamenting it’s past and in no way wanting to associate with it’s future. I read a beautiful statement recently that was retweeted by the literati of Pakistan: “Even when we live abroad, Pakistan lives inside of us. We are more patriotic than the faujis.” Nothing you say will shatter my identity no matter how many times I re-invent myself in other parts of the world.
You do not know the reality of the situation. We know. We are living here.
I read every article on Dawn, Tribune, Geo, Newsweek, get in touch with close friends and family members, check my fellow citizen’s posts and tweets and this is before breakfast has been consumed. I do not start my day without absolute and full information on any and everything associated with Pakistan. There have been times when I have informed Pakistani citizens of violence-related incidents, before they have reached for their television remotes and newspapers. I will never ignore the on goings within that country, especially when those closest to me are “living the reality.” From what I have observed, an unfortunate incident takes place, Pakistanis go neurotic with updates on Facebook and Twitter, a handful get up and do something about it and then everyone goes back to their lives and moves onto the next thing, forgetting Mukhtaran, Asiya Bibi, the Taseers, Shahbaz Bhatti and many more. Fakhra Younes just killed herself because of feeling forgotten by her own community. No one articulates it better than Tehmina Durrani herself: “I think this whole country should be extremely embarrassed that a foreign country [Italy] took responsibility for a Pakistani citizen for 13 years because we could give her nothing, not justice, not security.”
I’ll tell you what we can do from outside of Pakistan. We can start looking at the corruption, violence, misogyny, polygamy, inbreeding, fundamentalism, bigotry, superficiality, poverty, marginalisation, victimisation, injustice and unfairness from an outsider’s perspective, so that we can re-evaluate the way we have lived for a multitude of years, ignoring every corrosion going on around us, turning bitter, numb, hopeless and stone cold. So my question to the people within Pakistan, who continue to criticise those outside of it is simple: In all these years, after all these terrible incidents, what have you done for your country?I know what I have done for Pakistan and will continue to do so through writing, creativity, compassion, charity, open mindedness, cultural representation, activism, education, projects that are a work in progress and exposure, but again, I would like to ask you. Yes, you, sitting behind that screen ready to attack me once again for sharing my views: What have you done for your country?

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